If you missed last week, you can read the first chapter here.
Aang's eyes fluttered open. He tried to remember what what happened in the past few moments. It felt like Appa had run headlong into him. He stared around him to try and orient himself, figure out what was going on. Zuko was lying on his back on the ground. That looked familiar enough. But now Katara was laying unconscious next to him.
"Aang, are you okay?" That was Sokka's voice. Dizzy and blurry-eyed, Aang turned in the direction of his friend's call and saw a fuzzy blue figure moving quickly his direction. "Are you okay?" the figure asked again.
"I-I think so," Aang answered slowly.
In response, something hit him sharply across the face. It felt like an open palm. "You said you weren't going to try it if you couldn't do it safely!" he yelled. "What did you do my sister, Aang?"
"I..." Aang's vision finally started coming into focus. It was Sokka, all right. But Aang had never seen him so angry. His eyes were wet, his body shaking, his face red with anger.
"If you hurt her just to try and help Zuko-"
"Water boy, relax," Toph said calmly. She was kneeling on the ground, her her fingers scraping the dirt. "I can feel their bodies moving. They're both okay. Or at least, they're both alive."
Sokka rushed to Katara's side. Delicately he lifted her head. "Katara!" he called "Katara!'" He looked helplessly in Aang's direction. "Why won't she wake up?"
Before Aang could respond, Sokka suddenly recoiled. "Ow," she said. Then, putting a hand to Katara's forehead, his eyes widened with fear.
"Aang, she's burning with a fever. What do we do?"
Next to them, Zuko began to stir, though he did not open his eyes. "What's happened?" he muttered.
"Aang was an idiot and tried to switch your powers," Sokka snapped at him. "And now my sister's got a fever like I've never felt before."
Before Zuko could reply, Katara's body jolted. Her eyes flew open for just a split second before closing again. They were a brilliant shade of amber.
"No... way..." Sokka whispered. "You actually did it?"
Zuko muttered something again. Sokka was tempted to ignore him, but then again, it might be important. "What's that?"
"Fire," he repeated. "There's too much fire in her system. It can happen to a bender who's just discovered their powers. She needs to get it out."
Aang held Katara's shoulders. "Katara, listen to me," he said firmly. "I need you to firebend. Do you understand me?"
Her body continued to shake and her skin was still wickedly hot.
"I-I can't...." she said. "It's too cold, I can't..."
"It's your fever," Aang said. "Come on, Katara. Try it." He held his hand forward, flexing his fingers, showing her how to do it.
Her eyes fluttered open again and slowly she reached her hand forward in the same motion. Her shaking fingers bent inward, and at first, nothing seemed to happen. Just as Aang thought she'd misunderstood and started to demonstrate again, a blast of fire flew from her hand. Sokka and Toph tumbled out of the way, and Aang nearly got his clothes singed.
Katara closed her eyes again, sweating and taking heavy breaths. Sokka reached over and felt her forehead again. "She's still warm," he said. "But it feels much better."
Next to her, Zuko coughed. Everyone turned around to notice for the first time that his eyes were open, and like Katara's, they had changed color as well.
"That was... some impressive bending," Zuko said.
"Well, yeah, it's your powers," Sokka retorted. He took a closer look at Zuko's face. "Okay, blue eyes on you look creepy."
"Interesting," Aang muttered. So it seemed that he had not only exchanged Zuko and Katara's bending abilities, he had transferred all their memories of moves and techniques as well. Which meant...
"Zuko, can you use bloodbending now?"
Zuko laughed, which caused him to cough again. "Of course, why didn't I think of that? Now that you've used your magic avatar powers, executing an advanced waterbending technique should be no trouble at all for me."
Aang sighed, not exactly in the mood for Zuko's sarcasm. "Come on, just try it," he said. "I might not be as good as Katara, but I know a little bit. Your body is full of water. Concentrate on it and move it to your will."
Zuko sighed, but nevertheless, closed his eyes and began to concentrate. Katara's healing seemed to have at least given him some control over his hands. Aang watched anxiously as his fingers quivered and pinched together, like someone picking blades of grass. Then slowly, very slowly, he began to raise his arm a few inches off the ground.
"That's it, you're doing it!" Aang said excitedly. Zuko gritted his teeth and his arm fell down again.
"It's less difficult when you're quiet."
Aang lowered his head in a silent apology. He got overexcited, he couldn't help it. Zuko sighed, seeming to understand. "It feels like I'm trying to lift a lead weight," he said. "It's not like moving my muscles at all. It's completely foreign."
"Like learning how to see through earthbending," Toph said. "It took me a while, but once I got the hang of it, it's not even something I think about anymore. Like hearing or smelling; it just comes to me."
"Good for you," Zuko muttered. "That only took you how many years of practice? I've got to master this as soon as possible."
Toph grunted, blowing her bangs out of her face. They immediately fell back down again. "Well, when's the next full moon? You'll probably be a lot better then."
"Tomorrow night," Aang said. "In the meantime, we've got to make sure the palace is secure."
"Easy enough," Katara said.
"Says the person who can walk," Zuko muttered.
"Well," Aang said thoughtfully. "One of us can stay here with you while the rest go in."
The group paused and all eyes fell to one person. Sokka scowled.
"Me? Seriously? Why am I the one who always gets stuck with these things?"