Hello readers! here's the latest installation. hope you enjoy! i'm kind of cutting down on the story a bit, not that you'll ever know. i just need to crank this thing out because i've only got until probably late january to write this other story that I REALLY want to write. cheers!


Good morning!
Want a ride to campus?

With her knee wrapped up in braces, Katara had been forced to ask for rides since her accident. Two days of it already had her on edge while her friends and family carted her around like an invalid.

That'd be great. Thanks!

She answers Suki text still feeling a little rebellious. Not only was she dependent on her friends, they created opportunities for Sokka and Suki to spend time together as they coordinated rides for their mutual connection. Finding out that her brother was dating her best friend left her feeling out of the loop. It wouldn't have bothered her if she'd seen it coming but the couple came as a complete shock. Suki swears that it surprised her too which makes it a little easier to swallow.

K! See you in five.

Katara grabs sets her coffee as she limps around the apartment collecting her things. She surprised when there's a knock at the door.

"That was fast-" A tall, lean figure stands in her doorway where she'd expected to see Suki.

"Hello, Katara."

"Jet?"

"I hope you don't mind me dropping by." Katara stares at the unexpected man in surprise. A small voice in the back of her mind wonders how Jet got her address, but any uneasiness disappears when he holds up a familiar bag.

"My backpack!" She rushes forward and grabs the previously lost item. Her blue eyes glow as she hugs the bag to her chest. "How did you find it?"

"I have friends at NYPD."

She waves Jet inside the apartment as she retreats into it. Dropping it onto her kitchen table she tears open the zippers of her bag. "My books!" she cries with glee. She pulls out every item and cradles it to her until the bag is empty and the counter has a neat pile of her belongings. Sitting on the bar stool next to the small counter in her kitchen she sighs. "I guess it was too much to ask for my wallet to be in there."

Jet shrugs. "I tried to track it down but my connections don't deal in petty theft."

"Please," Katara interjects. "You did more than the police. It's amazing!"

Jet wanders around her apartment as she praises him. He appreciates the little markers of her life placed sporadically around the rooms. The books on the coffee table, the pictures on the wall. Her crutches click across the floor as she approaches him.

"It's not much," she says with a smile. "But it's home."

"I think it's wonderful." His smile doesn't waver as he speaks and she appreciates his gracious attitude. Based on his expensive taste in suits she doubted he spent much time in small, eclectic apartments. "Do you live here alone?"

"No, my best friend Toph lives with me and our friend Suki practically lives here too." He nods thoughtfully in response. "That reminds me. I met someone who knows you." The words are out of her mouth before she can stop them. Zuko's expression from last night floats into her memory. He'd asked her to be careful around Jet. And suddenly she doesn't want to talk to him about Zuko.

"Really? Who?" He seems very intrigued by the idea of them having a mutual acquaintance.

"Oh, uh-"

There's a loud knock at the door. "Katara!" Suki's muffled shout drifts toward them and thanks whatever god just saved her. Jet takes the liberty of answering the door for her.

"Oh?" Suki's shock is apparent. "I'm looking for Katara. But I must be at the wrong-"

"I'm here Suki!" Her friend's dark eyes look past the tall man in the doorway with growing confusion.

"Katara? You weren't downstairs so I thought you needed help."

"I do. Thank you. Grab my bag and we can head to the car together?" Katara's eyes plead for Suki to just be patient and do as she asks. And like a true friend she does. Grabbing Katara's things she lingers in the hallway and Katara has the pass she needs to escape her conversation with Jet.

Tucking a hair behind her she looks up at the man. "I have to be to class but I think I officially owe you coffee. Call me sometime?"

Jet nods. "Of course." He heads down the hallway and out of sight as Katara locks her apartment. Suki has the good sense to wait until the door to the stairwell clicks shut before attacking her friend with questions.

"Who was that?"

"Get me to the car and I'll fill you in on everything." For once, Suki shoulders her friend's bags without complaint.

Thanks to the return of her old textbooks, the rest of Katara's day goes well. She hadn't realized how sweet their heavy pages smelled or how expensive it cost to purchase two copies of a semester's worth of books. Luckily, she'd been able to return her recent replacement copies.

Her unexpected visitor this morning left her feeling uneasy. At the time, it had seemed harmless but there's that feeling in the pit of her stomach that all is not right. What kind of connections does someone have to track down a backpack stolen by a common criminal? More than that, what kind of a man goes through all that effort for a stranger? Distance- warns that intuitive voice in her mind. Maybe distance was good advice when it came to Jet.

She was beginning to regret the invitation for coffee she'd extended to the man. It was probably too much to ask that he'd lost her number. Anyway, he already knows where she lives…

"Hey sis!" Katara shakes her head, clearing her mind.

"Hi Sokka." Her brother emerges from his familiar blue sedan. She rolls her eyes when he grabs bags out of her hands and carries them to the car. She half expects him to insist on carrying her too. "How's Suki?"

Sokka flashes her smile that begs for her patience. "Don't be mad at me, Tara. We're good for each other."

"Whatever you say." She folds her arms- clearly not appeased.

"Aw c'mon, don't be like that."

"You couldn't have given me a little warning? Either of you?"

Sokka easily pulls into traffic and whips around turns as they argue. "And have you scare her off? I don't think so. It's better this way. Trust me."

"That's the last thing I'm going to do." Despite her brother's transgressions, she can't stay mad. Not today. The flowers on the bench between them remind her of their destination.

"Is dad meeting us there?"

"Yeah, work kept him longer than he expected so we'll beat him there he says." Katara is always surprised when this day arrives the world keeps turning. She wonders why the people around her can't sense the gloom, or why the weather always chooses to remain deceptively clear. The anniversary of her mother's death is not for sunny days.

"It's a little easier this year," Sokka comments quietly. Outside her window, people hurry between street corners while she and Sokka sit in traffic.

Eventually, the flow of traffic picks up and the siblings find themselves pulling into the peaceful grounds of a New York cemetery. Their dad's car sits parked in the small lot. "I guess he still beat us here."

"Yeah," Katara agrees as they tread over the well kept grass. The flowers rest delicately in her arms as she wanders the maze of gravestones until they reach the south end of the cemetery. A familiar figure stands alone just a few yards away.

"Kids." Their father's arms invite beckon to them and the trio hugs silently while the bird's chirp around them. Eventually, they separate and Katara finds herself wiping a few stray tears away from her cheeks.

"We brought you flowers, Mom." She lays the flowers in the grass below her. The granite gravestone shines under the sun.

Sokka squats down next to her and places his hand on the stone. "I got into this great internship. It's gonna be really great for my resume after graduation. It may even lead to a full-time job at the firm."

"Being pre-med is harder than I thought. It takes a lot of work but I'm doing pretty well. Pakku found me a volunteer spot in the hospital."

"And then he found her room when she became a patient," Sokka interjects.

Katara rolls her eyes. "It's not that big of a deal."

"Can you believe her mom? She gets mugged in a subway and it's not that big a deal. I told you she was crazy." The last part is whispered loud enough for everyone to hear but Sokka acts as if only the gravestone could hear.

Hakoda, who had been standing quietly between his children, rests a hand on each of their shoulders. "Let me have a minute, will you?"

The pair of blue-eyed siblings rise to allow their father room. He squats down and just sits their silently for a moment. Sokka glances at his sister and jerks his head away from their father. Catching on, she joins Sokka as he heads in the direction of the fountain a few yards back. Their father deserved as long as he wanted.

Sokka heaves a long sigh as they walk. "Was that me who said it was easier this year?"

"I think it was some crazy guy we met on the way here." Sokka replies with smile. They continue walking in silence.

As Katara glances around her she's reminded how peaceful it is in this place. It almost makes her want to spend more time in the small haven, but the abundance of shiny headstones is a strong deterrent. As they reach the top of a small hill, Katara recognizes an unexpected figure.

"Mr. King?"

The older man looks up in surprise. "Miss Katara? How unexpected."

"Yeah. What are you doing here?"

His expression grows solemn. "I am an old man. My peers began filling these dirt plots several years ago."

"I'm so sorry," Katara says sincerely. "That was a dumb question. Of course you're visiting someone."

"I hope you are not doing the same thing, my young friend." Iroh's light eyes look at her and the man who is now several feet past them.

"My brother and I are visiting our mother. She was killed many years ago."

"Ah, I am truly sorry for your loss."

The birds fill the silence once more. Katara stops next to Iroh and looks down at the grave. "Who was Lu Ten?"

"A remarkable young man. My son. Zuko's cousin." Katara's gasp is small but loud in the silence surrounding them. Her blue eyes fill with unexpected tears and she finds her hand reaching for the old man's.

"How did he die?"

"My son always wanted to grow up too quickly. Because of this his life took a dark turn and by the time he wanted to turn it around he was involved with dangerous people. They wouldn't let him change so he died trying."

"I'm so sorry, Iroh."

"Please don't be," he says unexpectedly. "Lu Ten wouldn't want sorrow at his grave. He'd want people to find happiness."

After another moment of quiet comeraderie by the young man's grave Iroh speaks again. "My nephew lost his mother too, you know." Katara looks up at Iroh with surprise. "He'd probably never tell you. But she left when he was still a boy. That is why he's so distrustful of people."

"I don't understand," Katara admits.

"You're mother died Miss Katara. Zuko's mother left. Where yours would have stayed, his chose to leave. The betrayal has left him unsure of people. Give him a few chances. He's loyal to the end, but you just have to give him a few chances."

Katara's surprise is compounded with sadness for the man she met last night. This new information both contrasts and explains him. Before she can say anything though, her phone rings. Embarrassed by its timing she quickly pulls it out and fumbles to recognize the caller ID.

"Excuse me," she mumbles to Iroh when she recognizes the unexpected caller. "Hello?"

"Hello Miss DelMar. This is Detective Jeong with the NYPD. I was wondering if you'd be willing to come to the precinct this afternoon."

Katara shifts the phone to her other ear nervously. "What's this about?"

"We're investigating a criminal who was involved in your assault from this past weekend."

"Did you find the man who robbed me?" she asks eagerly.

"No. I'm talking about Jet."


Attempted cliffhanger. we'll see if it's actually that exciting. reviews? no? okay. me neither.