Throne of the Soul

No one ever said the Avatar was a good house guest. When it rains, it pours.

AN: Ages have been fanwanked. I can't write children kissing aggressively. Let's say Aang and Toph are around 15-16, and you can judge everyone elses ages accordingly.

There was something so inherently simple in a kiss: some strange intrinsic value that couldn't be found in any other act. There was some sort of strange gratification in it that could hold it's own against even the most intimate of moments. It was as if a part of the soul reached out, through breath and life, to search for the soul to which it was coupled.

Katara was a great advocate of soul searching. Early on in their very short engagement, she and Aang began to stray away from many social gatherings to search for souls in dark corners, unused rooms, and once, a linen closet. She had no delusions about the propriety of kissing in corners and closets, but she'd be damned if it wasn't one of the most exhilarating things she'd ever done.

There was nothing like hiding behind a large bundle of bed sheets while you scrambled to close the fastenings on your dress.

Tonight was supposed to be about Zuko's birthday. For some reason none of the other nations could fathom, the ruler's birthday was always a very celebrated holiday in the Fire Nation. Outside of attending the party and sitting close at hand, Katara didn't really see her part in the rich ceremony – although she was well aware that it didn't include sneaking off to have a quick go at her lover's lips in a place that both of them were very well aware they were not supposed to be.

Aang, of course, was the one who stopped short when he realized where they were.

The door through which they had entered was no bigger than any other nondescript door leading into any other nondescript room. Both of them had guessed it for a closet, or some other storage space – it turned out to be the backdoor of the throne room.

Aang looked up at the vaulted, cavernous ceiling and the red and gold enameled columns scattered throughout the vast room. The throne's dais, no more than five feet in front of them, blocked off the better portion of the view, and it's dark, steep little stairway glittered alluringly in the flickering light of the lamps.

Katara had a deliciously immoral thought, and latched tightly onto Aang's wrist to drag him up the back stairs. He seemed not to have noticed the devious light in her eyes, or that the blush on her cheeks was beginning to spread down her neck, or else he might have stopped her. He was too busy scrutinizing the gold inlay on the ceiling to really pay attention to what she was doing.

The edge of the baldachin that overshadowed the throne appeared in his peripheral vision for only a moment, before Aang realized that Katara had backed him up against the seat of the throne. He let out a small squeak of protest when she put both her hands on his shoulders and shoved him bodily back into what was probably one of the most sacred places in the entire Fire Nation. He braced himself on the armrests, but before he could even think of rising Katara had hiked her dress up to her knees and crawled into his lap.

"Katara!" he hissed through clenched teeth, as if somehow their conversation would be overheard. "What if someone-"

"Shut up," she ordered before sealing her mouth over his.

That was enough to keep him quiet for a few minutes. His arms came up around her waist and he kissed her back and forgot that they were breaking at least four laws – and on the Fire Lord's birthday, no less! Of course, the thrill was a thing of beauty in and of itself. This simple little chair had seen dozens of Fire Lords come and go, and now it was going to watch passively as he and Katara made a mockery of an entire culture's belief system with one simple act.

Still, the idea that Zuko would be sitting there in the morning made it all the more entertaining.

But something in him couldn't quite wrap around the part where they were breaking at least four laws!

"I really don't think we should be here," he maintained when she pulled back a few long moments later.

Katara groaned in frustration. Under any other circumstances she would have agreed with him. The throne room – the throne – was no place for them to be acting out their wanton desires. However, she wasn't in a particularly caring frame of mind. She wanted one small, harmless thing, and she wasn't going to leave that room until she got it.

"Aang," she said easily, resisting the urge to bat her eyelashes. "If you're really that uncomfortable, we can go. But first, you have to do something for me."

"Anything to get out f this room," he replied.

She smiled. He was going down. "Close your eyes."

"Oh no," he sighed, but did as he was told.

She clambered up out of his lap in hurried motions, and then there was nothing but silence.

"I swear," he started, eyes still shut tight. "If you leave me here alone, there's going to be some sort of terrible reprisal. I don't know what, but I can think of something…"

"Oh hush," she chided. "Put your hands on the arm rests. And sit up straight. Keep those eyes closed."

"Yes ma'am," he quipped, unable to keep the grin from spreading across his face.

"Stay still," she said as she crept back into his lap.

"Someone's giving an awful lot of orders tonight," Aang observed dryly.

"Well, maybe I wouldn't be so pushy if you weren't so compliant," Katara replied with a snicker. "Go ahead and open your eyes."

"Alright, but I really don't… Oh."

"Do you still wanna leave?"

"That's not fair," he protested weakly, trying valiantly to keep his eyes on her face. She had stripped bare to the waist, and pulled her skirts up high around her thighs, leaving most of her legs free. Her jacket, bodice, and slippers were lying in a little pile beside the throne.

"What's not fair?" she asked blithely, giving him an inviting smile and reaching for the ties at the front of his tunic. It didn't take more than a few seconds of her cool fingertips brushing against his chest for him to decide that she was going much to slow for his tastes. He pushed her hands away, and hauled his shirt over his head. She helped him untangle himself, and then laughed in unadulterated delight when he wrapped a strong arm around her waist, hooked his other hand behind her right knee, and pulled her hard against him.

"So we're staying, right?" she asked breathlessly between hot, frantic kisses.

"Who said anything about leaving?" he murmured, smiling against the soft skin of her neck.

It was at precisely that moment that the large, ornate double-doors at the far end of the hall blew inwards and slammed loudly against the carved stone walls. Two slightly drunk people stood silhouetted in the light that poured in from the hallway, before tripping over eachother into the room.

Unfortunately, they weren't nearly drunk enough.

Aang, of course, couldn't contain his surprise. Years spent sneaking around behind enemy lines, avoiding Fire Nation solders, should have taught him the importance – the necessity! – of stealth; or at least of keeping quiet and pretending that nothing was amiss. He let out a loud yelp, and sprang to his feet, sending Katara tumbling to the floor, skirts flying over her head. She very nearly fell down the front steps of the dais.

At the end of the hall, Sokka tripped over the back of Toph's dress, caught himself on her shoulder, and looked up – from far across the hall - directly into the eyes of the half-naked Avatar. He skimmed over his sister, who appeared to be even more undressed than Aang, and in a very awkward position, before he decided he wasn't nearly drunk enough to think the thoughts necessary for processing that image and was better off focusing all his new-found rage on figuring out why the half-naked Avatar was standing over his awkwardly positioned, equally undressed younger sister.

Toph didn't appear to have noticed that anyone else was in the room, which was impossible, because the floors were stone. Either she was more drunk than Aang had originally thought, or she was wearing shoes. As cruel as it was, he prayed that she was properly inebriated and wouldn't be completely aware of what was going on around her.

Aang knew he was in serious trouble. Sokka hadn't said anything, choosing instead to glare – and he was wearing his scheming face. It was very likely he was imagining all the different ways one could possibly kill a human male.

By then, Katara had climbed to her feet and made a valiant attempt at covering herself. This mostly involved stepping behind Aang and blushing like a tomato while trying to find her way back into the complicated bodice that matched her skirts.

Toph chose that moment to speak (which she did rather loudly, and with a bit more exuberance than was completely necessary).

"Are you naked!"

"No!" Aang and Katara both shouted, each wrestling with a piece of clothing that was proving itself much easier to get out of than in to.

She tilted her head and took a very small step- then almost fell over because Sokka was still standing on the back of her dress, and exclaimed, "You're both topless!"

"We know! Thank you!" Katara yelled angrily over Aang's shoulder.

"Why are you topless!" Sokka shouted angrily, pushing away from Toph, and marching toward the dais. "In Zuko's throne! You… you're not even married yet!"

Toph began to laugh, and Sokka rounded on her.

"Why are you laughing!" he demanded. "This isn't funny!"

"This is hilarious!" she insisted, and then continued to laugh so hard that she had to sit down.

He turned back to Aang, who was now trying to hide behind Katara since she had finished relacing her bodice.

"Calm down, Sokka," she said, in what everyone recognized as her 'reasoning with idiots' tone. "It's not like we've never caught you doing inappropriate thing in inappropriate places."

"Yeah?" he challenged. "So? I'm older than you!"

"By three and a half whole seasons!" Katara shouted down, struggling into her jacket. "Back off, big brother!"

Sokka fumed silently for a few moments, then turned sharply on his heel and marched back to Toph. He grabbed her bodily by the forearm, hauled her to her feet, and then turned to his sister and announced coolly, "We're telling Zuko."

Toph let out a shocked gasp – proving she was much more drunk than she appeared – then hiked her robes and dealt a well-aimed kick to the back of Sokka's left knee. He fell forward, let out a loud yelp of pain as both his knees connected solidly with the hard floor, and still managed to keep a firm grip on Toph. Her arm twisted, and she ended up on the floor beside him, wondering how she'd gotten there.

By this time Aang had vaulted down the steps of the dais, and was making a dash for the main doors. He leapt over Sokka, and was just about to slam the doors shut when the older boy reached up and latched onto his ankle, creating a fulcrum that slammed the Avatar face first into the floor and sent Toph into a fresh slew of giggles.

Katara, who was trying to walk down the stairs, fasten her jacket, and scold her brother at the same time, saw Aang's fall out of the corner of her eye, and didn't have the brain power to process another high-energy thought – she tripped on her skirt, twisted her ankle, and fell down the last three steps to land solidly on her back.

It was at that exact moment that Zuko marched by, surrounded by a solid honor guard of four burly, gigantic fire benders. He paused, backtracked, and stood for a few moments gazing into the throne room with a small, contemplative frown on his face.

"Wait outside," he told the guards, entering the vast chamber and motioning for them to pull the doors closed after him.

He gazed dispassionately at the scene of near chaos that met his eyes. The most holy room in the palace, second only to the temple, was under invasion. The Avatar lay motionless on his stomach, splayed out as if he had belly-flopped onto the stone floor from a great height. Sokka, also lying on his stomach, still had a hold on Aang's ankle, and was staring dumbly up at the young Fire Lord like a cowbird in front of an oncoming tank battalion. Toph appeared to be looking in his general direction, and she offered a sunny smile and a wave in greeting. She was lying on her back, head propped on Sokka's shoulder. Way across the room, at the bottom of the stairs that led up to the throne, Katara was struggling to join them at the door. She had a noticeable limp.

At that point Aang stirred, and rolled onto his back with a groan. His nose was an angry shade of red that was fast turning purple, and the whole of his upper lip was covered in dark, sticky blood. Katara limped as fast as she could, and knelt next to him, pulling his head into her lap.

"You poor thing," she cooed, using the hem of her skirt to wipe the blood away. Then she smacked Sokka on the back of the head.

"What the hell are all of you doing in here?" Zuko demanded calmly, crossing his arms. Sokka was too busy glaring at Aang - who was too busy wincing as Katara applied pressure to a nose that might very well have been broken – to answer.

Toph had been making a valiant attempt at climbing to her feet, and would have made it if Sokka's elbow hadn't been exactly where her toes needed to be. She tripped, and would have fallen if Zuko hadn't stepped forward to catch her.

"You'll never guess what just happened!" she exclaimed, as if the two of them were alone. "Sokka and I were looking for a ball of twine, and we thought 'what better place to find a ball of twine than in the kitchen!'"

"You're in the throne room," Zuko cut in icily, eyeing Sokka as he stood, and helped Katara pull Aang to his feet.

"I know that, moron," Toph snapped, "Anyways, we were looking for the kitchen and we thought we heard –"

"Would one of you take this from me!" Zuko interrupted, shoving Toph in Sokka's direction. Sokka dropped Aang's arm, caught Toph – who was now muttering indignantly - and then swore when she stepped heavily on one of his toes

"Serves you right," Katara muttered under her breath.

Zuko cleared his throat, and three sets of eyes (and one left ear) trained on him. He assumed his lecturing pose; shoulders straight, hands clasped behind his back, and turned a condescending eye on the four interlopers now standing before him.

"You've got twenty seconds," he began evenly. "To get to your rooms."

"Your room," Sokka added angrily with a glance at Katara. "Not his."

"Twenty seconds." Zuko intoned. "Nineteen…. Eighteen…"

Katara huffed, and hauled Aang through the door Zuko had pulled open.

Sokka blinked and asked, "Can I have thirty seconds? Toph can't walk straight."

"Seventeen… Sixteen..."

"I can so!" she exclaimed, and pushed away from him to prove it by tripping out the door and down the hall.

"Don't let her break anything," Zuko called after Sokka, letting the door fall closed, leaving him alone in the throne room. With a deep, calming sigh, he leaned back and let his eyes rove over the cavernous room that he had inherited.

He had made changes to the room: the flames were extinguished this late in the evening, but now they only burned beside the throne. Zuko preferred for his guests to see his face. It added an element of loyalty that his father had bought through fear; he chose to buy it with trust. The stairs were new as well. He wanted his court to know he was approachable, that he was open to the concerns of his people.

Silently, with an almost religious reverence, Zuko advanced on the dais and climbed the stairs, then turned to gaze out at the expansive room before sitting on the throne.

Something caught his eye; there, just to the throne's left, was a pair of ladies' slippers. They were fine little things, made of soft blue silk and beaded with pearls at the toes. Their thin, glossy calfskin soles winked up at him from the light of the lamps, and Zuko couldn't for the life of him figure out how they'd gotten there.

AN: What to say about this? I'm not sure how it started anymore, except to say that Artemis Rae and I were both so very tickled by the idea of Aang and Katara making out on Zuko's throne. The first paragraph should be semifamiliar to those who've read Promises, because it's also the first paragraph of the last chapter. This was a failed attempt at that final chapter, but I loved that paragraph so very much that I couldn't scrap it. I'm sure there will be some quibbles with this, but... meh. I had fun writing it. Hopefully you'll all have fun reading it.

And yes, when unprovoked, Toph is a friendly drunk. Don't piss her off though, unless you're fond of pain...