Day 5

Iroh didn't come this day, but Zuko did.

Aang felt it when ship had docked; the soft murmur of engines and flowing water was replaced with the dull lapping of waves against the hull. The sounds of humans and animals going about their lives echoed down through the ship from the world outside. Not the Fire Nation then: just a village, like any other. How many days before they reached Zuko's country? When they released him to drag him out, would he have a chance to escape? Would they drug him first?

His ponderings were interrupted by the sound of someone approaching down the corridoor, and Aang welcomed the reprieve. No one had told him that imprisonment would mean so much time to think. He'd always thought jail would be nothing but constant unhappiness; Aang was unhappy, and frustrated, but since Zuko wasn't interested in torture or interrogation Aang was bored more than anything else.

The vistor's boots creaked softly like Iroh's did—there was a surety and gracefulness in both their steps—but these feet walked slightly faster, stepped just a fraction higher. The body they carried was lighter, the sound more delicate.

"Zuko," Aang said dully when the young warrior entered his cage. He wanted to glare, but couldn't find it in himself to do so. How could he blame Zuko for ceding to his father's wishes? Well, he did blame him some... but a small piece of Aang liked Zuko, really liked him, and Aang couldn't hold a grudge against someone he liked. What he could do was feel pity for them both, and pray for Zuko to make a useful mistake.

"Avatar," the prince replied, bending at the knees to look his prisoner in the eye. His gaze flickered over Aang's face, down to his chained limbs and back up. "I see you're being fed properly."

"Yes," Aang agreed. To Zuko's unspoken question, "As ordered, your men haven't come near me."

"Good." Too bad, Aang thought. He'd take a kick in the sides if it could get him the keys—but then maybe Zuko knew that.

"Are you going to check on me often?"

"Occasionally," Zuko replied, rising to his full height again. He turned to leave, but stopped at the Avatar's voice.

"Zuko." The prince looked over his shoulder. "What happened to Katara and Sokka?"

Zuko turned halfway around, giving the question a surprising show of respect. "I left them asleep in the cave...out of sight."

Aang sagged against the wall in relief. "Thank you." Prince Zuko nodded and left, boots creaking on steel once more. Aang smothered the urge to call him back one more time and ask him, Are you sorry? Do you know what this will do to the world? Do you feel guilty at all?

Aang, in his heart, was afraid that Zuko might answer.