Zuko hasn’t really talked to me much since we’ve been riding on the ostrich horse. He seems to be more of the strong silent type, but I don’t know him very well. He did seem talkative when he approached me though, maybe he’s only like this when he’s upset. The only thing he told me when I asked where we were going, was that he needed to find the Avatar before his sister did. I don’t know what the story is to that, but I figured I’d find out eventually. Our pace slowed as we approached a river.
“Do you want to find a place to rest for the night or do you want to keep going?” Zuko asked.
“We can find a place to stop. I’m sure the ostrich horse would appreciate some rest.”
Zuko nodded, and we followed the river for a few minutes before we found a side stream that led to a covered grass area with a waterfall and a pond next to it.
“This looks like a good spot,” I piped up from behind him. During the ride, he had grabbed my arms from behind and wrapped them around his torso, to keep me steady. I had almost fallen off a few times, and he didn’t want to have to worry about me.
“Alright,” he stopped the ostrich horse and I unwrapped my arms, releasing him. He got off, then held a hand up for me to grab, and helped me down; again, with ease.
When I got off, I lost my balance a bit, and Zuko grabbed me with both arms to steady me. I could feel now why he had no trouble lifting me. We both blushed as he let go of me.
“So, uh, does this guy have a name?” I asked, walking the ostrich horse over to a nearby tree and tying the reins to a branch.
Zuko had walked a little ways away to scout out the area, but stopped for a minute, “No, I never really thought of giving him one.”
I thought for a second, “Well, what about Chu?” I took my bag off of my shoulder and put it down on the ground.
“That’s an Earth kingdom name.”
“Yeah, so?” I questioned, rubbing my shoulder, and trying to stretch out my back.
“I’m from the fire nation. What if we do Cho?”
I stopped a looked at him, “Uhhhhhh, isn’t that... basically the same thing?”
He turned to look at me, “No, they are two different names.”
“Only by one letter,” I laughed. “Where did you get him?”
He paused, “An Earth kingdom village.”
I raised my eyebrows at him, “Well, then shouldn’t we give him an Earth kingdom name if you got him in the Earth kingdom?”
He opened his mouth like he was going to say something and then closed it again. He turned away and said, “I’m going to go collect some wood for a fire.” As he was walking away, he turned back to glance at me, with a small smile on his face.
I smiled and laughed to myself, “Chu it is then.” I said to the ostrich horse and pet the side of his head.
I sat down on the ground and opened my bag, taking out the blanket that I packed. I wonder if Zuko has a blanket, I didn’t see any bag or belongings with him besides what he was wearing. Sometimes it got cold at night, depending on the season and where you were. It was currently warm, but it had started to cool off since we found the river. It’s possible that the river makes the air colder. I walked over to the river and stuck my hand in it, then quickly pulled it back. Definitely too cold to bathe.
“What is it? Is something wrong?” Zuko asked, making me jump.
I turned around to see him holding an arm full of wood. He dropped it in the middle of the clearing and walked over to me.
“No, it’s just the water is cold. I was thinking about going in to get the sweat and dirt off of me, but I’m not doing that in this cold of water.”
Zuko moved around me and knelt down to touch the water. “Oh, yeah that is pretty cold,” he took his hand out and shook it. “Maybe I can heat it for you.”
“That’s a thing? You can do that?” I asked, surprised. I had never heard of that before.
“Well, I’ve never done it myself, but my uncle did it once, so I know it’s possible.” He put both of his hands into the water and took a deep breath. I watched him as steam started coming out of his nose and his hands started to glow. After a few minutes, he took his hands out and stood up. “Check it now, see if you like it.”
I knelt down and stuck my hand in. “Oh that’s so much better,” I stood up. “Wow, it’s so warm, how did you do that?”
He shrugged it off and half-smiled. I watched him walk over to where he put the wood and sat down next to the pile.
“Uh, are you going to just sit there while I do this?” I asked.
“Oh, uh, sorry. I’ll turn around,” he moved his position so that his back was facing me.
I wearily took my dress off, peeling the long tight sleeves from my arms. My legs were dusty, my dress stopped just below my knees and there was a slit on the right side that came up to my upper thigh. I decided to keep my undergarments on and slipped into the water. I stifled a sigh, not wanting to draw his attention to me. I took the top half of my hair out of the braid I normally keep it and let my brown hair fall into the water, soaking the sand off. I then took a breath and submerged myself. Once I submerged, I looked up through the water at where Zuko was sitting, to see that he had turned to look in my direction. I waited underneath for him to turn back around before coming back up to the surface.
“How is it?” he asked, without turning around.
“It’s really nice, thank you. You should try it,” I saw him stop working on the fire and ever so slightly turn his head to the side. “After I’m done, of course.” I blushed as he went back to it.
“Right, of course,” he said quietly.
I looked down at my reflection in the water, and my blue eyes that I had resented for so long stared back at me. They were accented by my strong dark eyebrows, making them stand out more against my tan skin. I was the only one in our village with blue eyes growing up, and was teased for it.
I watched Zuko for a couple of minutes, his arms and shoulders moved strongly for whatever he was doing. I stifled another sigh and stood so that my hair was out of the water. I pulled most of the water from my hair and softly splashed it back into the pond. I got out and gathered up the beads of water that were running down my body and pulled them off as well. Once I had put my dress back on, I sat down on the side of the now almost built fire.
“Are you going to try the water?” I asked him, watching him finish lining the fire pit with rocks.
“Yeah, I will. Once I’m done with this,” he placed the last rock and then formed a small fire ball in his hands. I watched as he placed it into the tower of wood that he made, and they instantly caught fire.
“I’m glad you know how to make fire, because I sure don’t.”
He smirked at me, “Well, I am a firebender, so I’d hope I knew how to make fire.”
“Right,” I closed my eyes in disbelief that I had actually said that. Of course he’s a firebender, I saw him do it back in my village. Stupid.
I heard movement next to me, and opened my eyes. Zuko had gotten up and was taking off his shirt, facing the water. I took a breath and watched him. I could feel his strength earlier, but now I could see it. I quickly turned away and looked back at the fire when I saw him start to turn around. A few seconds passed, and after hearing the water splash, I quickly glanced back over. He went under the water and swam a ways down, closer to the waterfall. I grabbed a small stray stick next to me and started drawing swirls in the ground.
A few moments later, I heard him get out of the water. He walked back over to me and sat down. I looked over at him, his hair was still dripping wet.
“Here, let me help you with that,” I giggled, and brought my hands up to his hair. He sat still as I gathered up the water from it and sent it in a stream into the pond.
“Thank you,” he said quietly, “You were right, the water was nice.”
I nodded at him, “Thanks to you.”
He smiled at this and tended to the fire.
I could feel the wind around us start to pick up, and it got immediately colder.
“I only brought one blanket; do you have one for yourself?” I asked him.
He shook his head silently.
“Well, we could share, it’s a fairly big blanket. Plus, our body heat will keep us warmer,” I offered, nervously waiting to see his reaction.
He looked up at me and searched my face, “Um-” he was cut off by a strong gust of wind, making us both shiver. He strengthened the fire, “I guess that’s not a bad idea.”
Another strong gust of wind passed through, causing Zuko to shield the fire. I thought for a minute, and then came up with an idea.
“The wind seems to be coming from that way,” I pointed towards the stream that connected the pond to the river. “What if I make a wall of ice on that side of our camp to block some of the wind, that way you don’t have to keep redoing the fire?” I suggested.
“You can do that?” he asked, sounding a little surprised.
“Yeah, I can,” I stood up and brought my hands over the water, collecting what I thought was a good amount for the wall. I brought it over to the side of the camp, starting from the ground, I threw my hands up creating a wall of water and then froze it. “There, that should help at least a little.”
Zuko looked at me, trying to hide the amazement on his face. “So, how do you know how to waterbend so well if you were raised in that Earth kingdom village?” he asked.
I sat back down next to him at the fire, “Rahin’s wife, Osana, she was a waterbender. She used to take me out at night to teach me.”
“Where is she now?” he asked softly.
“She was killed by the fire nation when they raided our village. She was trying to protect us.”
“Oh, right. I remember you saying that now. I’m so sorry.”
I nodded and looked around, “It’s getting dark, we should probably try to get some rest.”
Zuko stood up without a word, and then helped me up. As I brushed off my clothes, he started walking over to Chu. I followed him, but then tripped. He turned around and caught me just as I fell into him.
“For a waterbender, you don’t seem to have great balance,” he laughed softly.
I blushed as he let me go after stabilizing myself. “Well, we can’t all be perfect,” I said, he blushed, “My balance is normally fine while I’m bending, I’m just more on the clumsy side.”
He raised an eyebrow at me and leaned up against Chu.
“And,” I continued, “I had never ridden an ostrich horse before so that’s not my fault.”
He smirked at me and then turned to grab some feed off of Chu, putting it down in front of him to eat.
I turned and grabbed my blanket, unrolling it and laying it out. Another gust of wind swirled through, and I was suddenly glad that I was wearing long sleeves. Without a word, Zuko walked over and laid down under the blanket, facing away from me. I did the same. After a few minutes of silence, I said quietly, “Goodnight Zuko.”