Whoa, I totally forgot to mention my pairings. I will reveal one so far, and that is Zutara. (Duh) I'm afraid that if I tell you anymore, my story will be slightly spoiled. It's not you, it's me...
Anyway, I love everybody's reviews. And I am getting to the energy idea. I wanted to properly set the scene before I got a story going. Reactions will be easier to write and they will make more sense.
I do not own Avatar.
As predicted, brushing Appa's teeth had been beyond Zuko's comprehension of torture.
After the job was done, Zuko had retired to his isolated little apartment and slept, undisturbed, until morning greeted him.
Between wakefulness and sleep, Zuko's dreams slipped away from his memory. Something about a wild hog monkey in his room back at the Royal Palace…
When Zuko lay awake, the first thing he noticed was the smell of cooking meat on the air. Next, the sun was unusually bright this morning. And high up…
With an angry growl stifled behind his teeth, Zuko shot out of bed, urgently searching for his clothes that he had cast off carelessly the prior night. He ran out the door, still sliding his arms into the sleeves of his shirt. He ran, more like sprinted, down the dusty corridor.
A footstep ahead of him, a door swung open, blocking Zuko's way. Having no time to stop, he just had a split second to think, 'Oh, n-'
The resounding thunk of the Firebender hitting the door echoed down the apartment hallway and, judging by the resulting laughter, reached the courtyard where everyone was probably gathered.
Everyone except the one who opened the door.
His body rebounded off the door and landed harshly on the unforgiving stone floor.
"Ugh…" Dazed and seeing stars, Zuko groaned, moving his head from side to side as if chasing something with his eyes.
"Oops! I'm so sorry! I didn't know you would- oh your nose! I'm sorry!" Katara's choice of words and tone alerted Zuko to how bad his face looked right now.
When some sense of reality returned to him, he felt that his nose was gushing blood. It didn't feel broken, but it was definitely going to look ugly for a few days.
Still disoriented, Zuko tried to prop himself up on his forearms, groaning still.
"Here, let me help you." He felt her arms wrap around his shoulders and lift him up.
Zuko remembered the last time Katara had offered to help him. Once again, the painful memory of the Crystal Catacombs sapped his spirit, pulling down on his conscience.
It took a second for Zuko's vision to return, but when it did, he noticed large greenish red fruits on the ground. Mangoes. Katara must have been carrying them out of the room and dropped them when Zuko slammed into the door. He must have startled her.
"I'm sorry, Zuko." Zuko couldn't keep track of how many times she had apologized.
"It's okay, I'm fine." He pinched his nose, trying to stem the blood flow. It stopped, but half his face was still covered in red wetness.
Shaking her head quickly, she dashed back into the room and came out with an old rag.
He didn't really want that on his face, but Katara was already pushing it against his nostrils, soaking up what was left of the blood. The rag smelt musty and old. The group must have opened up another room when he was sleeping in.
"Does it hurt?" Her eyes still refused to meet his.
He tried to get away from her. "No, it's just a nose bleed." He gently grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand away from his face. "It's fine."
Realizing her overreaction, Katara blushed deeply, "Well…sorry." Her hand dropped to her side, almost sadly. Now it was Zuko's turn to be embarrassed. He was trying to become friends with her! Not push her away!
"Not that I'm not grateful or anything, I…needed to wake up?"
This didn't seem to help him. Katara's face was coming closer to that cold glare he hated so much.
"Uh, look." He scratched the back of his head, not really knowing what to say, "…Thanks."
She scoffed, "What, for opening a door in your face?"
"No, for being concerned about me." These words seemed right.
The Waterbender blushed deeply, her expression befuddled.
"Yeah, you're welcome." She turned on her heel and collected her mangoes. She handed Zuko a couple of the tough fruits. Apparently, he agreed to carry them.
"Where did these come from?" Zuko couldn't hold the question back any longer.
Katara hid her smile, "I think Aang wants to tell you the story."
Confused, but eager to fill his stomach, Zuko had no choice but to follow Katara out to the courtyard.
When Katara and Zuko walked out into the court, breakfast was already underway.
"Good morning, Sifu Hotman!" Aang cheerfully greeted Zuko as he always did. The name irked Zuko, but he didn't want o question it. Aang was eating a leafy green vegetable. Everyone else was eating succulent looking meat.
The dreariness mostly gone, Zuko rubbed his eyes and looked at the meat questionably, "Where did that come from?"
Toph replied, her words muffled by food, "Sokka went crazy in the middle of the night because he didn't get his meat." Sokka nodded approvingly.
Katara finished the sentence, "He went to the bottom of the canyon and found a herd of wild lizard goats."
Zuko raised an eyebrow at Aang, "What about that?" He pointed to Aang's choice of breakfast; the thick, white stem attached to deep green leaves could only mean that it was bok choy. Since when did bok choy even grow in this part of the world? Aang smiled, green flecks in between his teeth.
Teo laughed, and the two other boys joined in, "There's a huge garden down there!"
The Duke piped in, "It's huge!" He held his arms out as if demonstrating.
Aang spoke over everyone, and they all lapsed into a semi-circle, as if Aang was telling a story. "The monks of the Western Air Temple grew all their food down at the bottom of the canyon. There's a river down there too. I guess when the monks left, the garden just started growing wild." His voice grew quiet at the end of his short story. Talking about his extinct people must have been heartbreaking. Zuko couldn't even imagine the pain.
As the prince sat down among his companions, Sokka handed him a meat-covered bone. Zuko took it, managed a smile, and bit into the tough meat. He struggle with it, but eventually tore off a bite-sized chunk, "It's…a little chewy." He managed to sputter.
"Deal with it, Sparky." Toph bit into one of the mangoes Katara laid in front of her. "I have plans today. There's a door in the arboretum where we found those berries. I want it opened." She spoke as if giving orders to a soldier.
The dull pain returned to Zuko's feet, "But you're fine now. Why don't you just Earthbend this one?"
Katara interjected, to Zuko's relief, "Toph, Zuko has to train Aang today. Maybe he can do it later?"
Disgruntled, Toph crossed her arms and blew her bangs out of her face. "Hmph."
Seeing that he was in the clear, Zuko returned to the plentiful breakfast. He set down the meat, drawing a baffled look from Sokka, and picked up what he thought might be a papaya. Before he pit into it, he noticed Katara's disgusted look.
"What?" He raised his eyebrow. Did she suddenly have another problem with him? She was acting like the encounter in the hallway never happened. When would her hatred end?
"How can you stand papayas?" Oh, so that was it. She didn't like papayas.
He shrugged, looking back to the fruit in his hands. "I've never had one before, actually."
"Well do yourself a favor and eat something else." Her tone made it clear that she didn't want to talk to Zuko anymore.
"Don't people usually eat these for breakfast?" Giving up on Katara, he turned to Aang. The Avatar smiled, and everyone laughed lightly.
Seeing that Zuko was confused and on the verge of shouting, Sokka explained, "Breakfast? We're having lunch right now Zuko."
Everyone laughed a bit louder.
Zuko scowled, "Your bison had sweaters on his teeth. I was up almost all night scrubbing them clean."
Appa groaned lazily from his corner, and then licked up another head of wild cabbage from the pile set in front of his mouth.
After a spell of laughter, they all returned to their lunches with renewed vigor. Zuko asked about the papaya, but all he got in reply was 'Try it' or 'Find out for yourself'
Grimacing and a little more than irritated, he carefully bit into the green fruit. A dark cloud crossed he face and his bottom lip trembled miserably. A second later he spit it up, quickly purging his tongue of the nasty flavor in the fountain.
The three boys had dragged off Aang into a distant part of the temple, leaving only Sokka, Katara and Toph to witness Zuko's folly.
Katara snickered quietly, "I told you." Zuko just barely picked up her mocking words.
Sokka and Toph laughed, holding their sides. Sokka eventually choked out, "That was the greatest! Jerkbender doesn't like papayas!"
Zuko ate the rest of his meal surrounded by jokes and laughter, his shoulders dipped. Katara remained silent while Sokka bombarded Zuko with bad puns.
After the hilarity of Zuko's reaction wore off, Toph convinced Sokka to help her break down the door she wanted to get through. Blinded by his supposed manliness, Sokka rolled his shoulders, as if loosening up for a fight. "Yeah, I suppose I can knock in another door or two."
The pair left for the arboretum, leaving Katara and Zuko to clean up after the meal.
Zuko looked over to Katara, ready to ask what arduous task she wanted of him. As he turned to her, she turned away from him.
Shrugging, Zuko asked, "Do you need help?"
"No, I can clean a few dishes." Her tone was dismissive.
Zuko threw up his arms as if he dropped something poisonous at his feet. "Okay, I'm going out to find Aang."
Before Zuko got out of hearing range, Katara turned with her arms crossed and called out to Zuko, "I'm really sorry about…" She gestured to her own nose, "You know, your nose."
Surprised Zuko turned to her. They were a good distance apart, but Zuko could still make out her deep azure eyes. Before he was banished, Zuko had never seen blue eyes. Waterbenders weren't exactly a common sight in the Fire Nation Capitol. And when they were sighted, they were usually thrown into a deep, decrepit prison without any questions.
Once again Zuko waved his hand at her dismissively, "Look, it's okay. I should be more careful." He tried his best to smile for her, "It doesn't even hurt anymore."
He continued on his way, and was relieved beyond reason when Katara didn't realize he wasn't going in Aang's direction.
The small library was just as Zuko left it. Though it was much less dusty due to Aang's violent reaction to Sokka's firewood idea.
He winced when he saw the long scroll he had left on the ground. Maybe he could find something a little smaller.
It didn't take long for Zuko to find what he was looking for. It was a scroll stained brown with age. It was sealed with a peculiar yellow wax. After examining it, Zuko realized that it must have once been molded to look like the Air Nomad symbol.
Despite his curiosity, he put it back on the shelf and dug a little deeper through the piles of documents. He didn't find anything, and after a while, the yellow-sealed scroll came back to the forefront of his mind.
Once again, curiosity one over his actions.
Flames rode his breath when he let out a sharp, quick sigh. Looking away, he ran his thumb under the seal and broke the delicate wax.
When Zuko laid eyes on the faded words, he felt like he was reading different language. He sat down against the wall.
'Just as a Waterbender can control blood, a Firebender can also reach another state of manipulation. Energy is in everything. It allows us mobility, intelligence and foremost, life.
Only the truly prodigious can ever come to terms with the power this document speaks of. And what this document speaks of is utter power.
This scroll has a dual purpose. I want people to know of who I am.
My name is Xian Ly Tao. I am a Firebender from the city of Omashu. My husband was taken from me by a conflict. My son along with him. I am a lonely woman who is still young, and so I have come to live with my Airbender friend, Lady Simatso, here in the Western Air Temple. Together, we delved into ourselves and discovered something…words cannot describe.'
Zuko glanced at the door as Sokka passed by. "Nothing but bathtubs! I get to pick the next door we break down."
Toph followed him closely, "Well, I thought bathtubs were a cool thing to find. Everyone knows you need a bath, Muscles."
Their conversation drifted away and Zuko's eyes returned to the scroll.
'What we found gives another definition to Firebending.
Zuko's eyebrows rose with surprise. In his haste for an explaination, he skimmed over Xian Ly Tao's contemplating and got to a particularly faint passage.
'It's in all of us. It is life. And a Firebender can take that away. No one but Simatso and I know of this, and hopefully one day, someone with a sense of good in them will find this and use it the way I never could.'
There was a blotch on the paper where it looked like a drop of water had soaked the ink.
'I have illustrated and enclosed the basic movements for the simplest forms of our new creation.
Bear the burden well, reader.'
Her last cryptic words sent chills down Zuko's spine.
Indeed, upon unfurling the scroll to its full length, more tightly rolled scrolls fell out into Zuko's lap.
Written on these papers were the illustrations that Xian Ty Tao had spoken of. To Zuko's surprise they were beautiful. Fully colored and amazingly accurate, they stood out against the stark white paper that had been better protected than the note.
They so much resembled Waterbending forms that Uncle Iroh had taught Zuko. They were loose and flowing, yet brutal and quick.
He rose and dusted off the back of his thin practice robe. Neatly putting the rest of the rolled up scrolls away, he pocketed the one with the illustrations and made for the door.
He didn't even get to the doorjamb before Katara found him.
"Where have you been?" She threw her arms up exasperatingly.
Zuko kept his gaze firm. "I've been reading."
"Reading? Reading what?" Toph voice came from around the doorframe.
"I've been reading this." Zuko stepped around Katara, who glared at his back. He held the parchment up high and let it roll out for Toph to see. "Look at these drawings. Do you think they'll help Aang?"
"Oh I'm sure they will Sparky. But, before you rush into things, can you tell me what I'm supposed to be looking at?"
Zuko's cheeks flushed lightly. He always forgot she was blind.
"Oh…sorry." He scratched the back of his head awkwardly.
"No problem, Sparky. So what did you find?"
Before he could elaborate, Katara snatched them briskly from his hands. Zuko turned to her and watched her shifting expressions as she scanned the pictures.
Finally she breathed out, "What are these?"
"These are someone's treasure. It's called…" He thought for a moment, trying to recall the odd name the writer had given it, "It's called…Energybending."
Katara scoffed and handed Zuko the scroll. "That's ridiculous."
"That's what you said when I lost my Firebending. How much do you want to bet that I'm right again?"
The Waterbender cast a deadly look up at Zuko. "You are here to teach Aang Firebending. Not this fictitious-"
"It's not fictitious, Sugar Queen." Toph stepped between the two. "I think Sparky might be on to something. If I can bend metal and you can bend blood," Katara flinched at the words. "Maybe Sparky here can do a neat trick too."
Katara hugged herself reclusively "Blood is different. It's water-"
"So?" Zuko interrupted her, "Fire is energy. It makes perfect sense."
"What makes perfect sense?" Sokka called from the campfire. He must have heard half of the conversation.
Katara rolled her eyes, "Come look at this Sokka."
Groaning, Sokka dragged his feet over to the gathering. "Lemme see what you found, Jerkbender."
The scroll was passed to Sokka, who examined it with a scrutinizing eye. After a few minutes of examination and long, drawn out 'hmmmmm's', Sokka handed the scroll to Zuko.
"I think it's worth a try." He shrugged his shoulders lazily.
"What are you talking about? We don't have time to waste with something that's probably not even real." Katara raised her voice.
"Calm down Sugar Queen. Sparky might be on to something that could really help Twinkle Toes."
"Help me how?"
Sokka, Zuko and Katara turned to face Aang. Toph gestured over her shoulder for Aang to come and join them.
"While the Terror Trio is away, I think we should discuss this as a group."
The five picked random spots to sit. Zuko sat atop a fallen pillar. Aang sat cross-legged on the ground with Momo resting around his neck. Katara and Toph remained standing, while Sokka went to his bag and rummaged around.
After finding what he needed, Sokka turned to the assembled group. "I now call this meeting to order!" He donned his false beard and used Zuko's discarded papaya as a gavel. Everyone but Aang rolled their eyes.
He listed the papaya lazily towards Zuko. "What seems to be the matter, defendant?" He made his voice rocky and crackly, like an old man.
Ignoring Sokka as best as he could, Zuko addressed Aang, "I think I found a better method of Firebending to teach you. Something my father doesn't know about."
Predictably, Katara scoffed, not allowing Aang to agree, "We don't have time to experiment! Sozin's Comet isn't going to wait for us to finish training Aang!"
"Order, Order!" Sokka tapped the papaya on the ground like a gavel. "Mr. Avatar, what are your thoughts on this matter?"
Aang shrugged and his big gray eyes lit up with youthful enthusiasm. "I don't see why we shouldn't try it."
"I just told you why!" Katara was fuming now, "The Comet is coming Aang. What if you aren't fully trained by then?"
Aang looked conflicted, but his face brightened as he realized something, "The monks always told me, 'A different world cannot be created by indifferent people'."
"That's a beautiful line of poetry, Twinkle Toes," Toph flicked something off the tip of her finger. It had probably come from her nose. "But that was a hundred years ago. This is now." She swept her arms out as if indicating the whole world. "The world has already been created by indifferent people."
Zuko leapt up, seeing his chance, "Then this is our time to be different."
Seeing that she had lost, Katara rose and came chest to chest with Zuko. The prince didn't fall back. She spoke clearly and precisely, and low enough for only Zuko to hear. "What I said in your bedroom goes double now."
She stalked away, her shoulders taut with anger.
Aang looked conflicted again. He moved to follow Katara, but changed his mind mid-stride and instead, turned to Zuko.
"What are you going to teach me, Sifu Hotman?"
Zuko's eyebrow twitched, but he passed it of as ignorance on Aang's part. "Energybending."
"We'll just have to see." Zuko shrugged wearily.
Sokka thumped the papaya once again, "This court rules in the favor of Jerkbender."
By simply sliding her foot along the dusty ground, Toph sent a rock flying towards Sokka's head. The resulting thumb of rock on skull made Zuko wince. "His name is Sparky."
The rest of the day passed by with ease.
Nothing was out of the norm.
Katara still refused to acknowledge Zuko. Zuko was still bombarded with nicknames thought up by Toph. Toph still harassed everybody around her, especially Sokka. Sokka whetted his sword for what seemed like the three thousandth time. And Aang had his head buried in the scrolls Zuko had found.
Late into the evening, after dinner was eaten and everybody went about their various tasks, Aang finished the last of Xian Ly Tao's cryptic message. With a look set in determination, he approached Zuko, who crossed his arms and gave the Avatar an appraising stare, "Well? Do you think you're ready to try it out?"
Aang's sturdy expression failed and his eyes fell to the ground. "I…I think so. But Katara-"
"I know" Zuko put one hand on Aang's shoulder comfortingly, "But she doesn't understand what it's like to Firebend. And she's never met my father…" His last words turned into a whisper.
"Neither have I."
A smile spread across one side of Zuko's face. "Sure you have. Just think of Katara as a grown man who can shoot lightning at you."
Aang's face paled. "Is it that bad?"
"It's that bad."
Aang sighed. "Well…See you in the morning?"
Sorry about the huge delay! I've been soooo busy with school and work, it's ridiculous. Review please! If there are any problem you see or just stupid little mistake, point them out please!