A/N: This was inspired by the Toby Keith song "You Shouldn't kiss me Like This". I thought it sounded like fun to do a Sokkla one-shot to it. Thus, you guys get this while I try and think about what to write in my next chapter of 'Eternal Dance'.
As always, I'm stubbornly sticking to my spelling of Ty Lee as Tai Li because I like it better. It's a deliberate misspelling.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Avatar characters. Nick owns them. I wish I owned them.
Summary: For Azula's nineteenth birthday, Zuko throws his sister a dance. The Fire Nation princess ends up dancing with a water tribe ambassador who seems somehow familiar. Post-series Sokkla one shot.
Title: Kiss Me Like This
Azula could not remember a time she had been so bored. She frowned as she tugged at the edge of the skirt she'd been forced into wearing. Zuko had explained that this kind of party was necessary to bolster international relations and show the Fire Nation's new policy of good will. That did not mean she had to like it.
All the swirling dresses and brightly colored robes made her want to claw out her own eyes. She's always hated the formal side of being the princess. That's why she had tried so hard to be a general in her father's army. All this uptight dancing and stiff language made her uneasy. Zuko was going to pay for making her spend her birthday like this.
"You don't seem like you're having much fun," Tai Li said, leaning around the side of Azula's chair and interrupting her visualization of zapping her older brother into oblivion.
"That would be because," Azula said with a fake smile, "I'm not."
"I know what could cheer you up."
"Flirting," Tai Li said brightly, now perching on the arm of Azula's chair. "You're the most eligible girl in the Fire Nation. You should have some fun with it."
Azula raised a delicate eyebrow, and frowned slightly. Tai Li was right of course. Any eligible man who didn't already know her reputation would certainly be eager to please the younger sister of the Fire Lord. As much as she hated to flaunt the fact that she was a girl, anything was potentially more fun than sitting here. "Alright. We'll try it your way for a while. Pick someone, and I'll attempt to enchant him."
Tai Li grinned mischievously as she surveyed the room. There was a pause before she almost bounced as she pointed towards one of the great stone pillars. "How about that water tribe ambassador? He looks handsome enough."
Azula glanced over to where the young acrobat was pointing and personally had to agree with her friend. The young man in question couldn't have been much older than she was. His thick dark brown hair was pulled away from his still boyish features in a ponytail, and he stood without the normal rigidity as he talked with the Avatar.
The princess turned and grinned wickedly at her friend. "Watch and learn, Tai Li."
With one graceful motion, Azula rose from her chair and walked over to where he was standing. As she got closer, she could see that he was quite a bit taller than she was, and underneath his fine blue robes it was easy to see he was well defined. It was his eyes, however, that captivated her. Ice blue eyes that held laughter, pain, courage, and uncertainty all at once. Eyes she could almost swear she had seen before.
"Hi, Princess Azula," the sixteen-year-old airbender grinned at her as she approached the pair. "Great party!"
The Water tribes man turned to her and bowed low, moving with a grace she had never seen before. "M'lady. To what do we owe this visitation?"
Azula returned the bow with a curtsy of her own, and put a smile on her face as the young ambassador stood again. This close, she could see his amiable features and the beginnings of a beard on his chin. It suited him, and she found she rather liked it.
"Well," she addressed them both, though she couldn't bring herself to look away from the eyes of the ambassador, "it gets rather boring up there on my pedestal. I thought I should come down and see how the most important of guests were doing."
The man chuckled at her and shook his head. "I'm not that important, M'lady."
"Of course you are," Aang protested, nudging the other with a smile. Azula waited to be introduced, but apparently he was that important as none was forthcoming.
The musicians struck up a new tune, something that sounded as though it was from the water tribe. A strong hand clasped around her dainty fingertips, and she looked up to see a smile on the face of the water tribe ambassador.
"Care to dance, M'lady?"
Aang shot his companion a surprised look as Azula smiled back up at him cheekily. This would be easier than she had thought.
"Yes, I'd love to."
She heard the Avatar hiss a quick "what are you doing" to his companion, which he ignored, before he led her out onto the dance floor. A steady but gentle hand settled on her hipbone as she and her partner fell into step with the other dancers.
"It was great foresight on the part of Fire Lord Zuko to hire musicians who can play music from all the nations," he said after they had settled into the rhythm.
"It does make for a nice change," Azula admitted, watching him to see how a person did this unfamiliar dance. Native Fire Nation steps were usually quick dances, with many turns and partner exchanges. They ate up time and didn't make much for conversation. For this one, however, each movement was slow and precise. It involved small steps for spinning in place and a fluidity of movement she had only seen in the waterbenders she had fought in the past.
"You're excellent at this dance," she complimented sincerely once she had the chance.
He smiled at her a bit uncertainly, as if he was not sure how long that would last, before returning the compliment. "Well, you're a quick study. It took me a month to master this step, but this dance won't be half-way over before the student surpasses the teacher."
Azula lifted her chin proudly. She had always excelled at everything she tried. Still, she hadn't before had patience for such slow dances. The fire inside her longed for excitement, for speed and movement. But this water tribe man was like a soothing presence; a wet spring breeze that at once fed and extinguished her flame.
"Are you a bender?" She asked. The question probably seemed sudden to him, but she didn't care. She never had been one to care much for what others thought.
"No," he said, and though his face remained serious his eyes were now a light with mischief. "No, I'm not a bender. I'm from the Southern Tribe and there aren't many down there. I was raised as a warrior, like the other boys."
"The Avatar's companion, Katara, is from there. Do you know her?"
The man's mouth twitched as he looked down at her. "Yes, I know both Aang and Katara very well."
"You're on a first name basis with the Avatar? How?"
"It's not like it's hard," he answered, laughing a loud this time. "Aang's a very friendly person."
His laughter made the tips of her body tingle. It was a genuine laugh, something she rarely heard. Most in the Fire Nation had forgotten what it was to laugh. If they hadn't forgotten, those who accompanied her were so afraid of displeasing her they would force a laugh at anything she said that was even the slightest bit amusing. They were all terrified of her raw power.
'He's not,' she realized as he gave her fingers a squeeze to indicate it was time for a spin. 'If he knows Aang and Katara he must certainly know how powerful I am, and he is not afraid.'
She frowned slightly. There had been someone else who hadn't feared her when he should have, but that had been years ago and she couldn't remember his name any longer. Someone else who had defiant eyes…
"You remind me of someone," she said just as he spun her out. The spin back in brought them close together, and she drew a sharp breath as his large hand easily clasped round her waist. From here she couldn't help but notice how each curve of her more petite frame fit perfectly into his. A little pressure on the small of her back drew her close to him, and he leaned forward so his face was only inches from her own.
"Do I really?" He whispered, his breath ghosting over her lips as she stared into the eyes that were at once fire and ice. Too late, she realized her plan had backfired. He wasn't the enchanted one. She was.
"Yes," she whispered back as he dipped her down. "One of the Avatar's companions."
He chuckled as he pulled away from her slightly so they could continue the steps. "Who? Toph? I've never been compared to a little blind girl before."
"No," Azula said, annoyed for a reason she could not explain. "The Avatar had another companion. A boy. There aren't many stories about him."
"He must not have been important then."
"No," Azula said, taking herself off guard. "No, he was. Katara has told me many times when he saved them…but he couldn't bend…"
"And no one likes stories about ordinary people," he finished just as the dance did. Neither of them moved as he let go of her hands and they looked at each other. Neither spoke as the next dance, a more upbeat Earth Kingdom tune, started. Azula simply grabbed his hands and resumed the conversation.
"I suppose not, which is a pity. Some of Katara's stories are pretty good."
Her dance partner laughed, and Azula felt chills again. It was a strange and exciting feeling, like successfully performing a complicated move for the very first time. It thrilled her and almost scared her at the same time.
The moved in perfect rhythm, clasping right hand to left in the center of the circle they made as they walked around.
"I never knew you could dance, princess," he smiled at her.
"Of course I can," she shot back, though she couldn't help but smile as she stepped a little closer. She wasn't about to lose this game. "All court ladies are expected to."
"You are no court lady," he said easily, though not looking at her directly.
Azula's amber eyes narrowed and she shoot her black bangs out of her face haughtily. "That's nonsense. Of course I am. I am the Princess of the Fire Nation after all."
"But not a court lady," he responded in a whisper, now stepping closer himself. "Court ladies are mild and do what they're told when they are told to do it. You, Princess, have too much spirit for that." He entwined his fingers with hers as they faced each other again.
"That's very perceptive of you," Azula whispered, suddenly finding herself on uncertain ground. It was apparent this stranger knew her, and that she should know him, but she could not find a place in her memory for him. He was almost like a phantom, familiar and strange all at once.
"There is no one that can tame you, M'lady," he said, leaning down toward her again. "No one that can break you."
She took a deep breath, closing her eyes as she pushed herself up on her tiptoes. She didn't quite know what she was doing, but before she knew it her lips were pressed gently against his. Much to her surprise, he didn't push her away. Instead, his arms slid around her waist and held her close to him as he kissed her back.
He smelt of the ocean, of sunshine, and of honey. With her eyes closed, the person she had been thinking of came to her mind. A boy with dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. Katara's brother. He was her age, and had been terribly clumsy with his big hands and feet that he was still growing into. And his eyes. Those eyes had been the first she had seen when she'd awaken from the battlefield after the Avatar defeated her father. Those eyes that were like an inverted mirror of her own.
Those same eyes that she saw now as she opened her own and pulled slightly away.
"I shouldn't have done that," he whispered, looking away from her to the marble floor.
She wanted to say something, to tell him it was fine. To explain that she liked the tingling she now felt all over. She couldn't, however, because she could not remember his name. She had always called him…
"Peasant!" Zuko's voice and manner were as intimidating as ever, but his gold eyes were laughing as he approached the couple as they sprang apart at his approach.
"Sokka, what are you doing?" Katara asked, coming up behind Zuko, her own blue eyes laughing at the pair. Azula put a hand to her lips and stared at the young man. Now that she had been told for certain, she could see in him now a little of that same boy who- for the year he and Katara had spent helping rebuild the Fire Nation after Zuko was placed on the throne- had always fought with her and drove her crazy in a way no one else could.
Sokka shrugged at his sister, smiling underneath his still growing beard. "Dancing."
"That didn't look like dancing to me," she teased. Zuko folded his arms over his chest.
"The Avatar came to tell me I would find something amusing if I came out to the dance floor, but I see nothing amusing. All I see is you kissing my sister."
"Technically, she kissed me," Sokka said. Azula couldn't decide whether she wanted to hit him, or fry him, or kiss him again as Zuko raised an eyebrow at her before he beckoned to Sokka.
"You and I need to have a talk," the young fire lord muttered, looking toward the ceiling as though it could somehow help him.
Sokka turned to her first, taking her hand and bowing before giving it a light kiss. "If you'll excuse me, M'lady."
He turned to walk away, but Azula grabbed his wrist.
"Who said you could go?" She demanded.
"I believe your brother did," came the laughing response. Flustered, Azula clutched the hand a little tighter.
"Well…I never knew you could kiss like that."
"There is a lot about me you don't know, M'lady."
"I think I would perhaps like to learn some of it."
Sokka turned back around, grabbed her upper arms gently and kissed her forehead. "Your wish is my command, Princess."
"Peasant! I meant now!"
Sokka grinned again, bowing to her one final time before disappearing into the crowd.