A/N: Bwahahaha! This is my attempt at convincing you all that Sokka/Azula is entirely possible (probable we'll work on later). Be warned, this isn't intended to be read like a "possible episode" like The Sacrifice is. This is meant to be read as a story.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Avatar characters. They are owned by Nickelodeon and probably some other, of which I am not a part.
Pairings: Sokka/Azula (Sola) mostly, with some possible Zuko/Katara (Zutara) later.
Summary: A story of love, lies, betrayal, and forgiveness. His sister has forced Zuko into hiding, but she is now facing an exile of her own if she doesn't catch him soon. She's determined that the Avatar is hiding Zuko, and she will get her brother at all costs- including befriending the Avatar. S/Az and Z/K.
Title: Broken SmilesChapter 1: Plots and Planning
Five pots sit, lined up on the edge of the ship, their smooth surfaces reflecting the sunlight. Azula's amber eyes narrow and she pulls back her arms. She swings her right arm in front of her, followed by her left arm. She pulls back her left, and then thrusts it forward with two fingers outstretched. Blue lightening shoots from her fingers. The first pot disappears with a crash.
"Why can't I find him?" Azula growls, her fists clenching at her side. "I have put posters up in all our territories…"
Swing, swing, back, forward, crash.
"Searched every possible territory! There is nowhere left to run, and yet…"
More emphasis this time on the movements, and the third pot explodes with a shower of clay dust.
"He still eludes me! He isn't better than me. Not stronger than me. How is it possible he has escaped me so long?"
"The fire lord is most displeased with the delay," one of her mentors speaks up from her seat on the deck. Azula's fingers, now dangling at her side, twitch.
"You were not supposed to take this long," says the other. "You are only restoring your brother's strength in his eyes."
Azula's fists clench so tight that her sharp nails dig into her palms and draw drops of blood. "Nothing will restore my brother's favor in his eyes. Nothing!"
"Your brother," the first spoke again, "has escaped you for a month without help, while you have an entire ship and all the resources of the fire nation at your command."
The movements are preformed to rapidly this time to have much power behind them, and the fourth pot more falls back into the water then explodes.
"He has to have help! Someone must be hiding him. My brother and uncle aren't smart enough, powerful enough, to escape me on their own."
"There is talk," the second woman says, an edge of malice in her voice, "that the fire lord believes you are letting them escape on purpose. That you cannot kill your brother. That is…shameful weakness."
Only the slightest of movements, a subtle widening of her eyes, betrays Azula's terror.
Two men, dressed in the armor of commanding officers, run forward. Azula's face resumes its look of impassive fury.
"You better have a good reason for interrupting me, Lieutenant Shinu."
"Yes, Princess," the lieutenant bows, "we have news of the Avatar's whereabouts."
Azula frowns, reaching up with one hand to pet her right bang. "Why would I care about the Avatar? The Fire Lord has other men out looking for him."
"Forgive us, Princess," the lieutenant's companion speaks as he takes a step forward, "but we assumed you would want to use the Avatar to regain the Fire Lord's favor."
With one swift movement, Azula reaches out and grabs the man by the front of his armor and throws him head first over the rail. Lieutenant Shinu winces and swallows as the man's yell of fright is silenced by a splash.
"You assume too much, Lieutenant, if you think I need to regain my father's favor. Unlike my brother, I don't need the Avatar to…" Azula freezes, slow realization dawning on her face. "The Avatar…of course! That's who is hiding them. Who else would dare challenge the Fire Lord by hiding two disgraced and useless firebenders but an Avatar in need of a teacher?"
"But, your highness," Shinu says hesitantly, "there have been no reports of your brother being seen with the Avatar…"
"Of course not!" Azula snaps. "Do you think they would be so foolish as to travel openly? No, they must have them hidden somewhere." Azula pauses, running her hand along her left bang this time. "Set our course for the Avatar, Lieutenant, and give me any information you have on him and his companions."
"Yes, Princess," the lieutenant bows quickly before rushing back toward the helm. Azula smiles, turning back toward the remaining pot and resuming her stance.
"The Avatar will lead me straight to Zuko, and when he does I'll capture them both. Zuzu," she spits the nickname like it's a disgusting word, "won't know what hit him."
Her arms move again, and the fifth pot explodes with the loudest crash yet.
"Does anyone have any idea where we are?" Katara asks, looking around at the tall trees they are surrounded by.
"In the Earth Kingdom, somewhere north of Omashu?" Sokka supplies helpfully, looking up from sharpening his boomerang. Katara glares at him.
"I don't suppose you could be a little more specific, could you?"
"Nope. Anything more than that is classified information."
Katara groans, rolling her eyes. "You're impossible."
"Actually," Aang says quickly, trying to avoid the impending argument, "this place seems kind of familiar. Do you think we passed it on our way up?"
"Probably," Katara says, looking around with more interest now, "we passed a lot of places."
"Yeah, but this seems more significant somehow…"
Sokka stands up too, tightly clutching his boomerang in his left hand and a frowning. "I have a bad feeling about this place. I think we should move on."
"But Appa's tired from two days of flying," Aang points out. "We already decided no more flying today unless we have to."
"And my having a bad feeling doesn't constitute something bad enough to have to?"
Aang and Katara exchange a look before Katara smiles at her brother. "Only as much as your instincts would."
Sokka opens his mouth to protest, but his sister is already walking away.
"Come on, a bit of exploring won't hurt and it might refresh our memories. Besides, maybe we'll find a village where we can resupply."
"Exploring can hurt," Sokka protests as Katara walks off with Aang in tow. "Exploring could hurt a great deal if we run into some firebenders! Katara, get back here!" Realizing the argument is futile, Sokka groans as he sheaths his boomerang and races after them.
He catches up with them just as they reach the top of a hill overlooking a village.
"See," Katara says brightly, starting to walk down the hill. "I was right."
Sokka reaches out and catches his sister by the wrist, effectively stopping her in her tracks.
"We need to leave," Sokka says, his voice a mixture of anger and worry, "now."
"What?" Aang asks as he and Katara turn around. "Why?"
"Sokka, I know you're worried but we're running low on supplies and…" Katara trails off, as she looks at her brother's anxious face and the intensity in his blue eyes. She gently grabs his forearm. "Sokka? What is it?"
"This is Jet's forest," the words are said in a calm tone but lack no urgency for it.
Katara gasps, letting go of her brother, as Aang subconsciously tightens his grasp on his staff.
"Are you sure?" The young Avatar asks his friend as he looks around nervously.
Sokka closes his eyes as if recalling a distant memory. After a moment they snap open again. "I'm positive."
"Well," Katara says with more confidence than she feels, "we beat him last time, didn't we? And we've all become much stronger since then, so there is nothing to worry about."
"If you think Jet took that defeat lying down," Sokka argues back, "then you've completely misjudged him. He would have used the time to get stronger, just like we did."
"We left him stuck to a tree," Katara fires back even as she looks around anxiously. "I'll bet the Fire nation soldiers captured him after we left, so there's nothing to worry about."
"I'd still rather be safe than sorry," Sokka says, turning back toward the trees. "Come on, lets get out of here." He disappears into the foliage, and Aang and Katara follow without complaint.
They miss seeing a battalion of Fire nation soldiers, some carrying a canopy on their shoulders, by mere moments. Another pair of dark brown eyes didn't miss it, however, and soon the sound like the whistle of a bird is heard through the treetops. From somewhere deeper in the forest, it is answered.