Serious Longerbee as well.
She sat on a tree branch, sticking her knife in and pulling it out of the bark again, tracing spirals and looking under a dark bandanna at Longshot who was half heartedly listening to a joke of Sokka's and seeing Aang fall over with laughter when Sokka would punch him in the arm again.
Smellerbee felt someone crawling up the branches to plomp herself down beside her. She gave a pout to the girl about her own age who'd never quite acknowledged her before, even when she apparently had something going on with her leader... her brother.
"I'm suprised to see you up here alone..." Katara said making conversation, most probably wanting other feminine company.
Smellerbee was never impressed with Ponytail's jokes. Longshot was polite enough to handle them, but she just had to get away sometimes. So sick of feeling like she had to fit in, now they were the ones on the out.
"Longshot keeps watching you, you know?" Katara said again. And pressed her lips together, waiting for a response.
So that's what she wanted to talk about. The eclipse was the next day and Katara wanted to talk about relationships.
"He wants to take care of me, but I can take care of myself" Smellerbee said, chipping out bits of the bark with her knife.
"Or he wants to get away from Sokka" Katara smirked, amused.
Smellerbee grinned too. Perhaps things weren't going to be so bad talking to Katara. Maybe she could see what Jet saw in her.
Katara looked hard at Smellerbee again and then proceeded with caution. "You're in love with him, aren't you?"
She prided herself on being quite the Aunt Wu, able to predict how people feel about each other. Except she fell inadequately short in her own situations.
The knife almost slipped from Smellerbee's grip. "Huh? Longshot? He's like my brother."
"I consider it a good thing that I don't stare at my brother like that." Katara said warmly, opening up to her.
"He likes you too. He wouldn't take care of you like that if he didn't like you."
"Suppose that's the same thing with you and Aang." Smellerbee said, wearily as a response.
Katara smiled. "I suppose." She said.
"Listen Katara. I don't know if Li reminds you of Jet or not, but it's not a good idea for you to be all over him."
"Because he's fire nation?"
"Because Sokka doesn't trust him."
"Well" Katara said brutely, feeling shut down about her feelings for Zuko. She never stopped Longshot or Smellerbee from calling him Li. She knew that was the way they knew him, and they never talked to him anyway, so they could call him whatever they liked. "Sokka didn't trust Jet either." Katara stuck her nose in the air.
To Smellerbee it felt like a slap. This is why Smellerbee prefered the company of boys to girls. "Well sometimes" Smellerbee hissed "Sokka is right and Sokka is wrong."
"Yeah. Go tell him that." The other girl said snidely and jumped back down off the low, but steady branch.
Katara was right. And it made Smellerbee scowl to think of it. She wasn't right about everything, granted. But as Smellerbee slunk off the branch and made her way over to the boys, she lowered her eyes in anticipation.
"So, are we going to go get some grub Longshot?"
He nodded in approval.
As they walked off he cast a look in her direction, but she waved it off. "No she didn't want to talk to me about Jet." Smellerbee said, although he kept quiet. "I don't hate Lee, you know. It wasn't his fault that Jet was arrested... even though Jet was right all along."
I didn't ask. Longshot seemed to say.
She picked up a blade of grass, but refained from chewing on it, a nasty habit since she'd had to in a few ways, fill Jet's shoes as leader. Instead she twirled in her fingers and tried to pass off that she wasn't thinking about sticking it in her mouth.
"She wanted to talk about boys" Smellerbee said suddenly, as they walked along and she rubbed at the paint under her eyes with her fingertips, as if exhasperated at the thought. "Lee." She said again.
Longshot nodded. He was always a good listener.
"I told her it was a bad idea." She shrugged. "It's not going to make Jet come back, is it?"
Longshot lowered his eyes and spun when he heard a rustling nearby. There wasn't a second's hesistation before he loaded his bow and at the first sign of a tusk, the arrow went flying. Sinking into some type of boar about ten meters away.
Smellerbee got out her knife for carving. It wasn't a smart idea for them both to be dragging the animal when they could just cut it up into smaller pieces.
As she dragged the animal by the tusk out of the bushes, she noticed Longshot staring at her as if in a trance.
Maybe Katara was right about another thing as well. But Smellerbee wasn't going to push it.
"Aang was gone."
"Sokka says they were only gone two weeks."
"Well a lot can happen in two weeks."
Katara had sat beside Smellerbee again while they ate. Smellerbee knowingly shuffled a little away from Longshot as Katara engaged her in hushed conversation.
"I'm sorry about what I said before." Katara said meaningfully. "It's great to have another girl around. I miss Toph sometimes... although she used to make me so angry..." Katara cracked a smile.
Smellerbee nodded and bit into a chunk of meat, thinking to herself, Did this girl ever shut up?
"So you feel justified for picking Lee over Aang?" Smellerbee said finally, reading her meaning and feeling quite glad she didn't have the same dilemmas.
"Zuko was there... to help me fight Azula and her... cronies... when Aang wasn't."
Katara didn't answer the question, instead she got her usual self-righteous huff, like what she did when anyone used to confront her about her feelings for Jet that she always denied.
"Anyway. I gave Aang hints about how I felt with him" she said, furthering her attempt at self-justification "but he never acted on it. If you ask me, he's missed his chance."
She was right. She'd kissed Aang twice on the cheek. Hugged him more times than she could count. And kissed him on the lips that he actually seemed reluctant about at first. He'd have to have been blind not to make a move. But she was tired of waiting. Who knew what the outcome of the fire nation raid was going to be? Who knew if she could wait forever?
Smellerbee looked at her like she had grown an extra head. "He was trying to fight a war" she hissed at her, gaining attention from the rest of the table and a concerned look from Longshot next to them. "Doesn't that mean anything?" She continued dropping her voice lower, as Zuko gave a long look to Katara and then dropped his eyes back to a barely touched piece of meat in front of him.
Smellerbee noticed and thought that Pipsqueak would have had a field day picking on Zuko for his lack of appetite, when Pipsqueak could usually pretty much swallow a horse whole.
"No" Katara almost steamed. "No it doesn't."
Smellerbee groaned inwardly. She was sure part of Katara wanted to have someone like Zuko care about her, but she was sure a bigger part of it was trying to get back at Aang for never saying anything to her about it first.
She would never understand why girls would act this way. Maybe she would talk to Longshot about it later. But as she watched Sokka trying to joke with him from across the table, she knew she wouldn't say a word.
Perhaps she was more like Katara than she ever thought possible. But if she had to wait forever with Longshot, she didn't know if she wouldn't resort to the same drastic measures to get him back.
Sometimes guys were just clueless.
"Hi" Katara said, rocking back and forth on her heels as she walked over to Zuko later. He regarded her briefly.
"Hi" he returned, juggling balls of light in his hands, the move he'd been teaching Aang that afternoon.
"You didn't like the dinner?" she asked shyly. They knew each other quite well after being in that cave together. Giving Zuko the opportunity that Aang never took.
"I'm still not accustomed to eating things that still have hair on them" He said, trying to be as polite as he could.
"I guess so" she said, with a smile. She sat beside him "I thought maybe we could talk."
He shrugged. "Alright."
"Well... what do you want to talk about?"
Not this again, he thought. She seemed to want his company and he knew why, but she didn't know what do to with it... and anything she did want to do, he was afraid he didn't want for the sake of Aang.
"Aang told me about when you found him" Zuko began, clearing his throat "And something about penguin sledding..." He cocked and eyebrow quirkily. Aang didn't shut up about Katara when he wasn't firebending. Zuko would often stalk away from him, just to get a moments peace.
Katara got a big grin on her face "yeah..." she said, her face lighting up from the memories.
She looked beautiful with the firelight on her face, memories of her happier times gracing her eyes and a smile as wide as the sun.
"It was actually really funny. That's the first thing he said to me when he got out of the ice - do you want to come penguin sledding with me? He always says the last thing you'd expect. Well, he used to. Now I pretty much expect everything that he's going to say."
She traced circles in the dirt they sat under. His mouth creased politely. Humility had done strange things to Zuko. Made him more becoming. Katara respected that about him.
"Do you think about your mother very much?" she asked tentatively. They'd touched on this often. Memories too painful for both of them.
"Do you?" He shot back, before his face crumpled.
"Yes" she answered honestly. "Every day."
Aang could never understand that about her, no matter how much he tried. She was torn. The one guy with memories that made her burst with happiness, that was her world but yet was never brave enough to come right out and say what he thought about her... Or the chance for someone that might understand the pain of losing everything a little better.
Aang lost Appa. But Aang got Appa back, so it wasn't the same.
Zuko and Katara sat in silence for a while. He finally made the move to get up.
"This was a nice chat." She said.
"Yes" he repeated, as he brushed himself off "it was."
And then he left. Leaving Katara more confused than before.