I look up to the sun and see it's been almost an hour.
I jog across camp, waving at Suki when she sees me go by. When I reach the edge of camp, my feet guide me along an unpaved path I know all too well.
I emerge in the clearing by the river where Aang and I used to train water bending, and see Zuko perched on the boulder on the edge.
He's got two sticks in his hands, carved into the likeness of swords.
I walk up to him and clear my throat, anticipation curled in my stomach.
I'm not disappointed when he look at me and freezes, his jaw gaping slightly, and I smile in triumph.
I decided to wear my fire nation clothes because they were lighter, and not at all because they show my arms and belly. Nope. Not at all.
He recovers and slides off the rock, landing quietly and holds out one of the sticks to me.
I can't help but notice the detail he put into carving it, and I yelp when he suddenly brings his 'sword' into contact with my shoulder.
I glare at him, "I wasn't ready! That isn't fair!"
He gives me a chuckle, but swings again.
"You really think an enemy will wait for you to be ready? Defend yourself, Katara-love."
His term of endearment sends butterflies into my body, but I'm ready now when he swings again.
My sword swings up in barely enough time to block a hit to my stomach, and I side step when he swings for my ribs.
I sidestep. Right into his sword.
He had faked me out, and I fell for it. I feel the air whoosh out of my body, but I just grit my teeth and bring my sword up to swing for his arm.
I growl in frustration when he blocks it with ease.
It takes 7 more hits, but I finally fall, tears pricking at my eye lids.
I groan in pain, and he falls to his knees next to me, probing at my ribs where his blade smashed into me.
"Nothing's broken. Do you want to continue?" His golden eyes bore into my blue eyes, and I realize this is a test.
"What? This little tap? Nahh. I'm good to keep going." He chuckles, and helps me to stand.
I ready myself to defend, but he drops his sword stick.
"Go attack that tree." He points to a sturdy looking oak and begins to walk toward it.
"Umm. Why?" I follow diligently, but wonder what he's thinking.
"I need to help you get a stance. Something that if you're ever thrown off balance you can immediately go back to. I can't do that if I'm the one you're hitting."
He cocks an eye brow at me, and I turn my head quickly to the tree, trying to hide my blush behind my hair.
"Okay. I trust you. Let's do this."
I stand as I have been all day, and he tutts his teeth.
He comes up to me, his hand on my arm.
"First of all, use both hands. You aren't strong enough yet to only use one like I do."
I listen and grip the stick's handle tightly with both hands.
"Second, loosen up your grip. If you hold it too tight, you won't be able to aim as well."
"But what if it slips out of my hand? If I drop it then I'll-"
He hushes me with a finger to my lips, "You won't. Trust in yourself. You're doing very well, just loosen up your grip."
I loosen up, and instantly my arms stop screaming in pain.
"Oh!" I look up at him in surprise, and he chuckles again.
"Now, hit the tree here," he draws his real sword across the tree, one line on each side of the tree.
I go to hit it, but when I step in, I trip over my own feet and tumble to the floor.
Zuko looks down at me, arms crossed and eye brow arched.
My face burns as I stand. He touches my arm, "You're doing well than I did my first day. I got my ass handed to me. You're doing amazing."
I shrug my shoulders, but his praise makes me glow inside.
"Now. Try standing with your left foot behind the right, and hold yourself at an angle. You have to form a good base for yourself or you'll get knocked over easily." He puts his hand on my stomach, "Keep it tense here. You have to let the blow come from your whole body not just your arms. Okay? Go."
He takes a step back and I do my best to follow his instructions.
Feet one behind other. Good base. Check, check. Use whole body not just arms. I'll try.
I swing at the tree, stepping forward with the blow with my left leg.
The blow vibrates through my whole body, but I watch as a chip flies off the tree. I turn to Zuko and see praise in his eyes.
He trains me until the sun is far below the horizon.
By the time we get back to the camp I'm hyped up from training, and everyone else seems to already be in their tents.
I look at him through the corner of my eye, then pull my sword on him.
I swing at him, trying to remember everything he told me.
His stick sword whirls up to meet mine, and I watch as a grin splits his face.
"Oh this will be fun."