Blue Spirit Gal's Avatar Library

Avatar the Last Airbender Fan Fiction


The Ho'Wan Island Carnival Chapter Five

Chapter Five

“We’re almost done here, birthday boy! How’re you holding up?” The carnie called from the ground.

Aang sighed. “I’m fine!” he yelled. Then, muttering to himself, “Except that I’m bored out of my skull.” How long had it been? An hour? Two? More? He had watched the clouds float over the horizon all day, with the carnival spinning and whirling beneath him tauntingly. He cursed himself for not staying with the others – at least they’d be in this mess with him so he’d have someone to talk to.

A loud clang snapped Aang out of his self-pity. “Oops!” came the carnie’s voice from below. “Looks like you’ll have to wait some more, son, the axle’s snapped.”

Aang screamed. “That’s it!” Inhaling, Aang burst the cab door open with a fierce gust of air. He clambered out onto the top of the car, feeling his joints ache from being scrunched up inside the tiny cab. He looked down: two hundred feet up and nothing to slow or break his fall. He began to wonder about whether breaking out of the now safe-seeming cab was a good idea. The cab rocked and creaked under his shifting weight.

Should he call Appa? The whole idea of leaving the remarkable bison to hide in the woods was to make sure his presence wasn’t noticed. But under the circumstances—

Aang didn’t have time to pull out his bison whistle. The cab creaked, cracked, and fell free from the swinging arm, Aang tumbling down with it.

The Airbender automatically gathered the wind beneath him, letting it catch his poncho to slow the fall. He balled the air together and tried to ride it down, but he was too high up: the wind ball had nothing to resist against. The ball dissipated pathetically, and he plummeted, not hearing his own scream as he plunged toward the earth, tumbling end over end in an uncontrolled fall. He concentrated, and brought a huge rush of wind together to push him towards some soft looking tent canopies, focusing on turning himself over in free fall so he’d land on his tush. If only he had his glider.

But he did have his glider! Aang flipped over, spotted his glider staff resting against the rails, and sent a gust of wind to pop it open. He sucked in a breath, drawing the staff towards him. It came in a tightly controlled cyclone, just in time for Aang to grab a hold of before he was hit the ground.

The glider jerked him up, just as the cab smashed against the ground, splintering into tiny pieces wood and twisted metal. Aang billowed more air beneath him as he executed a perfect loop-de-loop, a tight spiral, and a perfect landing back on the platform where he had started in front of the carnie.

“Now THAT, was a fun ride,” Aang said, eyes glittering, pulse racing.

The carnie stared at him, mouth agape. Aang glanced over his shoulder at the pile of debris that was the cab. “Uh, sorry about the damage.” He sprinted away in search of Sokka and Katara.


“And that is how you make real stewed sea prunes,” Sokka finished with a flourish. A small gathering of the area food vendors oohed and ahhed, tasting the goopy concoction and nodding affirmatively to each other. The Water Tribe food vendor took notes rapidly.

“Now for dessert, some people like to have sweetened pot stickers with caviar, but I’m going to show you a cheaper way of making them with these nuts…”

“Sokka!” Aang called from the back of the crowd. He stopped and smirked at him. “Nice apron.”

“Aang!” Sokka abruptly left the stall, red in the face. “Where’s Katara?”

“Huh? I thought she was with you.”

“No, I thought… aw jeez…” Sokka tore off the apron and chef’s hat and tossed them back to the vendor. “We’d better go find her before she has a fit about leaving her behind. Hey,” Sokka suddenly remembered the reason they had all come to Ho’Wan. “Are you having a fun birthday?’

“Well, not at first. But like Pipi said, remember rule number two!”

They scurried away, retracing their steps back to the place where they last saw her.


Iroh blinked blearily. He was lying on the floor, his arms cinched behind his back and tied to his feet, which were also bound. A bitter, fuzzy taste in his mouth told him he was gagged, and by the scent of it, the gag had been soaked in some kind of drug that was keeping him from focusing.

“Well, good morning there!” a pair of colourful boots appeared in his blurry field of vision, but from the strange cackle, Iroh knew the voice belonged to Papa Pipi. He craned his neck to look up at the bristly, gnome-like man, but was stopped when a slender white foot mashed down on his cheek. He grunted through the gag.

“Don’t be too rough on him, Kerima,” Pipi cautioned. “Don’t you know who this esteemed elder is?”

“I know he’s a dirty Firebender,” she ground her heel into Iroh’s face. He squirmed. At least she washed her feet more regularly than he did.

“Don’t bother trying to get up, you’ll only hurt yourself more.” Ho’Wan’s mayor hopped up and perched on a stool. He addressed the room: “You’ll all be off this island soon enough, but I’m just waiting on one more. Tell me, General Iroh,” Pipi peered down at the old man, his eyes glittering wickedly, “Where is boy you were with? Where is the Fire Prince?”

Iroh looked up dizzily into Pipi’s benevolent face. How did he know? How had they singled out every one of the troops?

“I almost had him,” Kerima whined plaintively, “But Lani decided she wanted a piece of the pie too.”

“What, I have to round up all these ugly, stinking soldiers and you get the handsome prince?” An indignant voice came from the other side of the room. “I don’t think so!”

Some of the conscious soldiers groaned indignantly through their gags in protest.

“Girls, stop it,” Papa Pipi commanded flatly. They shut up. “That boy is the only reason we’re not sending these Fire Nation folk home in pieces.” He turned back to Iroh.

“Madam Façade had a good look at the boy’s soul, Iroh. She’s giving him a chance. She sees more behind any mask we’ll ever wear, and I trust her judgment implicitly. You’re a lucky one, oh Dragon of the West. That boy of yours has got a bigger role to play in our futures than you think, and his will is strong. It’s the heart that has to change. He’s got a good head start though, and Madam Façade’s told me that’s from your good influence...”

Iroh’s head spun. He could barely understand anything the man was saying. All he could see and feel was the drug-induced dream he was having of bathing in a giant steaming cup of ginseng tea….


Katara walked out of the theatre with Zuko/Kimji, laughing together. They animatedly reviewed the shadow puppet show, a comedy about a boy, a girl, and an insane fortuneteller who kept giving them ridiculous advice to win each other’s hearts. They walked and walked, forgetting they were ever looking for anyone.

Katara sighed happily. Conversation was easy with this marvelous looking teen now, and he seemed eager to share his thoughts about whatever came to mind.

They meandered aimlessly for a while, stopping once for sweets, and perused a bazaar as they munched their gooey confections.

“Hey, neat!” Katara’s eye caught a brightly coloured kite in the shape of a flying lemur. It looked like Momo with rabies. “Aang would love that!”

“Your brother?” Zuko asked, licking his fingers.

“No, the Av—“ Katara caught herself. “My friend, who we’re traveling with. It’s his birthday today.”

Katara didn’t see it as she inspected the kite, but the smile that had so radiantly lit Zuko’s face had fallen. “I think I’ll get this for him.” She picked it up and haggled with the vendor while Zuko watched her, thinking.

I’m baaaack… his brain piped up. Ready to go Avatar-hunting again, lover boy?

No, I’m not. Leave me alone. Zuko replied, but his brain crossed its mental arms and waited, waving a little flag that said ‘honour’ on it.

“What?” she asked, seeing his fallen face. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh, uh…” How to cover this swift change of mood? “This friend… he’s special to you?”

Zuko mentally bashed his head repeatedly against an imaginary wall. Here, let me help you, his brain offered. Awkward. Clumsy. Worst of all, it was a question he really had wanted to ask her… all day… since he’d met her….

Katara blushed. “Aang’s just a friend. And a monk. He’s got… more important things to worry about.”

Zuko nodded, but the answer didn’t satisfy him. “So you’re not committed?” he blurted. He’d meant to ask, “So you’re not together?” but his words stumbled over each other. The ease he’d felt with her minutes ago evaporated.

Katara tilted her head to one side, looking at him questioningly. “I’m committed to him in that my brother and I promised to get him where he needs to go.”

“And where are you going?” Zuko asked a little too forcefully.

Yes! His brain hissed triumphantly. Back in business!

Katara suddenly felt extremely uneasy discussing Aang and Sokka with Kimji. She’d almost blurted out that Aang was the Avatar, and now he was asking leading questions about their mission. She had to turn this conversation back somehow.

“Weren’t you just asking about whether or not I was with Aang?” she teased cautiously, folding her arms in what she hoped looked like a casual and slightly seductive way. They stopped in an archway leading out of the bazaar, overlooking a part of the town. The sun glowed orange near the horizon.

She watched Kimji’s gold eyes shift through myriad moods. They were so revealing, like paneless windows into his soul. Was that panic she saw? His face went the cutest shade of crimson she’d ever seen.

Think Zuko, think. Salvage this before she gets off the topic of the Avatar! His brain jumped up and down.

“I – I’m not interested in you!” He shouted.

The words hit the two like a ton of Appa’s dung, ringing in their ears as the echo redounded in the stone archway.

Not…not…not…you…you…you…

Zuko gawped, horrified at what he’d just said.

What are you doing! Zuko’s brain kicked him in the shin. I said ‘don’t let her get away’, not ‘drive her as far away from you as you can!’ Idiot!

Katara stood frozen, her eyes wide, her lips parted in shock. It was as though he’d slapped her in the face. The only colour in her cheeks came from the glow of the sun that no longer radiated heat for her.

Zuko broke the deadly silence, “Katara, I didn’t mean—“

The look in her eyes changed from shock to outrage, to disgust, to pure grief, and back to anger. She spun on her heel and bolted, hiding her face in her hands, running blindly down the hill. She dropped the kite in her wake.

“Katara!” Zuko shouted after her.

Go after her, moron, it’s what knights in shining armour do. A completely different part of his brain said. And that’s what you are to her. Were, anyhow.

Also, you won’t find the Avatar unless she’s with you, his normal brain reminded him.

Zuko ran after the water girl, catching glimpses of the flickering blue robe through the crowds. The jostling of heads showed him the path she was blindly plowing through the throngs of people.

Isn’t this where we started? He asked himself despondently.

Maybe you’ll get lucky and she’ll run into another bunch of thugs you can rescue her from, eh? His brain mocked his sarcastically.


Katara ran, tears streaming down her face. I won’t cry, she steeled herself. If she let out a single sob, she would break down entirely and collapse on the cobblestone streets. She had to get away, as far away as she could, find Aang and Sokka, get out of this weird place. She knew it was a bad idea to come to Ho’Wan. And she definitely wasn’t following either Rules Number One or Two now.

“Katara!” she heard that insufferable Kimji call. He was following her. Let him try. She dodged through the streets for the second time that day, only this time she was avoiding “the man in black” to spite him. She wasn’t afraid of him. No, she could see right through him now.

She just couldn’t face him at the moment.


Zuko raced after her. Stubborn girl. Why didn’t she listen to his advice in the first place? You shouldn’t be walking these streets alone, he had said. That had only been a few hours ago. It felt like another lifetime.

Salvage this, be diplomatic, you’re a prince - start acting like one! He told himself. His brain agreed and advised him sagely, in Uncle Iroh’s voice:

Stop her, apologize to her, tell her you’re in love with her— the brain clamped its mental mouth in horror.

Me? In love? With a Waterbender?

Zuko nearly crashed into a cabbage seller hauling his wares in a cart up the hill. The cabbage man shouted profanities at him, lamenting the cabbages that rolled after Zuko’s heels, threatening to trip him up.

You didn’t hear me say it, I didn’t say anything, you’ve never loved anyone, that’s how it is, yup, that’s you, Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation, stone cold fire, that’s you champ! His brain babbled.

In love? Me? Katara? With? The crowds parted for Zuko as he barreled down the street. His heart raced, but not from the exertion. His brain made him blind to the world as it conjured up excuses and logic and things that made him try very hard to remember that Katara was only a tool: a key to capturing the Avatar.

I’m in love with her.

The realization made his heart lurch. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation, having one’s heart in one’s throat.

He called her name again, tasting the syllables on his tongue. Kah-Tahr-Rah.

He’d make it right. He’d stop her, hold her hands, make light-hearted jokes, buy her a pretty trinket…anything to make the hurt in his heart go away.

Anything to get her to lead you to the Avatar, you mean.

Shut up! He yelled at himself. One thing at a time!

He caught a glimpse of the distinctive blue robe darting into a side street. He turned in to the next street to cut her off.


Stupid Kimji! Stupid Aang! Stupid Sokka! Stupid boys! Stupid world! Stupid stupid stupid! Katara ran, wiping the salty tears away with her sleeve. How could anyone that good looking be interested in a girl like her anyway? First Jet, now Kimji. Would her love life be nothing but a string of infatuation beaded with heartbreaks?

She longed to be at home, snuggling in her fur-lined sleeping bag on top of the seal pelts with Gran-Gran sewing in the corner and the other women of the tribe murmuring in low voices about womanly things. She’d been in the company of boys too long. Boys, not men, she reminded herself, though her brain betrayed her into seeing Kimji as a man.

The lean face, the gold eyes, the heroic set of his jaw, and the hint of muscle beneath that simple but handsome black tunic… she shivered at the image, but shook it off, angry for letting herself be hurt by that arrogant, sullen, spoiled… hero!

No. Her knight in shiny black armour was no hero, she scolded herself. He was a jerk. A deceitful player who had latched onto her to get free food with her special status. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

She slowed as she approached the next intersection, which was deserted. She panted, clutching her chest as her heart swelled and shrank, swelled and shrank. She swallowed another sob as she tried to get her bearings when she heard her name again.

“Katara!” Kimji called from a block away.

“Katara!” Aang called from his glider. Katara looked up. She’d never been more relieved to see the little monk.

“Katara!” Zuko called again, closer now. Katara turned to him angrily.

“Kimji just leave me—”

Katara stopped dead. Running towards her was a face that made her forget everything. A face she altogether feared. A face that burned away thoughts of anything good: even Kimji was preferable to that face.

The burn scar showed clearly in the setting sun.

Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation raced towards her.

The Ho'Wan Island Carnival Chapter Five

Chapter Five

“We’re almost done here, birthday boy! How’re you holding up?” The carnie called from the ground.

Aang sighed. “I’m fine!” he yelled. Then, muttering to himself, “Except that I’m bored out of my skull.” How long had it been? An hour? Two? More? He had watched the clouds float over the horizon all day, with the carnival spinning and whirling beneath him tauntingly. He cursed himself for not staying with the others – at least they’d be in this mess with him so he’d have someone to talk to.

A loud clang snapped Aang out of his self-pity. “Oops!” came the carnie’s voice from below. “Looks like you’ll have to wait some more, son, the axle’s snapped.”

Aang screamed. “That’s it!” Inhaling, Aang burst the cab door open with a fierce gust of air. He clambered out onto the top of the car, feeling his joints ache from being scrunched up inside the tiny cab. He looked down: two hundred feet up and nothing to slow or break his fall. He began to wonder about whether breaking out of the now safe-seeming cab was a good idea. The cab rocked and creaked under his shifting weight.

Should he call Appa? The whole idea of leaving the remarkable bison to hide in the woods was to make sure his presence wasn’t noticed. But under the circumstances—

Aang didn’t have time to pull out his bison whistle. The cab creaked, cracked, and fell free from the swinging arm, Aang tumbling down with it.

The Airbender automatically gathered the wind beneath him, letting it catch his poncho to slow the fall. He balled the air together and tried to ride it down, but he was too high up: the wind ball had nothing to resist against. The ball dissipated pathetically, and he plummeted, not hearing his own scream as he plunged toward the earth, tumbling end over end in an uncontrolled fall. He concentrated, and brought a huge rush of wind together to push him towards some soft looking tent canopies, focusing on turning himself over in free fall so he’d land on his tush. If only he had his glider.

But he did have his glider! Aang flipped over, spotted his glider staff resting against the rails, and sent a gust of wind to pop it open. He sucked in a breath, drawing the staff towards him. It came in a tightly controlled cyclone, just in time for Aang to grab a hold of before he was hit the ground.

The glider jerked him up, just as the cab smashed against the ground, splintering into tiny pieces wood and twisted metal. Aang billowed more air beneath him as he executed a perfect loop-de-loop, a tight spiral, and a perfect landing back on the platform where he had started in front of the carnie.

“Now THAT, was a fun ride,” Aang said, eyes glittering, pulse racing.

The carnie stared at him, mouth agape. Aang glanced over his shoulder at the pile of debris that was the cab. “Uh, sorry about the damage.” He sprinted away in search of Sokka and Katara.


“And that is how you make real stewed sea prunes,” Sokka finished with a flourish. A small gathering of the area food vendors oohed and ahhed, tasting the goopy concoction and nodding affirmatively to each other. The Water Tribe food vendor took notes rapidly.

“Now for dessert, some people like to have sweetened pot stickers with caviar, but I’m going to show you a cheaper way of making them with these nuts…”

“Sokka!” Aang called from the back of the crowd. He stopped and smirked at him. “Nice apron.”

“Aang!” Sokka abruptly left the stall, red in the face. “Where’s Katara?”

“Huh? I thought she was with you.”

“No, I thought… aw jeez…” Sokka tore off the apron and chef’s hat and tossed them back to the vendor. “We’d better go find her before she has a fit about leaving her behind. Hey,” Sokka suddenly remembered the reason they had all come to Ho’Wan. “Are you having a fun birthday?’

“Well, not at first. But like Pipi said, remember rule number two!”

They scurried away, retracing their steps back to the place where they last saw her.


Iroh blinked blearily. He was lying on the floor, his arms cinched behind his back and tied to his feet, which were also bound. A bitter, fuzzy taste in his mouth told him he was gagged, and by the scent of it, the gag had been soaked in some kind of drug that was keeping him from focusing.

“Well, good morning there!” a pair of colourful boots appeared in his blurry field of vision, but from the strange cackle, Iroh knew the voice belonged to Papa Pipi. He craned his neck to look up at the bristly, gnome-like man, but was stopped when a slender white foot mashed down on his cheek. He grunted through the gag.

“Don’t be too rough on him, Kerima,” Pipi cautioned. “Don’t you know who this esteemed elder is?”

“I know he’s a dirty Firebender,” she ground her heel into Iroh’s face. He squirmed. At least she washed her feet more regularly than he did.

“Don’t bother trying to get up, you’ll only hurt yourself more.” Ho’Wan’s mayor hopped up and perched on a stool. He addressed the room: “You’ll all be off this island soon enough, but I’m just waiting on one more. Tell me, General Iroh,” Pipi peered down at the old man, his eyes glittering wickedly, “Where is boy you were with? Where is the Fire Prince?”

Iroh looked up dizzily into Pipi’s benevolent face. How did he know? How had they singled out every one of the troops?

“I almost had him,” Kerima whined plaintively, “But Lani decided she wanted a piece of the pie too.”

“What, I have to round up all these ugly, stinking soldiers and you get the handsome prince?” An indignant voice came from the other side of the room. “I don’t think so!”

Some of the conscious soldiers groaned indignantly through their gags in protest.

“Girls, stop it,” Papa Pipi commanded flatly. They shut up. “That boy is the only reason we’re not sending these Fire Nation folk home in pieces.” He turned back to Iroh.

“Madam Façade had a good look at the boy’s soul, Iroh. She’s giving him a chance. She sees more behind any mask we’ll ever wear, and I trust her judgment implicitly. You’re a lucky one, oh Dragon of the West. That boy of yours has got a bigger role to play in our futures than you think, and his will is strong. It’s the heart that has to change. He’s got a good head start though, and Madam Façade’s told me that’s from your good influence...”

Iroh’s head spun. He could barely understand anything the man was saying. All he could see and feel was the drug-induced dream he was having of bathing in a giant steaming cup of ginseng tea….


Katara walked out of the theatre with Zuko/Kimji, laughing together. They animatedly reviewed the shadow puppet show, a comedy about a boy, a girl, and an insane fortuneteller who kept giving them ridiculous advice to win each other’s hearts. They walked and walked, forgetting they were ever looking for anyone.

Katara sighed happily. Conversation was easy with this marvelous looking teen now, and he seemed eager to share his thoughts about whatever came to mind.

They meandered aimlessly for a while, stopping once for sweets, and perused a bazaar as they munched their gooey confections.

“Hey, neat!” Katara’s eye caught a brightly coloured kite in the shape of a flying lemur. It looked like Momo with rabies. “Aang would love that!”

“Your brother?” Zuko asked, licking his fingers.

“No, the Av—“ Katara caught herself. “My friend, who we’re traveling with. It’s his birthday today.”

Katara didn’t see it as she inspected the kite, but the smile that had so radiantly lit Zuko’s face had fallen. “I think I’ll get this for him.” She picked it up and haggled with the vendor while Zuko watched her, thinking.

I’m baaaack… his brain piped up. Ready to go Avatar-hunting again, lover boy?

No, I’m not. Leave me alone. Zuko replied, but his brain crossed its mental arms and waited, waving a little flag that said ‘honour’ on it.

“What?” she asked, seeing his fallen face. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh, uh…” How to cover this swift change of mood? “This friend… he’s special to you?”

Zuko mentally bashed his head repeatedly against an imaginary wall. Here, let me help you, his brain offered. Awkward. Clumsy. Worst of all, it was a question he really had wanted to ask her… all day… since he’d met her….

Katara blushed. “Aang’s just a friend. And a monk. He’s got… more important things to worry about.”

Zuko nodded, but the answer didn’t satisfy him. “So you’re not committed?” he blurted. He’d meant to ask, “So you’re not together?” but his words stumbled over each other. The ease he’d felt with her minutes ago evaporated.

Katara tilted her head to one side, looking at him questioningly. “I’m committed to him in that my brother and I promised to get him where he needs to go.”

“And where are you going?” Zuko asked a little too forcefully.

Yes! His brain hissed triumphantly. Back in business!

Katara suddenly felt extremely uneasy discussing Aang and Sokka with Kimji. She’d almost blurted out that Aang was the Avatar, and now he was asking leading questions about their mission. She had to turn this conversation back somehow.

“Weren’t you just asking about whether or not I was with Aang?” she teased cautiously, folding her arms in what she hoped looked like a casual and slightly seductive way. They stopped in an archway leading out of the bazaar, overlooking a part of the town. The sun glowed orange near the horizon.

She watched Kimji’s gold eyes shift through myriad moods. They were so revealing, like paneless windows into his soul. Was that panic she saw? His face went the cutest shade of crimson she’d ever seen.

Think Zuko, think. Salvage this before she gets off the topic of the Avatar! His brain jumped up and down.

“I – I’m not interested in you!” He shouted.

The words hit the two like a ton of Appa’s dung, ringing in their ears as the echo redounded in the stone archway.

Not…not…not…you…you…you…

Zuko gawped, horrified at what he’d just said.

What are you doing! Zuko’s brain kicked him in the shin. I said ‘don’t let her get away’, not ‘drive her as far away from you as you can!’ Idiot!

Katara stood frozen, her eyes wide, her lips parted in shock. It was as though he’d slapped her in the face. The only colour in her cheeks came from the glow of the sun that no longer radiated heat for her.

Zuko broke the deadly silence, “Katara, I didn’t mean—“

The look in her eyes changed from shock to outrage, to disgust, to pure grief, and back to anger. She spun on her heel and bolted, hiding her face in her hands, running blindly down the hill. She dropped the kite in her wake.

“Katara!” Zuko shouted after her.

Go after her, moron, it’s what knights in shining armour do. A completely different part of his brain said. And that’s what you are to her. Were, anyhow.

Also, you won’t find the Avatar unless she’s with you, his normal brain reminded him.

Zuko ran after the water girl, catching glimpses of the flickering blue robe through the crowds. The jostling of heads showed him the path she was blindly plowing through the throngs of people.

Isn’t this where we started? He asked himself despondently.

Maybe you’ll get lucky and she’ll run into another bunch of thugs you can rescue her from, eh? His brain mocked his sarcastically.


Katara ran, tears streaming down her face. I won’t cry, she steeled herself. If she let out a single sob, she would break down entirely and collapse on the cobblestone streets. She had to get away, as far away as she could, find Aang and Sokka, get out of this weird place. She knew it was a bad idea to come to Ho’Wan. And she definitely wasn’t following either Rules Number One or Two now.

“Katara!” she heard that insufferable Kimji call. He was following her. Let him try. She dodged through the streets for the second time that day, only this time she was avoiding “the man in black” to spite him. She wasn’t afraid of him. No, she could see right through him now.

She just couldn’t face him at the moment.


Zuko raced after her. Stubborn girl. Why didn’t she listen to his advice in the first place? You shouldn’t be walking these streets alone, he had said. That had only been a few hours ago. It felt like another lifetime.

Salvage this, be diplomatic, you’re a prince - start acting like one! He told himself. His brain agreed and advised him sagely, in Uncle Iroh’s voice:

Stop her, apologize to her, tell her you’re in love with her— the brain clamped its mental mouth in horror.

Me? In love? With a Waterbender?

Zuko nearly crashed into a cabbage seller hauling his wares in a cart up the hill. The cabbage man shouted profanities at him, lamenting the cabbages that rolled after Zuko’s heels, threatening to trip him up.

You didn’t hear me say it, I didn’t say anything, you’ve never loved anyone, that’s how it is, yup, that’s you, Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation, stone cold fire, that’s you champ! His brain babbled.

In love? Me? Katara? With? The crowds parted for Zuko as he barreled down the street. His heart raced, but not from the exertion. His brain made him blind to the world as it conjured up excuses and logic and things that made him try very hard to remember that Katara was only a tool: a key to capturing the Avatar.

I’m in love with her.

The realization made his heart lurch. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation, having one’s heart in one’s throat.

He called her name again, tasting the syllables on his tongue. Kah-Tahr-Rah.

He’d make it right. He’d stop her, hold her hands, make light-hearted jokes, buy her a pretty trinket…anything to make the hurt in his heart go away.

Anything to get her to lead you to the Avatar, you mean.

Shut up! He yelled at himself. One thing at a time!

He caught a glimpse of the distinctive blue robe darting into a side street. He turned in to the next street to cut her off.


Stupid Kimji! Stupid Aang! Stupid Sokka! Stupid boys! Stupid world! Stupid stupid stupid! Katara ran, wiping the salty tears away with her sleeve. How could anyone that good looking be interested in a girl like her anyway? First Jet, now Kimji. Would her love life be nothing but a string of infatuation beaded with heartbreaks?

She longed to be at home, snuggling in her fur-lined sleeping bag on top of the seal pelts with Gran-Gran sewing in the corner and the other women of the tribe murmuring in low voices about womanly things. She’d been in the company of boys too long. Boys, not men, she reminded herself, though her brain betrayed her into seeing Kimji as a man.

The lean face, the gold eyes, the heroic set of his jaw, and the hint of muscle beneath that simple but handsome black tunic… she shivered at the image, but shook it off, angry for letting herself be hurt by that arrogant, sullen, spoiled… hero!

No. Her knight in shiny black armour was no hero, she scolded herself. He was a jerk. A deceitful player who had latched onto her to get free food with her special status. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

She slowed as she approached the next intersection, which was deserted. She panted, clutching her chest as her heart swelled and shrank, swelled and shrank. She swallowed another sob as she tried to get her bearings when she heard her name again.

“Katara!” Kimji called from a block away.

“Katara!” Aang called from his glider. Katara looked up. She’d never been more relieved to see the little monk.

“Katara!” Zuko called again, closer now. Katara turned to him angrily.

“Kimji just leave me—”

Katara stopped dead. Running towards her was a face that made her forget everything. A face she altogether feared. A face that burned away thoughts of anything good: even Kimji was preferable to that face.

The burn scar showed clearly in the setting sun.

Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation raced towards her.