(SEE INTRODUCTION FOR DISCLAIMER)
WHOOO! Staying Positive!
Well here we go then… XD
All of your reviews are so lovely! I am honored to have you reading this I really don't know how to really convey how jittery and excited I get from your reviews… I really enjoy them and it fuels me to know that someone out there really enjoys this
So thank you all.
Oh man.. this chapter WAS planned but didn't get where I WANTED it to go... Oh well Iroh will show up eventually I guess he just didn't feel like doing it now...
Chapter Twelve: In The Morning
After fixing the lite emerald robe he had awoken in, he kept watching Aang until he began showing signs of consciousness returning, and distantly he wondered if destiny would ever be cruel to him again.
"Hey…" Zuko called out to the boy who had just began stirring, and just watched as he stretched and yawned, then as the boy nodded as if responding the Prince continued.
"Where are we?"
The boy froze and turned to him with wide eyes as if he had been just told that the world Very much does in fact revolve around him.
Then he laughed, an honest laugh that Zuko felt bubble up into him, causing him to smile awkwardly.
"I have no idea." Aang laughed again and the teen looked at him in confusion.
"How long have we been here?"
The boy stared at him again with a big grin, "Two days. Um, the rest I'll have to ask Sokka"
As if on cue Katara entered with her brother in tow.
"How's-," She began then stared at the Fire bender, then turned to Aang, "He's better?"
Sokka laughed heartily, "And YOU were WORRIED!"
Katara then smacked him, "You were too!"
"Yeah but I'm not a girl! It's OK to be worried about a fellow warrior!" Sokka explained, "But what's your excuse for pacing around the room?"
"I was worried Aang would get sick too! He was staying in the room with him!" She frowned and crossed her arms.
"Sure!" Sokka smiled and Zuko could tell he now had to worry about the boy trying to confirm this theory of his.
He turned to Aang since he had also been forgotten and he looked none too pleased with the conversation, almost pouting as he sat now rigid with his arms crossed.
"Hey." The Prince called, hoping that a change in the conversation would shift Aang's mood from Sokka mocking the girl whom Air bender liked, about imagined feelings for the Prince.
It was an uncomfortable thought that Aang was capable of romantic feelings, but life went on. So he turned to Sokka and asked once more, "Where are we anyway?"
Sokka looked at him then at Aang, "He didn't tell you?"
Zuko looked at him and really had no idea how to feel except maybe afraid for the future, "No, he doesn't know either."
"We've been her two days!" He cried and the Prince felt himself becoming frustrated.
"I know…" Zuko replied trying his best not to just throw himself onto the bed and hide until Sokka found some sense.
"I was taking care of Zuko! I didn't have time to ask questions!" Aang replied seriously and the Water tribe boy nodded in acceptance.
"Your right, but seriously you need to get on top of these things."
The Prince just groaned, "Katara!"
She looked at him as if she had been summoned by a monster, "Yes?"
He then gestured at Sokka as if he was some sort of anomaly and the entire assembly proceeded to stare at him as if he had gone insane.
The Water tribe boy's eyes went wide, "HE'S BEENTAKEN OVER BY ALIENS!"
"Sokka!" Katara frowned, "Stop it! He's probably just too tired to throw something at your head!"
"I'm not going to throw anything at anybody!" Zuko cried almost defeated, "Except maybe myself out a window unless someone tells me where In the Earth Kingdom am I?"
"The City of Kukkyōna is a place to start!" a fourth voice chimed in, it was sturdy and young, Toph entered as stalwart as the town itself.
"A pretty decent place, had a doctor that was useless, and couple of nice people let us stay in their house." She smiled, "How ya feeling? Prince Aang give you the kiss of life?"
Zuko just looked at her and appreciated that she was perhaps the only half sane person in the room besides he and Aang.
"Thank you!" He sighed, falling backwards then rolling to face down into the bed.
The room was silent, and when he detected that no one had moved and were all probably staring at him, so he groaned into the mattress and gave out a muffled cry,
"If you don't belong in here, then leave please."
Surprisingly, Aang stayed and just climbed up and sat in the lotus position on the bed.
Zuko turned his head to look at his friend, "What?"
The boy just smiled, "I'm glad you're better. You know, I was so scared to see you like that."
"Is that why you never left?" He asked, feeling the sun on his back, he had not realized the window had been opened.
Aang blushed and turned his face to the sheets, "How would you know something like that?"
"I felt it…" The prince spoke, his voice so careful it almost scared him, but he continued, "Its stronger isn't it…."
The boy turned his head up to meet his gaze, "Yeah it is…."
"You weren't sick… not like normal huh?" Aang pressed and he just closed his eyes.
They sat in silence for some time, and Zuko dozed in and out of actual sleep for some time until the other boy lay down next to him and face him.
Zuko was awake, but did nothing as they lay there, moments passed and he just dozed back into his dreams.
The next time he awoke, it was Katara who was shaking a drooling Aang besides him, and whispering to him about lunch.
And when those words were spoken he bolted upright, and announced, "I'm starving."
It took about half a second before Aang sprung up as well and cried happily "Let's GO!"
And Zuko wondered if the boy had actually been sleeping, before he was grabbed by his wrist and dragged by the Air bender.
Aang bounded through the single storied home's cream and tan hall ways, barely even touching the emerald carpeted floors.
Zuko noted that the home was nice, most likely middle class and it was decorated nicely, with pottery and paintings.
He followed the Air bender who seemed to be following Katara, and was led into a lager room, and when he entered he found their hosts sitting on green mat, the man at the head of a dining table made of a very fine oak, and his wife at his right, next to her was were Katara took her place and next to her Sokka. On the other side facing the woman was Toph, and two empty seats across from the Water Tribe siblings.
Quickly the prince assessed himself, his robes were in proper place and he wore pants, perhaps his only discretion was being barefoot.
"Avatar Aang!" the unfamiliar woman called happily, "It is good your friend is better, that we may see more of you both!"
Aang smiled and bowed, and Zuko followed and said, "I thank you for your kindness in my time of need."
He saw his friend fidget out of the corner of his eye, and the woman smiled and turned to her husband who beamed just as wide, "Any friend of the Avatar's is welcome in our home, especially if he is a Bei Fong."
Zuko then froze, that definitely was a new development in his personal project of "Lee".
"I see…" He then looked to Aang who shrugged.
"Come sit brother!" Toph called and patted the seat next to her, "Don't be rude."
The fire bender they walked over to the girl and sat, Aang places himself next to him, as they all began their noon meal.
He had known that their friend's ate in a rather unrefined matter but it had not truly struck him until they were all sitting at a beautiful table and Toph was eating like a lady. That he realized that he also ate like a gentleman.
If he was not so hungry he would have just stared at how his new friends seemed to eat not impolitely but in an untrained matter.
And somehow it made sense why Toph had claimed him as brother.
He managed to civilly eat three bowls of rice and some sort of meat that had gone on top; it had tasted like pork and something else. But he was really too hungry to notice what it really tasted like.
After listening to the group talk at the table he felt like a stranger, he really hadn't reached out to any of them, yet here they were, they had even taken him to a doctor. Katara seemed to notice him just watching the group, and she gazed at him curiously,
"How are you feeling?"
Drawn from his thoughts he smiled at her, "Good…"
She then nodded, and turned to Sokka, "Me and my brother are going to go shopping, your sister is coming is that ok?"
He looked at her confused then remembered Toph and nodded, "Keep her out of trouble."
And his ears perked as the earth bender whispered "Hey!"
When they had left, he taken the time to bathe and put his Earth Kingdom clothing on, when he wandered into the small back yard garden, the air was fresh and he felt like taking in as much as he possibly could.
I had taken a half hour debate for him to lose to Aang on the subject of whether either of them should stay behind. He caved on the topic of himself quickly, just to satisfy pretty much everyone. Since they all seemed overly concerned with the fact that he had seemed to be at deaths door the night before.
On subject Aang himself he had fought like a one man army but the boy refused to budge from the house, so Zuko just decided it was his loss, since it was Aang who was losing out on spending time with his friends.
Of course him being left out of group activities was not the best route either, but he was sure if he had gone they would have fussed over him, and that wasn't the happiest thought.
Sitting by the small pond the Prince closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of the garden. He felt the energy of the earth, then the air, in a pattern he balanced himself between the two.
Aang managed to sit by him softly, breaking the Princes concentration for only a second, before there was silence once more.
They sat as the sun, which had rose to directly above them, slowly fell into the arms of the night, and the moon filled the sky, throwing stars across it's back ground like small gems glowing.
By the time the moon had fully revealed itself they had returned indoors and helped their comrades with the supplies they had retrieved and helped pack Appa saddle for their journey that would be continued in the morning.
Zuko ate little at dinner, and once again watched the friendly strangers and tried to participate in conversation, even if it was just hums of agreement placed sparsely throughout the entire conversation. The Water Tribe siblings seemed to cast him odd glances through the evening, and Toph tilted he head towards him in interest on more than one occasion, even though he wasn't really doing anything.
The conversation was nothing but polite so it was hard to do or say something, when he had barely any intimate knowledge of the people he traveled with so mostly he just listened.
Yet, they seemed so keen on him as if he had missed something, and now they were trying to communicate it to him.
It didn't become apparent to him what it was until he had slipped into his room after a walk in the garden and found the entire group assembled as if prepared for an intervention.
All except Aang who seemed more frustrated than anything, before he looked Zuko in the eyes and seemed to be pleading with him for what he had no idea.
"You're acting like a weirdo Zuko." Sokka announced, and Toph punched him in the arm earning a high pitch ow!
"Nice and subtle Sokka!" She frowned, and then turned attention to the Water bender who sighed.
"Even if he was rude he's right." Katara sighed, "At first we thought it was just the fever and you being tired but you've been at it all day. Even after sleeping for most of the morning."
"I-" Zuko began but then stopped because he really didn't feel comfortable enough with these people to just start talking about his feelings and visions with, especially since he was barely comfortable with them himself. He was not going to explain to them that he chosen to be on their side with his heart and not realized it until now, he wasn't going to explain that he had been fighting his destiny, not realizing he had in fact chosen this path until now.
So he just stared back nervously.
"They're not accusing you anything Zuko." Aang chimed in and gave him a warm smile, "They're just concerned."
"Nothing's wrong." Zuko finally answered after a long period of silence, "I'm just dealing with some things… but I'll be ok."
"Alrigthy, thats good enough for ME!" Toph smiled, "As long as those things don't interrupt with Aang's training tomorrow, then I am OK."
"Wait!" Katara called as Toph began walking out, "What are you dealing with? Maybe we can help you…"
Zuko felt a rush of horror flood him as he turned to Aang who immediately received the cue, the boy made a show of yawning,
"It's getting late we can talk about it later!"
Katara looked at the Air bender then to the Prince, "But-"
"We're both super exhausted!" Aang jumped to his feet and began ushering Katara and Sokka out of the room, "Maybe when were better rested or when Zuko feels like it, but not right now we've had a long couple of days and we should get some real sleep."
Before she could answer he shut the door and leaned his back against it, "It wasn't my Idea."
Zuko smiled gratefully, "Thank you I had no idea what to say… there's so much…"
Aang came over to him and wrapped his arms around the Fir bender's waist, burrowing his face unto the older boy's chest, "its ok, I understand… remember? I know…"
Zuko placed his hand on Aang's shoulder, not to push him away, not to pull him closer, to keep him there, because he could feel the Boy breathing coupled with the pull of spirits they shared and that was enough. He drew strength from the embrace, and felt the power of the spirit that held him.
And the Prince wanted to tell him, tell Aang everything, to tell him that he had been saved by the boy's voice alone, but he remained silent save for a sigh he heaved when Aang pulled away hiding his face that had been splashed red from nose to ears.
Jumping up the Air bender rushed to the bath room, and Zuko just shrugged when the boy finally emerged he announced he was going to sleep with Appa in the stable, and made off into the night.
It was surprising the group thought he was acting strange, because Aang was getting really jumpy, and it worried him. He needed the boy and if Aang continued how he was, it was definitely going to end in the worst way.
And that thought was enough to make him nervous.