Lixue's soft whines pull me out of my sleep. I lift my head up to find Sokka's upper body pining me down as he cuddles into my chest. I push him off slowly, not wanting to wake him; I pull on a shirt and pants as I go towards Lixue's crib. I lean over her, and her cries soften as she focuses on my face.
Just as I am about to scoop her up, the door to my bedroom slides open, and a bare foot hits the floor. I grab Lixue and hold her protectively to my chest.
"Rise and shine!" Toph yells, and I notice the giant rock that is now in place of my bed. Sokka was head first on the floor, with linen scatter all around him.
"We have a big day ahead of us!" Aang pops in with a grin on his face. That grin falls away quickly after he gets a look at Sokka's naked backside in the air. It doesn't take long for a stray blanket to flutter down and cover him up a little.
"What's so important that you couldn't knock?" I question, bouncing Lixue in my arms, so that the sudden intrusion won't upset her too much. Sokka mutters something into the floor, but doesn't move much.
"Well, I found this flyer for a play about us. But we can't really go in the clothes we're wearing now." Aang gestures to his bright orange outfit. "So we were wondering, if we could look around the house to find something. We don't want to snoop around and make you feel uncomfortable. And I told Toph to knock, but she just said you owe her a favor." Aang shrugs not knowing what 'owing a favor' as to do with being rude.
"I can see if I can find some things for you to wear." I mutter out, not really wanting them to turn this whole house upside down trying to find scraps of clothes. "Just give us a minute."
"Sure thing!" Toph says with a leering smile on her face, and the two younger members of the group take their leave.
"Well now that Aang's scared for life, and my back permanently bent at this angel, how did you sleep?" Sokka ask with a grumpy expression on his face.
"He'll get over it. I did when I first saw you naked." I tease, keeping my face straight, while Sokka sits up and gives me his best kicked puppy look.
"You are so cruel." He whines.
I roll my eyes. "Get dress, so you can take care of Lixue while I find everyone some fire nation clothes for Aang."
"You don't want to go? I mean a play about us? Sounds pretty interesting." Sokka says thoughtfully, searching around for some clothes. "It might even be fun to see another perspective."
"I need to watch after Lixue, what if she starts crying during the play?"
"Then you'll just have to take her outside. You can at least give it a try, relax, and have some fun! It'll help you. I mean you don't really want to stay here." Sokka gives me a look of pity, which I can't stand, but I don't say anything about it. I hand Lixue over to him once he's done getting dressed.
I walk out of the room, not really wanting to answer his question. This place brings up many memories, both good and bad, and even though I'm uncomfortable here, I don't want everyone worrying about me. I know what's good for me, I don't need to get out of here and go see that play. It's not like the memories are suffocating me. They just draw me into my own little world, and I guess that makes it seem like I'm getting depressed.
I'd be lying if I said this place didn't make me a little depressed. It does. I use to be normal, and I use to have my mother's loving arms around me. That all fell apart…my mother is gone, the illusion I had of my father was broken, and now he's nothing but a monster….A monster I'm related to.
"Zuko, come to the play with us, please." I'm a little startled. I hadn't noticed that I stopped walking down the hall, or that Sokka had followed me. I turn around to see his worried face, and I cringe.
"Stop worrying about me." I mutter out and start walking again, but Sokka doesn't let it go, he simply follows me.
"Then stop giving me a reason to worry. You've been so moody…ever since we came here. I kind of understand, it must be painful being back here, but I wish you'd tell me exactly why you're hurting so much, so I can make you feel better."
I let out a long sigh, to try and calm my flaring temper. I know he's only trying to help, and we've gone through a lot of stress, with escaping from jail, and Lixue's bad health. I stop and think about Sokka's feelings, not wanting to snap at him, and tell him to just leave me alone—though that's really what I wanted to do.
"I don't want to talk about it. It's just…this place makes me look back at my life, that's all. You did enough to help me last night," I add the last part because I know if it's one thing that will put Sokka at ease it's humor.
Sokka gives me a goofy smile, "Well if you need anymore 'help' just let me know."
I roll my eyes for the second time this morning, and start down the hall again; this time Sokka doesn't follow me.
"You'd like to go to the show wouldn't you, Princess?" I question my adoptive daughter as I make my way down to the main room of the house. My response is a fist in the mouth and a whizzing gurgle. I pull the small fist away from her face.
"Don't suffocate yourself, you're father would kill me." I tell her and pat her on the head. She hold on to my shirt and I push the sliding door to the main room open.
"Hey, Sokka." Katara greets me. In her hand is a golden choker with a ruby in it.
"Wow, where'd you get that?" I ask and sit down next to her. Toph and Aang aren't in the room with her. Knowing Aang he's probably squeezing in some fun time outside, and Toph…well you can never be sure what she's up to. I look around to make sure that she isn't going to jump out and try something.
I set Lixue down, as Katara smiles at me and says, "Aang got it for me. He said we should all dress up nice for the play, and thought I'd feel naked without my necklace. Isn't that sweet?" She asks taking off our mother's necklace and safely setting it on her lap, before putting on the new jewelry.
"It's just a play, I think you guys just want an excuse to dress up."
Katara laughs, "That's part of the fun though." She says and picks up the necklace quickly as she sees Lixue reaching for it. "Sorry Lixue, but this isn't something for you to play with."
Then a thought hits me and a big grin spreads across my face. "Maybe Zuko should dress up as my wife then."
"Like Zuko would do that, you'd lose your head for even asking him to do it."
"But it would be so funny," I deepen my voice, "Hello I'm Mr. Fireball, and this is my wife and daughter." Katara can't help but laugh a little.
"It's nice to meet you Mr. Fireball, and may I say your wife is lovely." This time we both laugh, and Lixue gives us a confused look.
"What's so funny?" Zuko's voice drifts to my ears, and I turn around smiling at him.
He raises an eyebrow, but ignores my suspicious behavior. "I had a hard time finding clothes for us." He mutters out, and I see a hint of sadness in his eyes. I try to hide my concern, and just nod in responses. He lays out the dusty old clothes he found.
"I found some old clothes of mine, for Aang to choose from. But the only thing near our size…," Zuko looks up pausing a little, though I don't think he did it intentionally. "…belonged to my father."
I look at one of the larger outfits and brush off some dust. Trying to look for something to say, so that he won't be so upset.
"I can always wear a dress." I blurt out the early conversation I had with Katara coming to mind. This stuns everyone in the room, and I laugh it off.
"If you're not comfortable with me wearing your dad's old clothes then I won't." I explain.
Those words seem to give Zuko some sort of relief, or comfort. "I doubt you'd be convincing."
"He's done it before, on Kiyoshi Island." Katara chimes in. And I turn to glare at her. I mean Zuko doesn't need to know that I cross dressed before…or anything concerning Kiyoshi Island for that matter! Stupid warrior girls…kicking my ass.
"Oh really," I can't help but smile, seeing Zuko relax a little, and not look so lost in thought and depressed.
"Though, I suppose he wasn't very feminine." Katara goes on to say, and Zuko gives me a smirk.
"I try to be respectful, and nice, and all I get in return is insults." I huff out, giving a pout.
"It's fine Sokka, just put on the clothes."
The theater is packed full of people and I can't help but feel nervous that someone might recognize us. Sure Aang is wearing a scarf over his head, Zuko pulled his hair in front of his scar and everyone is wearing Fire nation clothes (no matter how outdated they appear compared to what everyone else is wearing) but I can't help but feel that we still stand out.
Lixue's chubby hands hold on tightly to the railing of the balcony, and her two colored eyes look around in amazement. I'm surprised she's still awake, and that she isn't scared to death by all the people. Zuko fusses with his hair next to me, and I'm sure he's just as worried about being recognized as I am.
"I can't see your scar so stop messing with your hair." I whisper assuring him. He nods and lets out a stress filled sigh before leaning back against the theater seat.
"I should have stayed at home." I groan out.
"Why Lixue seems to be having fun!" I chirp out and Lixue gives a giggle as if agreeing with me. The corner of Zuko's lip perks up.
" I guess but I still hope this play doesn't last to long."
"I've got snacks!" Zuko can't help but jump a little out of his seat as Aang practically yells in his ear with a happy and excited grin on his face.
Katara who's seating next to me reaches out, "I'll try some."
"Ooh, did you get fire flakes." I ask hoping in my seat a little. Aang leans over an annoyed Zuko and hands me a pack of fire flakes while pouring some snacks into Katara's hand.
"Were did you even get the money to pay for the tickets and those snacks?" Zuko grumbles out.
"Toph said she won some money in a cup and ball game on the street."
"Bustard thought I'd be an easy target, too bad the ball was made of rock." Toph announces proudly from beside Katara, and props up her feet on the balcony. The lights start to dim and the curtains are pulled apart the chatter that was filling the theater hall start to quiet down and a spot light is pointed at the stage.
The play starts, and while it drones on everyone becomes upset about their characterization, finding something wrong with the actor who's playing them or how they are being betrayed. I keep my mouth shut, not really caring that my charter seems to be rather whiny. It's a fire nation play, of course they're going to make their enemies look bad.
However when the showdown in Ba Sing Se starts to appear on stage I cringe, and reach over to take Lixue in my arms. I hold her close and she coos as if trying to sooth me, however I end up excusing myself and stepping outside.
Once in the hallway I look down at the miracle that is my daughter. I listen to her breathe, and it sound smooth and healthy.
"I'm so sorry," I tell her and her wide eyes look at me with confusion. Seeing the play just showed me how reckless I was during my pregnancy with her….Seeing just after she had such a bad episode…I'm lucky there isn't anything else noticeably wrong with her. Though her brain maybe underdeveloped…she may have more trouble with her health in the future.
"I'm sorry…I should have…" there are so many things I should have done, and they all come to me at once but I can't say a single one of them out loud.
"Zuko, are you Ok?" I look up and see Aang.
"yeah, it's just hard having all your mistakes thrown in your face." I explain and readjust Lixue in my arms.
Aang nods in agreement. "I know what you mean. The play…it's kinda funny, but insulting at the same time."
"I don't find it funny."
Aang smirks, "Well, you never struck me as someone who had a great sense of humor."
I muster a half hearted smirk.
"I've had a lot on my mind too…"
"I would think so…we should be training—"
"Yeah but I really needed this day off, to relax think and meditate. Not everything can be achieve through actions."
I look at Aang slightly confused, but a deeper understanding sinks into my heart. "I wish I had done that…when I was pregnant with Lixue."
"You did what you thought was right."
"And you should do what you think is right."
"Thanks Zuko, that means a lot coming from you. Since…you know I'll be going against your father…"
"He was never much of a father, he was only interested in power…and he won't stop until he has it all. So..you need to stop him." I look into Aang's grey eyes, and feel that stirring of hope so many others feel when they look at him.
"Hey you guys!" Katara comes out along with a rush of other people.
"Zuko, are you alright?" Sokka comes up to me looking me over.
"yeah I just wanted to check on Lixue, she looked uncomfortable so I took her out," I lie easily enough and Sokka nods.
"Well there's a break, let's get some more snacks and then come back for the second half." Toph says.
"I don't know if I want to watch the rest of this." Katara groans out.
"Come on, we already paid for it, might as well. Besides what else do we have to do?" Sokka shrugs.
"Yeah we might learn something about ourselves." Aang smiles knowingly at me.