A/N: I've decided to return to FFN for a bit. I feel like I get more creative feedback here than on other sites, so here's Part 3, the final part of the episode :) Thanks to all those here who have supported this story! I greatly appreciate it. You guys are awesome, and I love all your reviews.
Also: Since the Avatar finale will be coming out soon, and with "Zutara Week" on DeviantArt being next week, this story will be updated quicker than it has been. I want to get as many Parts/Episodes/Chapters in before the finale airs.
DISCLAIMER: I DON'T OWN AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER OR ANY OF ITS CHARACTERS.
"It can't be…" Katara's voice shook with fear and anger. "Why didn't Dad plan for this yet? What if Aang is seen?"
"I'm sure we'll be fine," Zuko gave a weak smile and gave a little wave. "Ex-Fire Prince Zuko, here, remember?"
"Ex-Fire Prince. If Azula's let the word get out that you're on our side, your whole country will be hating you by now. You can't get us out of this."
"Listen. It's just a patrolling ship. They sweep around the bays all the time to make sure that the navy is in check and doing their job. If we just convince them when they come on board-"
"On board?" Katara's voice rose. "If you think we're going to let some filthy Fire Nation soldier, no offense, on this ship, and risk us getting caught with the Avatar of all people, you're insane."
"I am related to Azula," Zuko mumbled.
"We're not letting them on board!"
"Letting who on board?" Hakoda entered the deck. "What's going on?"
"That." Katara pointed.
"Oh." Hakoda noticed the Fire Navy ship. "That won't be a problem at all. Besides," He smiled at Katara, "You have the advantage." He gestured to the moon above them.
"Yeah, whatever," Katara made a face. "That still doesn't mean we won't be in big trouble if they see Aang!"
"Hakoda," Bato came up behind them. "Are you ready? It's getting close."
"Everything's all set. You two go down below on the staircase, where they can't see you," Hakoda said to Zuko and Katara.
"Who?" Katara asked, still angry.
"That Fire ship will probably be coming on board in a few minutes. We have to be very careful," Bato explained.
Katara threw up her hands in frustration.
"Let's go," Zuko stated. He pulled Katara toward the staircase. Hakoda frowned. When Katara and Zuko were out of earshot, he turned to Bato.
"I still don't like how much time my daughter's been spending with that Fire Nation boy…" His eyes shifted as he pulled his helmet on.
"What's happening?" A groggy Aang came up from below deck, rubbing his eyes.
"Aang, go below deck quickly. You can hide out with Katara. She could use some calming advice from an Avatar like you," Hakoda responded. "Our first real test on our disguise will be arriving shortly. A Fire Nation scouting ship will be coming soon to inspect us." He pointed to the smoke growing bigger in the near distance.
Taking in the situation, Aang said anxiously, "Can't I help?"
"The best way for you to help right now is to lay low below deck with the others."
"But I'm the Avatar. I-"
"Exactly. They can't see you, or our entire plan will be useless. Go meet Katara and the others downstairs," Hakoda stated firmly. Aang glared at him for a moment, then turned and abruptly headed back down the stairs.
"Aang! Over here." Sokka, Toph, Katara and "Lee" stood clumped against the wall by the edge of the metal stairs. Aang joined them.
"We can see the deck perfectly from this spot," Lee whispered.
Aang slouched against the wall. He shouldn't be hiding; he should be out there fighting the dangerous army ship that was coming their way! Why did everyone have to be so secretive?
From their view of the deck, the five could see a black shape moving up against their ship. A loud clang of metal sounded as a bridge joined the two vessels.
"I hate not being to do anything," Aang grunted quietly.
"Join the club," Katara whispered with a similar grimace on her face. She moved as if to run up the stairs, but Lee firmly grabbed her shoulder, holding her back. Her eyes narrowed, then she sighed and looked to the floor, giving up.
"You two will be lucky if we don't have to," Toph nodded towards the deck. Two Fire Nation soldiers were coming aboard.
"Commander, why are you off course?" The tall officer had a stern look on his face. "All Western Fleet ships are supposed to be moving toward Ba Sing Se to support the occupation."
From beneath his helmet, Hakoda responded, "Actually, we're from the Eastern Fleet. We have orders to deliver some cargo."
"See?" Toph whispered to Aang. "They have everything under control."
"Ah, Eastern Fleet." The officer scratched his chin and glanced at the lower officer beside him. "Well, nice of Admiral Chan to let us know he was sending one of his ships our way."
"I am sure Admiral Chan meant no disrespect, sir," Bato stated beside Hakoda.
The officer rolled his eyes. "I mean, how hard is it to write a quick note and send a hawk our way?"
"Next time, we'll send two hawks to be sure you get the message," Hakoda smiled. He and Bato bowed to the two officers. They responded with their own bow and they turned to leave the deck. Hakoda and Bato parted, then walked toward the piloting deck.
Aang smiled with relief. "Sorry, Toph. You were right."
She waved him away. Her ear was pressed against the wall, listening to the officers' conversation as they headed back to their ship on the metal bridge.
"Sir, Admiral Chan has been on leave for two months at Ember Island," The lower soldier stated, confused.
"What? Why doesn't anyone ever tell me anything?" The officer frowned. "Something's not right. They should've known that. I think this is a captured ship. Just stay quiet until we're safely across the ramp." He gave a sneaky grin, and then whispered, "Then we'll sink this ship!"
Toph's blind eyes widened. She jumped up and ran up to the main deck.
She twisted the metal below her feet on the deck, sending a wave of vibrations through the cracked iron in the direction of the bridge. It knocked out the bridge cleanly, bringing it down into the sea and the officers along with it.
Jumping in, Katara rushed to help. In a complex move of waterbending, she swished her arms frantically in the air around her, creating a massive hill of seawater between the two ships. She then jerked her hands downward, moving the hill so that it pushed the Fire Navy vessel away and into the opposite current.
Aang stepped forward to join them, but Sokka and Lee grabbed each of his shoulders.
"We can't afford to lose our cover," Sokka explained.
Alone, Mai sat by a small turtle duck pond. Normally she hated the place, but today she knew it was a good place to think.
"Getting comfortable?" A familiar voice startled her from behind. "Glad to be back home?"
"I suppose so," Mai drawled as she scooted to make room for Azula on the grass next to her.
"Well, that's a shame. We won't be staying long," Azula stated.
"What do you mean?"
"Father's sending me on a rather important mission, and I was hoping you'd join me." Azula smirked as she picked up a stone that was lying beside her in the dirt. "I know how much you're just dying to settle a personal score with Zuko."
Mai pursed her lips and looked at the pond. "What mission is this?"
"Oh, it's quite simple, really. Zuko's been brainwashed by Uncle, the Avatar, and his friends and it is our assigned duty to… bring him back to the light." Azula threw the stone into the pond centimeters away from a turtle duck's head. The creatures immediately began quacking loudly.
"Oh, shut up," Mai said.
"Ty Lee's already in. What do you say?" Azula grinned. She already knew the answer.
"Yay!" Ty Lee jumped into the scene, clapping. "Just the three of us, off on our own again! This'll be fun!"
"You can count on that," Azula whispered to herself with an evil smirk.
"That was a close call for us," Hakoda confided with the group after discussing their actions with Sokka, Katara, Toph, and Lee. "But at least Aang is still hidden from the Fire Nation."
"And hidden from us too," Toph added. "Where'd he go, anyway?"
Katara felt a cold rush of wind. She shivered and then glanced up at the sky that was just beginning to brighten into a sunrise. By a cloud, a dark silhouette in the shape of a glider was soaring away from their ship. She froze for a moment and then ran to the ship's railing.
"Aang!" She cried out. The shape in the sky kept soaring away without a flinch.
He was only endangering them all. Leaving his friends was the only option if they were going to survive this war.
"It's the only way!" Aang yelled into the wind as he struggled to gain back the air current that was letting him fly in the direction he wanted. Pushing forward, he blew his own gust of air to redirect the wind, but it only returned to blowing in its initial direction, against Aang's wishes. Before he knew it the powerful wind sent him careening down into the depths. He landed with a splash into the sea and quickly bobbed to the surface. Gasping for breath, he held his glider firmly and pulled himself on top of it for support.
Letting his eyelids fall from tiredness, Aang whispered, "I can't do any of this… I've failed."
"You have not failed, Aang." Aang's eyes jerked open. The shimmering spirit of Avatar Roku floated before him.
"Yes I have. I'm injured and useless. All because of my stupid mistakes." Aang's face looked sullen. "If I had mastered the Avatar State, like I was supposed to, Azula wouldn't have taken over Ba Sing Se. We would all be safe, and I wouldn't have this hole in my back."
"Aang, it was my mistakes that gave you this dangerous life. If I had stopped this war early on, like I was supposed to, you would have a much easier destiny," Avatar Roku confessed. "But you are destined to redeem me, and redeem me you shall. Your destiny is to save our world."
"But I'm losing this war. Everyone thinks I'm dead again. I don't know if I can…"
"But you've already saved the world." Another spirit joined them. Behind Aang stood Princess Yue. "And you'll save it again. You can't give up." She lowered her glowing hands to Aang's forehead in blessing. His arrow tattoo glowed momentarily then went out as he lifted his head and looked at Yue.
"You're right." He looked towards Roku. "I can't give up. We can't give up." Shooting out of the water without his glider, Aang flew into the pink sky like an arrow. Yue and Roku smiled after him.
"He just…left us." How could he be so stupid?" Katara ranted, upset. She sat on the sandy beach of a newly discovered island, clutching her knees to her chest. The rest of the crew stood near her, not knowing what to do. Hakoda stepped forward to comfort his daughter, but Zuko ran forward the quickest.
"Katara, there's nothing we could do."
"How could he?" Katar gasped as tears ran down her face.
"Maybe that's his way of being brave," Hakoda sat next to Katara. She turned away.
"It's not brave, it's selfish, and stupid. We could be helping him. And I know the world needs him, but doesn't he know how much that we need him too? How could he just leave us behind?"
Hakoda frowned in realization. "You're talking about me too, aren't you?"
Katara turned to her father at last, crying. "How could you leave us, Dad? I mean, I know we had Gran Gran, and she loved us, but...but we were just so lost without you. I understand why you left, I really do, but-"
Hakoda pulled Katara into a strong hug. "I am so sorry, Katara," he whispered. "I love you more than anything. You and your brother are my entire world. I thought about you every day I was gone, and every night when I went to sleep. I would lay awake missing you so much, it would ache." He pulled her away and held her by the shoulders. "Never forget how much I love you both. Now, about the Avatar-"
"I'm here." Aang walked down the beach with a determined look on his face. His glider was nowhere in sight.
"You're okay!" Katara ran up to him and embraced him tightly. "Never do that again. We were worried sick."
"Avatar, there's something I need to tell you." Zuko stepped forward. "My name is not really Lee. My name is Prince Zuko from the Fire Nation. Katara healed my scar back in Ba Sing Se. I'm here to help you all defeat my father."
Aang broke away from Katara and gave Zuko a good look. He smiled. "I'm glad."
"That's it? You're just accepting him?" Sokka complained.
"Come on… It took me two whole weeks to get used to the face that he was on our team," Sokka wailed. Everyone laughed.
"We'll be meeting up with you all on the day of the eclipse," Hakoda stated. "We wish you the best of luck. Katara," He smiled. "Take care of the Avatar. And Prince Zuko," He sighed. "Watch over Katara."
"Hey, what's…oh," Toph grabbed something out of the water. "It's your glider." It lay broken and damaged from the sea in her grasp. She handed it to Aang.
"It's okay. If someone saw it, it would give away my identity. It's better for now that no one knows I'm alive." With a sad look, Aang took the glider from Toph and flew up the nearby slope. He stuck the glider firmly into the glowing lava at the top, and with one last look, flew back to his friends.
END OF CHAPTER 1.
A/N: Coments/Reviews are loved here... but no flames, s'il vous plait. -FA