Chapter fourteen: Rain without the Storm
The door was heavier then he would have suspected, and squealed loudly in protest of being opened, flakes of rust falling onto his hands.
Gritting his teeth Sokka strained his ears listening for any sound that would indicate the guard heard him. Only being met with the sound of dripping water he slid past the rusted metal and into the cold stale air of the hall.
Lanterns flickered in protest as he ran down the hall, his feet landing almost soundlessly on the floor, careful to mind the many puddles of water that littered the ground so he wouldn't give away his position with a splash of water.
Running up into the main building he was surprised to see the halls empty, he almost felt like laughing at the situation he was in and his luck. Keeping to the darker area's of the corridor he slid past heavy wooden doors, each accented with tarnished metal bearing the fire nation emblem.
Coming to the end of the hall Sokka stood before a massive double door, wood worn from centuries of use. This he figured was the door that led outside, considering it had large locks that could be slid into place during a possible attack.
The air outside was heavy with the smell of smoke; fires dotted the ground silhouetted by the figures of men. Loud laughter met his ears as he rushed from one shadow to another, his body keeping low to the ground.
Crouching next one of the many tents he surveyed his surroundings, his eyes straining to see in the dark. What he could make out there was close to fifty fires, and each had around ten men crowded around. He was thankful that none seemed to be on guard, but he knew once he left the protection of the tents he would be a dead give away walking towards the trading building.
Pulling aside the rough material of one of the tents he saw that its occupants must be among the many laughing and drinking and having a good time. Stepping carefully inside he felt around blindly for anything that could disguise him as just another drunk soldier.
Suddenly his hand slid over cool metal and soft worn leather. Running his hands over the object he could feel out what it was. A chest plate and a helmet sat side by side neatly set out by its owner.
Laughing to himself Sokka fumbled with the armor, slipping the chest plate over his head, securing it tightly with quick tugs of the leather straps. This would blend him in and with any luck no one would even stop him.
Setting the stifling metal helmet onto his head he wandered outside, keeping a quick pace he averted looking at any of the men who sat talking and swearing loudly.
"Hey you stop for a second," A gruff voice called out.
Stopping Sokka could feel his heart sink into his feat and a chill run across his skin. Shit, I knew it couldn't be that easy.
Turning he looked over at a large man who now stood above him. Sokka glanced up at the man's face only for a second. If the soldier saw the blue color of his eyes he would know he was not from the fire nation.
"Yes sir?" he replied his voice managing to stay calm despite his heart beating wildly.
The man reached inside his robes. Sokka's eyes grew wide thinking that he was about to pull a knife on him.
"Here take a drink," he man replied in the same gravely tone. Pulling out a flask he handed it to Sokka. "This may be the last time we can have a good time before we march out again."
Taking the object with numb hands Sokka unscrewed the cap, his hands threatening to shake at any moment. Bringing the flask to his mouth he took a sip, coughing loudly when the burning liquid slid down his throat.
This earned him a laugh from all the men who sat around the fire, who now all watched him intently.
Slapping Sokka roughly on the back the soldier let out a loud chucked that rumbled deep in his throat, "Just as a thought, a green horn."
"Umm, yes sir. First time marching out," Sokka stuttered out, "But I must be going if you would excuse me."
"Sure, go on. You will need your rest if it's your first march," the man replied walking back towards the fire.
Giving a shallow bow Sokka continued on towards the trading building, letting out the breath he didn't even know he was holding.
That was way to close. Sokka thought to himself as he came to the decrepit building. Looking up he saw that most of the windows were boarded up, and the ones that remained looked like great hollow eyes looking down on him. Broken tiles littered the ground from falling off the building, and a great lone dragon stood weather and worn still guarding the entrance after all these years.
Walking along its perimeter he came to the wall, his eyes looked up and was met with a seemingly endless wall of white stones that loomed overhead. Looking around for a few second he spotted an area where the stones seemed different, and sure enough hidden behind a pile of rusted and twisted metal was a small door that came just past his chest. Pulling away the metal he felt the splintered door for a handle. An old worn piece of rope stood in place of the handle that had once been mounted to the door.
Behind the door was a small narrow tunnel that let outside. It was pitch black but held his only hope for escape. He had got this far and be dammed if he was going to turn back now.
Throwing the metal helmet onto the dusty ground, he felt a few seconds of relive from the heat before his body once again reminded him that he was not build for this weather.
The small tunnel smelt of stale water and rotten vegetation, every once in a while water dripped from the ceiling and struck Sokka on the head and bare arms, mixing with his already sweat soaked skin.
Looking forward a small dot of light could be seen indicating that the end of the tunnel was close.
Stepping on a large pebble Sokka cringed as the large crunch echoed down the tunnel.
"Why is everything so loud at night?" Sokka muttered as he finally exited the murky darkness and stale stench of the tunnel.
The air outside felt heavy in his lungs feeling as if it was weighing him down. Looking frantically at his surrounding he searched for any sight or sound of Azula, only being met with the chatter of crickets and the swaying of grass in the warm breeze.
As he walked through the trees it felt as if he had to push against the air that hung heavily in the air with the heat of the day. Making his breathing louder then he wanted it to be and sweat to cover his body like another layer of flesh.
The forest shone in the pale light of the moon, bathing the trees with a silvery glow sending him into a false sense of ease. But until he found Azula he had to remind himself that he was still in danger.
Spotting a dark mass standing in a small clearing Sokka knew it was her. Robes whipping like flags in the wind she stood looking in the direction he was hiding. She probably heard him minutes ago but thought it best for him to find her.
The wind blew hotly shaking the leaves as it whispered nature's song through the thick forest. Sokka stood silent breath even and slow his sharp blue eyes looking over at the woman that had both ruined his life and revived it at the same time.
Her hair blew gently in the breeze mimicking the motion of flames hiding her face momentarily but he knew her golden eyes were on him, searching his face for anything that would give her a hint at what he was feeling.
Walking towards her Azula stood her ground only lifting her head slightly to keep eye contact with him, neither looked away even when a distant bird took flight into the ink black sky, its silhouette contrasting sharply with the glowing moon. Now standing toe to toe with her he reached up with a shaky hand and slid his fingers down her porcelain like skin savoring the feeling of his skin making contact with hers once again. Closing her eyes at the feeling of his warm hand against her cheek Azula leaned into his touch enjoying the calming feeling he could ignite in her troubled heart.
"I thank you for keeping your word princess," Sokka whispered gently in her ear so softly the wind would have been able to take it away.
"Azula," she whispered back.
Looking down with questioning eyes Sokka saw a small smile spread over her face.
"Princess is just a term to describe someone, my name is Azula," her last words cracked slightly but she held them strong.
Chuckling lightly Sokka hugged her tightly, "Of course my dear Azula."
"Mai and Ty-lee have informed me that your sister is two days from here in the village of Wuhan. If you stick by the river no one will bother you." Her voice was unusually quiet, lacking its normal strength that he had come to know so well.
"So this is it?" Sokka replied softly, his breath dancing across her skin like a warm breeze.
Letting him go she pulled away leaving him longing to hold her, "Yes." Turning she started to walk back towards the great wall.
Stopping suddenly when a hand took hold of hers she sighed knowing that Sokka would not let this end easily. She prayed that he would just leave quickly, that way it might hurt less.
"I can't just let this end like that," Sokka pulled her back gently towards him so she was again facing him, even if her eyes looked over at the large half moon in the sky.
His hand guided her face so she was forced to look him in the eye, "For the past two weeks I have been captured by the fire nation, held prisoner, fought against rebels I didn't even know, escaped death on more then one occasion." His words grew in volume as he spoke; emphasizing every word then suddenly his tone turned to one much softer sounding, "And along the way met a woman that has changed my life forever."
Azula could not speak a word, any which formed in her mind failed to escape her lips leaving her to look up at this boy that she now saw as an equal. She held more respect for him then any other she had ever known.
Swallowing deeply he gathered spit into his now very dry mouth; "I know that this can't last, I would be a fool to think that, but before I leave I must tell you something."
Resting her hand gently on his mouth more as to keep him silent then showing affection, she whispered gently, "Sokka it will only make it harder."
His lips formed into a small smile under her touch. Taking her hand away from his lips he continued. "Perhaps, but I will regret it for the rest of my life if I remain silent."
"Sokka please," Azula pleaded tears starting to well in her eyes causing them to sting and blur. Grasping his shirt tightly she desperately tried to fight off these feeling she was not suppose to have.
"I was always taught to hate the fire nation, believing that they were evil and heartless. But over this short time I have know you, you have disproved me many times. And I know I'm not supposed to care for you but I do, and I'm not supposed to live the rest of my life wishing you were beside me, but I will." Running his thumb gently over her cheek to brushes away a tear that Azula had let fall he continued, "Meeting you was fate, but falling in love with you I had no control over and I will never regret," His words left his mouth like a wonderful song gliding on the warm night air.
She knew that he was going to say that one word that would make it even harder to say goodbye. She was both angry at him for doing so, but closing her eyes now as she rested her head gently against his chest she felt the most at peace, even if the word around them seemed to be falling.
"I love you as well," Azula whispered softly into his shirt. It was so silent that she wasn't even sure he had heard her but it didn't matter even without saying the words he knew that the walls she had built up inside her mind and around her heart had crumbled away.
Azula knew that she should feel disappointed in herself for letting this peasant break her defenses, but he had and she felt at peace with herself for once in her life.
Tears started to fall from her eyes and she didn't try and hide them like she did for her entire life, "It must be raining," Azula whispered softly.
"Must be," Sokka replied, this strong hands stroked back a wayward lock of her dark colored hair, sadly what felt like for the last time. But still he managed to push aside his darker thoughts and enjoy the warmth of the women now wrapped tightly in his arms.
"I know the next time we cross paths it will be like this never happened, that we never happened, but remember this." Azula said raising herself up so she could speak gently in his ear, "If I ever capture you again I will not let you escape so easily."
"I should hope not," Sokka replied his voice low and seductive.
The signal between the two was subtle but both knew what it was, there was no questions or answers only the understanding they shared between each other. Tonight was the last night they were given, and both had no intention of sleep, wanting to selfishly take what they could as they forgot the world and the rules they were to abide.
Hours later as Sokka fled through the forest he could still taste her in his mouth, feel her on his skin and see her golden eyes looking up at him. Taking a deep breath the smell of jasmine perfume played with his senses for a moment before being lost in the muggy smell of oncoming rain. Closing his eyes Sokka tried desperately to find the sent of jasmine once again, failing miserably, it left him wishing he could bottle up her soft dream-like scent keeping it hidden away.
"I just didn't know," he said kissing her mouth softly, "that it would hurt this much to leave you."
Snaking her arms around his neck she pulled him close, his head now rested against her chest, her sent filling his senses. Oh how she wanted to tell him everything would be fine, but both knew that this love was like the passing summer, full of heat, and ending to soon leaving you wanting more.
"If only we were strangers and could just walk away from one another without regret," Azula whispered into his damp hair.
Lifting his head from her chest Sokka braced his weight with his elbows, his eyes now studying her intently. Slowly he carefully ran his hand through her hair, "Never say that," he replied. "If I never knew you, I think I would continue living without that missing piece of me that I didn't even know I had lost."
Taking her hand in his he kissed each knuckle, before bending down to softly kiss her forehead. "There is no moment that I regret." He added.
When the glow of morning colored the horizon, both knew this was truly the end.
Standing toe to toe with him Azula looked up into the eyes of a man who was once an enemy, and would sadly become one again. Leaning down he kissed her hard.
But it ended to soon, and Azula found her fingers unable to led go of his shirt.
When he finally turned to leave there where no words. Nothing would be appropriate in their situation.
Closing her eyes, she listened to the sound of his footsteps. When she opened them again he was gone, lost in the forest.
When Sokka had finally stumbled into the village of Wuhan feet sore and arms cut from running through thick bush he was met with the sight of his dear sister helping Aang load Appa.
Before he had time to speak she had dropped her cargo and rushed over to him, eyes filled with tears.
"I thought you were dead," she whispered gently to him, her arms wrapped tightly around him like he would vanish into thin air.
Chuckling softly he replied, "So did I."
After changing out of his sweat soaked cloths he sat in a cold bath scrubbing away the dirt and grime that had covered his skin and clung to his hair. His body was sore from almost two days solid of running, and his wrists still stung slightly from his restraints cutting into his skin.
Sighing loudly he closed his eyes, still not able to believe that it was over. He was with his sister again. Even now when he looked into her blue eyes he was afraid to blink thinking she would be gone.
Running his hand thought his hair he slowly opened his eyes, looking out the small window of the bath house he caught the sight of the setting sun, the colors filling the sky, clashing together in brilliant reds and yellows. Slowly memories of her came flooding back, the red of her lips and the feel of her skin against his finger tips. Breathing deeply he swore he could smell Jasmine fill his senses, but fading just as quickly.
Back behind the great white walls of Chaozhou, a pair of focused golden eyes gazed upon the same setting sun. Her black hair falling loosely down her back, and red robes hanging loosely on her small frame.
"One day we will meet again," she whispered softly to herself, "And perhaps you will see the wonder you left with me," Azula continued quietly, holding her stomach protectively.
So it is finally over. Sorry it took so long to write this but things always seem to come up and take up time. Hope you liked it, and as you can see I left this story open to a sequel. I have an idea for it but I'm not sure if I will do it or not.
And last but not least THANK YOU so much to all the people who read this story and put up with waiting forever for updates. Well that is all. Hope everyone is enjoying the 3rd season of Avatar I know I am. The beach episode I thought was good and inspired me to continue and finish this story.
Goodbye for now!