Categories > Cartoons > Avatar: The Last Airbender > Rescue Me

Tiny Pushes

by hootowl 0 reviews


Category: Avatar: The Last Airbender - Rating: PG - Genres: Humor - Characters: Aang,Katara,Sokka,Zuko - Warnings: [?] - Published: 2014-07-12 - 4241 words - Complete

Katara was scowling at her brother. Never mind that she’d missed him dreadfully for the past few months and his absence was a constant worry in the back of her mind that manifested itself in her nightmares alongside the nightmares of her imprisonment. Sokka didn’t seem the least bit perturbed that his sister was glaring at him. He was squatting next to the pile of clothes he’d dropped in front of her, calmly sorting through them.

“Some of them need mending,” he was saying. “It’s been a while since we’ve been able to do a good job or find someone willing to do some sewing.”

Her scowl deepened. “Why do I have to do it?”

He rocked back on his heels, looking up at her. He seemed surprised by her scowl. His shoulders stiffened and he answered defensively, “Well, Toph certainly can’t do it and Aang’s just as bad as I am.”

He held up a pair of pants, turning to show a clumsily stitched tear. She stared at it, setting her jaw. She was not going to give in. “That’s awful.”

Sokka frowned, turning the cloth to inspect the stitching himself. “It’s not as bad as Aang’s!” he said, sounding indignant, before adding sullenly, “I have gotten better.”

Katara watched him poke at his stitching for several minutes before heaving a sigh. “Oh, give me that.”

She snatched the pants from his hands and threw them back on the pile of laundry, wrinkling her nose. Everything needed to be washed and aired. She picked at a few of the tunics, asking, “What did you wash these in? Swamp water?”

“Funny you should say that…”

She took in his sheepish grin and shook her head. “Never mind. I don’t want to know. Might as well get the rest of the wash.”


He jumped to his feet and went digging through the packs. He returned with a few more articles of clothing which he dumped on the pile. He dropped a sloppy kiss on her cheek, grinning when she grimaced and wiped it away. “You’re the best sister ever. I’m going to make some jerky and stock up while Aang’s busy. We’ll be moving again in a few days. Let’s go, Sparky.”

She waved him off and scooped the clothing up, starting toward the stream. A glance at Zuko showed he’d been watching their exchange, looking faintly curious though he scowled at the nickname. Their eyes met and Katara quickly looked away. If they’d had an opportunity to talk without interruption maybe things wouldn’t feel so awkward between them.

They’d been on the island for nearly three days now and the group had fallen into a routine. Toph would drag a protesting Aang off for earthbending practice shortly after lunch and Sokka would either sit muttering over maps or he’d take Zuko hunting and foraging. She didn’t think her brother was forming any kind of friendship with the firebender despite the frequency with which he sought the other boy’s company. Zuko seemed aware of the the distrust and suspicion, but he didn’t seem bothered by it, taking the frowns and sidelong glances in stride. Sokka’s careful watchfulness set her on edge, though; and Aang was responding to the tension with forced smiles and cheerfully loud comments, as if volume and cheer alone would fix things.

She was beginning to think that too much time had passed since the Catacombs that it’d be too awkward to dredge it up again. Maybe she should pretend nothing happened. Zuko didn’t appear bothered by her actions and she doubted he’d even noticed. He hadn’t said anything either.
With a sigh, Katara dropped the laundry on the bank and stared down at the gently babbling stream. She took a few centering breaths then decided to practice her forms. It’d been weeks since she’d been able to freely bend and she wondered if Zuko felt the same release and freedom now that they were away from civilization. After all, the most he used his bending was to light the campfire in the evening and keep it from going out during the night. Sokka had grudgingly given up that duty when Toph pointed out that Zuko could snap his fingers and light a fire without all that “huffing and puffing” Sokka had to do.

Katara released a blissful sigh. The motion of the water was soothing and it calmed the tension that radiated from her shoulders. Now relaxed, she turned her attention to the laundry. She couldn’t help wrinkling her nose as she carefully picked up a soiled tunic. Boys, she decided, were a filthy, smelly bunch.

She worked quickly, pulling the water out of clean clothes and inspecting them for tears, putting aside the clothes that needed mending and folding and sorting the ones that didn’t. She was nearly finished when Aang appeared.

“Hello, Katara!”

She turned with a smile, letting the last of the water flow back into the stream. “Hello, Aang. How was earthbending practice?”

Aang grimaced, twisting to show off a spectacular bruise on his shoulder. “Toph’s pushing really hard. I think my bruises have bruises.”

He gave her a wide-eyed pout as she examined the bruise, clicking her tongue sympathetically. “Do you want me to heal them?”

Aang squirmed under the attention, cheeks pinking. Saying with an air of injured male pride, “They’re not that bad.”

She smoothed a thumb over the bruise, asking, “Are you sure?”

He nodded eagerly, determined not to sound like a wimp. “I can handle a few bruises. It’s not a big deal.”

She let him pull away and he bounced to his feet, stretching a flexing in a show of bravado. She laughed lightly, smothering it quickly when he tripped over his feet and nearly landed in the small stream next to them. His ears burned and he seemed relieved she apparently hadn’t noticed his clumsiness. Katara folded the last of the laundry as he casually stretched his arms and glanced around the area. “So…want me to show you some cool waterbending moves?”

Katara leaned back on her hands, tilting her head back to look up at him. “Do you practice?”
The young airbender pulled a face. “I’m the Avatar! I’ve mastered waterbending no problem. It was easy.”

Katara lifted an eyebrow. She wouldn’t describe her own journey to bending mastery as easy. Off-hand comments around the campfire let her know that earthbending wasn’t coming as swiftly to Aang as his waterbending had. “If you don’t need to practice your waterbending, maybe you should spend more time with Toph.”

Aang looked horrified and Katara was amused at how much terror the small earthbender inspired. It was clear that Aang would rather avoid the girl for the time being. “I’ll waterbend! It’ll be fun!”

Katara rose to her feet, dusting the dirt from her hands and skirt. She really needed to find something more suited to camping than what she wore to the Earth King’s palace. “All right, Aang. Let’s see your forms.”

The boy suddenly looked nervous and Katara gave him a soothing smile. “Don’t worry. We’re not going to do any sparing yet. I just want to see the difference in bending styles. I’ve never seen the Northern Tribe style before.”


Zuko tugged the brim of his sedge hat down lower over his eyes, scanning the milling crowd. He’d protested going into town in the middle of the day, but Sokka overruled his protests and shoved the hat into his hands. He really didn’t see the need for their entire group to spend the day in the market and he really didn’t see the need for the Avatar to waltz into the square with no worries whatsoever. It was like the boy didn’t realize he had a target on his back. It was amazing that they’d survived this long without capture or injury. The Spirits were clearly with the Avatar and his group. Life was so unfair. A sharp elbow to his arm prompted a grunt and he scowled at Katara. Undaunted, she returned the scowl. “Stop sulking.”

“This is dumb,” he muttered. “We might as well tell Azula where we are.”

Katara sighed. Zuko had been sulking since the argument that morning and she’d had to listen to his grumbles since Appa landed a mile or so from the small town they’d selected to resupply. “We’re in the Earth Kingdom. We’ll be fine.”

Zuko stopped, frowning down at her. “What was Ba Sing Se, then?”

She blushed, feeling silly. “That’s different.”

He snorted, searching the market again. Nothing seemed out of place so he focused on Katara again. “How?”

“There’s no reason for Azula to be here,” Katara said, trying to sound more confident than she actually felt.

Zuko rolled his eyes, pulling her out of the street. “It wasn’t just Azula we were fighting back there.”

She bit her lip, realizing the truth of his words, and she darted a look at the people around them. “But that was—that can’t happen here, right? They’re Earth Kingdom.”

Zuko said nothing and she turned anxious eyes to him. His brow furrowed and he sighed, breaking eye contact. “The Fire Nation isn’t winning the war simply by greater numbers or strength.”

He paused, his eyes moving over her face before dropping to her necklace. He lifted a hand, his fingers reaching for it before he clenched his hand and dropped it back to his side. Katara’s chin rose, her expression worried. “Zuko?”

He blinked, clearing his throat. “The Southern Tribes were attacked to wipe out all the waterbenders, Katara. All of them. How do you think the Fire Nation found out about…”

He trailed off, motioning vaguely. It took several seconds before comprehension dawned and she gasped, her hand flying to clasp her necklace. Her eyes widened in shock before narrowing in anger and she growled, “Traitors.”

He gave a sharp nod in confirmation. He may have been young at the time, but he could remember messengers slipping into the Royal Palace during the darkest hours of the night. Her eyes darted around the market, eying the passing throng. Something hurt and angry lurked beneath her expression and his stomach twisted. He reached for one of her hands, clearing his throat. “Katara—”

“Did you know, in the Earth Kingdom rings are given as a betrothal custom?”

Zuko jerked away from Katara as if she burned and the waterbender exclaimed, “Toph!”

“Man, that was good,” Toph laughed. “Your hearts are jumping like jackalopes!”

Zuko and Katara pointedly avoided looking at each other and Toph moved forward to cling to Zuko’s arm. “I’m sure Sparky, here, knows Earth Kingdom customs.”

Katara turned startled eyes toward him and Zuko knew he was blushing. He could feel the heat of it crawl up his neck, making his ears burn. She swiftly looked away again, twisting the ring around her finger and blushing deeply. “Maybe I should take this off.”

“Take what off?”

At Aang’s appearance, Zuko sighed deeply and folded his arms, muttering, “For wanting to keep a low profile, we’re sure drawing a lot of attention to ourselves.”

And they were. A group of teenagers drew attention no matter the circumstances, but they were unknown in this town and without any adults in their strange group so they drew more attention than usual. Plus Aang seemed to have no qualms about airbending whenever he wanted to which drew even more attention. Zuko really wished they could’ve all stayed at camp and chosen one person to get supply. Maybe two. Yes. They could’ve avoided suspicion if just two of them entered the village. They could’ve sent Sokka and Katara. While it would’ve been unusual for their presence, they wouldn’t stand out as much as the Avatar.

He focused on the conversation going on around him just in time to hear Aang finish saying, “—necklaces are given when the girl gets engaged.”

He didn’t need to know what the first half of the sentence was because Katara’s hand darting to her throat and closing around the carved pendant was hint enough. And Aang was frowning. They were still discussing betrothal customs.

“What about you, Sparky?”

Zuko blinked, surprised that he was being dragged into the conversation. “What?”

Toph poked him. “Pay attention. What does a man give a woman at her betrothal ceremony?”

“A comb.”

Three pairs of eyes stared at him…Well, two pairs stared at him, but Toph did a credible job. Toph’s head tilted, considering. “Why? I can understand the Water Tribe with their beaded hair and necklaces because their hands are usually covered…”

She trailed off and Zuko looked at Katara curiously. Beaded hair? He must’ve missed that part of the conversation. Zuko shifted uncomfortably. He didn’t really want to discuss wedding customs. “Some firebending forms encase your fists in fire. Metal heats up quickly. A ring could cause severe burns to your hands. Non-benders will often wear a ring, though the comb is traditional.”

Another glance at Katara revealed her nervously twisting the ring around her finger, her expression thoughtful. She blinked out her thoughts, flushing when she caught his eyes and quickly looked away, scanning the market. “We should split up before Sokka sees us and complains about his master plan failing.”

Zuko lifted a hand, but Aang perked immediately, darting to Katara’s side and grabbing up her hand. “Come with me this time! I want to show you something really cool I saw in one of the stalls.”

He started insistently tugging her along before she could voice an opinion either way and she could only glance back at Zuko with a helpless smile. Toph slipped her arm around his, grinning. “Looks like you’re all mine this time, Sparky!”


Katara shared Zuko’s relief when they were finally away from the village they’d stopped in for supplies, though she didn’t know it. They’d set up camp several miles away and duties were split and completed with relative speed. Aang returned from his firewood gathering with a fist full of drooping wildflowers that he thrust out to her with a blush. “I thought you’d like these.”

Katara blinked, accepting them automatically, setting aside the cook pot to take them. “Oh, thank you. I’ve never seen flowers like these.”

That perked Toph’s interest and she moved closer. “What do they look like?”

Katara held them out to the other girl, stumbling over a description as Toph sniffed and touched them delicately before pronouncing, “Columbines and asters.”

Katara smiled at the anxious airbender. “They’re beautiful, Aang.”

The boy gave her a blushing grin and hurried to one of the food bags as Sokka returned with his own armload of firewood. Her brother dropped the wood next to the fire pit, glancing at the flowers Katara still held and merely raised an eyebrow and glanced at the chipper airbender. He opened his mouth to say something before changing his mind with a shrug. “Are you cooking tonight, Katara?”

Katara nodded, watching as Aang moved with a cheerful bounce in his step. Sokka followed her gaze, finally asking, “What’s got you so happy?”

“Nothing!” Aang chirped in reply.

Toph snorted. “He just wants to get some practice in before dinner. Come along, Twinkletoes.”

The small girl reached out and snagged Aang’s arm, forcefully pulling him along despite his protests. Katara set the wildflowers aside with an bemused smile, glancing up to see Zuko’s eyes slid away from her to focus on building the fire. Sokka stood near, watching him haphazardly stack wood before squatting and batting the firebender’s hands away. “You’ll stifle the fire that way.”

Zuko scowled and sat back on his heels as Sokka swiftly built a log cabin. As he worked, he explained, “This lets air through the branches and feeds the fire. The fire has to breathe otherwise it’ll be smokey and eventually snuff out.” He finished the task quickly, eying it with satisfaction. “There, Spark Rocks, light it up.”

Zuko rolled his eyes, but obliged with a snap of his fingers close to the tinder. Sokka nodded his satisfaction and settled down by the fire, pulling the sword he kept strapped across his back to lay across his knees. Katara watched him curiously as he inspected the hilt before drawing the sword and gazing down the blade. He muttered something inaudible and pulled his bag closer, digging through it a moment before pulling out a cloth and a small jar. Katara watched in fascination as he cleaned and polished the blade with meticulous care. Sokka caught her eye when he happened to glance up.

“I’ve never seen a black blade before.”

“It’s Adamantium! I forged it myself,” he said proudly. “Master Piandao said it was an excellent blade and will last me many years.”

His words caught the attention of Zuko and the firebender watched curiously as Sokka gave the blade as last swipe of his cloth and held it out for Katara to look. “Adamantium?”

Sokka nodded. “From a space rock.”

Zuko scooted closer to Katara’s side for a closer look, asking carefully, “You trained under Master Piandao?”

Sokka’s enthusiasm cooled a little with Zuko’s inclusion on their conversation, but he answered gamely, “Yes. He’s a master swordsman and I thought I needed all the training I could get after…” He trailed off, darting a quick glance at his sister. “Anyway, we’re in the middle of a war and I wanted better skills to protect Aang and…others. Can’t let us non-benders down.”

“Master Piandao is the best swordsman you could find,” Zuko said. “He doesn’t usually take students. You must be good.”

Sokka preened under the modest praise even as he attempted to pretend the words meant nothing. “I’m all right.” He sheathed the sword. “It’s a shame I don’t have somebody to spar with. I go through my exercises while Toph and Aang practice earthbending.”

Katara leveled a look at Zuko who immediately shook his head. “No.”

She rolled her eyes. The stubbornness of firebenders. “Why not, Zuko? If you take it easy, it can’t hurt to go through the drills. Your ribs are healing so you should be able to get a light workout in. It would get you back into routine to teach Aang.”

Sokka looked interested, his expression warming. “You know swords? I thought you were a firebender.”

Zuko sent the other boy a dirty look. “I am a firebender. I just happen to have some sword skills.”

Katara nudged him with her elbow. “It can’t hurt.”

“I don’t have my swords. Again.”

“What kind of swords?” Sokka eagerly asked. “I might have something you can use. Aang’s always getting gifts and stuff. Perk of being the Avatar, I guess. We sell a lot of it, but we might have something.”

“I doubt you received a pair of dao swords.”

Sokka shrugged, standing and swinging his sword across his back. “I don’t really know what we have any more.”

Sokka clambered onto Appa’s back and tossed down a bulky sack Katara hadn’t seen anyone so much as glance at over the weeks they’d been traveling. The sack hit the ground with a metallic thud and Sokka dropped down next to it, untying knots and flipping it open. To Katara’s astonishment, Sokka began pulling out an assortment of blades, from knives to axes to swords. Zuko moved forward to inspect the weapons, eying a few with disdain. “You could outfit a small force with all this.”

“Yeah,” Sokka mumbled distractedly, “it makes for a great money source. Not everyone likes the fact that Aang vanished for a hundred years so it’s good to have money just in case. There are quite a few bitter people out there. Not that we expect people to give us stuff either.”

Zuko unsheathed a dagger, eying it critically and testing its edge. Katara was surprised when he sheathed it again and turned to her, holding it out for her. She took it automatically and he motioned to her belt where she’d tied her waterskin. “Keep that on you.”

“Really, Zuko,” she tried to protest, but Zuko overrode her.

“I’m serious.”

Sokka watched their interaction curiously then nodded his agreement with Zuko when she looked at him. Katara submitted with a sigh, looping the dagger through her belt. “I’ll probably end up stabbing myself.”

“No you won’t,” Zuko said dismissively. “I’ll show you some moves.”

Sokka’s curiosity shifted to suspicion, but he said nothing and instead pulled out another weapon. He was about to toss it aside when Zuko snatched it from him and drew the sword. He ran a thumb along the blade and tested the balance, before declaring, “This is perfect.”

Sokka glanced at the sheath, commenting, “That’s from Master Piandao. There’s not a second one.”

Zuko stared at the other boy. “Did you even look at the sword?”

Sokka shrugged. “He said to never sell it. That I would have need of it some day.”

Katara could see Sokka’s words surprised Zuko, but the firebender slung the sword over his back in a similar manner as Sokka, tightening the strap that crossed his chest and wrapping his right hand around the hilt that rose above his right shoulder. He shifted his shoulders to settle the blade, muttering, “Old men are creepy sometimes.”

In a quick, smooth motion, Zuko unsheathed the blade and the next moment there was a sword in each hand. Sokka jumped back with an exclamation of surprise, “Swordbending! How’d you do that?”

Zuko snorted, putting the blades together and holding them in one hand. It was nearly impossible to tell they were actually two swords instead of the one, especially if Zuko didn’t give anyone enough time to get a close look. Sokka looked suitably impressed. “Wicked!”

Katara rolled her eyes. Boys. Zuko seemed lost in thought as he gazed down at the swords, swinging them lightly. “These are mine.”

Sokka blinked. “Master Piandao—”

“Was my sword master, too,” Zuko finished, sliding the swords back into their sheath. “It’s strange he would give away another student’s swords.”

Sokka stared at him for a moment before flying to his bag and digging through the mess. He returned a moment later with a flat disk that fit in the palm of his hand. He flipped it up and showed them. “He also gave me this. It seems all old men are cryptic. Aang says it’s a Pai Sho tile, but that doesn’t do me a whole lot of good without the other tiles and board.”

Katara and Zuko stared at the tile in surprise until Zuko said, “That’s a white lotus tile.”

His words were stated as if that meant something to them. Sokka remained just as confused as he’d always been, but Katara gasped, recalling Iroh’s insistence on playing the game and consuming tea. “You mean Uncle and Master Piandao…”

Zuko nodded solemnly though she could tell he was having difficulty coming to a reasonable conclusion. Sokka looked down at his tile. “You mean, I’m in some kind of old man club?”

He sounded a little horrified and Katara rolled her eyes. “Don’t lose that tile.”

Further conversation was interrupted as Aang and Toph returned to camp, Aang bouncing cheerfully. The airbender paused when he saw the cache of weapons at their feet, frowning in disapproval. “I thought you got rid of all those, Sokka.”

Sokka frowned, clearly annoyed, but he bent to gather up the discarded weapons. “Yeah, well, something to sell in case we’re out of money would come in handy. It’s a good thing, too, because Zuko has his swords back.”

Aang didn’t seem comforted by this. “I don’t think we should even have weapons let alone sell them. They’re evil.”

It appeared this was an old argument since Sokka remained unconcerned. “The blade is neither good nor bad. It’s the user that determines the result. It’s no different than your airbending.”

“The Air Nomads were peaceful people,” Aang said, sounding indignant.

Toph entered the conversation then, pulling a chair out of the ground and dropping on it in a careless sprawl. “No one ever said they weren’t, Twinkletoes. You did try to blast Sparky here for no reason the other day.”

Aang opened his mouth angrily to defend himself, but no words came. He cringed, looking sheepish and shuffling his feet. “Sorry about that, Zuko.”

Katara grinned at Zuko when he accepted the belated apology with very little scowling. Toph seemed disappointed the argument had been so effectively culled, but she thankfully didn’t push to continue it. Sokka stored the extra weapons and declared that it was supper time.
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