Fool for Love
wanna have fun
Haru ignored Ty Lee, just like he'd been ignoring Mai since they'd boarded the stupid boat to stupid Ember Island. He was not a happy man. Not only had he been shaved and forced to dress like a girl, Mai's reasons for doing it were perfectly sound, and thus he couldn't hate her for it.
It wasn't fair. He'd hoped to be able to find and free his father, or if that wasn't possible, return to the Earth Kingdom and work on freeing Omashu. But because he was such a romantic fool, he'd chosen to save two enemies, and now he was stuck with them. Granted, Ty Lee wasn't so very bad — she kept trying to make friends — but Mai…
She was taking an almost obscene glee in dressing him like a girl, he felt. Or he would feel that way if she'd show any emotion at all. He'd never met anyone as unreadable as—
"Haruka!" Ty Lee's hand came down on his shoulder, and he jumped. When had she got so close? Stupid metal ship. Stupid shoes. Stupid Fire Nation.
…oh, spirits, he realised. I'm sulking.
He turned around and forced a small smile for her. "Sorry, Chiyo," he said, careful to keep his voice higher-pitched. Mai had refused to let him out of the cabin until he could passably sound like a low-voiced girl. "I was lost in thought."
She didn't smile back. "We need to talk," she said, sliding her hand into his and pulling him down to the room the three of them shared. Mai was not present.
Ty Lee sat him down on one of the beds and then took a seat across from him, looking at him so seriously that Haru straightened, one hand self-consciously going to his throat, which still bore the marks of the chain that had nearly taken his life. She frowned as he did this, and Haru quickly jerked his hand away. "What about?"
He stared at her, but she was still utterly serious. "…you're kidding, right?"
"No, I'm not. When I saw you that first time it was red and blue, very pretty. But now it's lavender, being choked off by grey."
"And that's… bad?" He assumed it was, anyway. He wasn't so sure about the lavender part, but the word 'choked' had been used, and given what had happened to him in that prison…
"It's very bad, Haruka," she told him. "The lavender isn't really surprising, but the grey… you're feeling trapped, aren't you? Like things are out of your control?"
"I'm not," he objected instantly, trying to ignore the fact that she barely knew him and yet managed to pinpoint him so accurately.
She ignored his objection. "Haruka, you're a good person. Anyone can see that, even M— even Thuy. I don't like what's happening to you."
"Look, Chiyo, I'm fine. Honest. You don't have to worry about me," Haru told her. "You should worry about yourself. You and your friend have both been branded traitors. And then you escaped. They'll be trying to kill you now."
"They'll try to kill you too," Ty Lee replied. "You got us out. You did the impossible and bent metal."
"It's not that impossible. Toph's been trying to teach me the trick since the Day of Black Sun. It just… took me awhile to understand it. That's all."
Air gone can't breathe hurts gonna die not time yet mom dad the store Katara gotta get out need to bend no earth only metal everyone says that it's impossible to bend metal, but that's a lie, Angelface," says Toph, circling him. "Metal comes from earth, and therefore it is earth. It's harder to manipulate, but it's incredibly possible. You're going to die it hurts one knee hits the ground and the metal vibrates metal comes from earth you should be able to do it, and when I'm done with you, you will do it. One metalbender won't be enough to win this war. You're going to achieve enlightenment, Angelface, if I have to beat it into you." no air can't breathe the boot on his back forces him to the ground I can't die here he wraps his fingers around the chain I won't die here and tries to pull it off but he can't get a grip I can't the chain is pulled tighter and the force on his back increases and it hurts even more gonna die everything is going black dad he can't think anymore Katara and in the moment of acceptance metal is earth he feels what Toph had been trying to show him all along.
"… a long while," Haru added, rubbing his throat again.
Ty Lee reached out and caught his hand. "Everyone reaches enlightenment differently," she told him, drawing it away from his neck. "But steeping yourself in negativity so soon afterwards stifles and warps it. If you're not careful, you could lose it."
He met her eyes, and stared.
Katara had told him about a frightening girl who could take bending away. Sokka had told him about a flirtatious girl who cheated when she fought. Aang had told him about a girl who performed amazing acrobatic feats and was nearly as fast as any airbender. Toph had told him about an airhead.
Nobody had mentioned that she had incredible spirituality of a kind all but unknown these days.
"Can't you go for two minutes without flirting?"
Ty Lee let go of Haru's hand, and both of them turned to see Mai lounging against the door. "Come on," the shuriken expert said. "We're almost there."
"…this could be a problem," said Haru.
"No kidding," replied Mai.
All three of the teenagers stared at the squad of Fire Nation soldiers gathered on the dock, looking over each of the disembarking passengers. "So what do we do?" Ty Lee wanted to know.
They all looked at each other for a moment, then as one body looked down at the water.
"Why can't your nation be connected?" Haru asked wearily as the trio dragged themselves onto the shore.
"Because it's a volcanic archipelago, and thus by definition it isn't connected," Mai replied.
"The question was rhetorical, Thuy…"
A few feet in front of them, Ty Lee was stretching and bouncing slightly, much refreshed after their little dip in the ocean. Haru and Mai paused for a moment to stare incredulously at the acrobat. "Does anything ever—?" Haru began.
"No. Never," Mai said dryly. "Welcome to my life."
Haru shook his head and wrung out his hair. "Can I stop dressing in drag now?"
"Let me think about it. No." The earthbender swung his head to glance at Mai. Her face was still without expression, but he could have sworn he'd seen a small smile vanishing. And there had definitely been some amusement in her tone that he had just barely heard. No, wait, now she was smirking at him. "You make a very pretty girl."
Haru groaned, and then Ty Lee was in front of him, grinning and taking his hands. "Come on, Haruka! You'll like it here, it's very peaceful—"
"When there aren't soldiers out looking to capture us again," Mai said. "Don't forget, Chiyo, that we've got to stay careful."
"I know." She grinned at the older girl. "I'll be careful, Thuy, I promise." And then she was dragging Haru off after her, heedless of his protests.
Mai's eyes narrowed as she trailed behind them. Ty Lee was naturally bouncy, but not that bouncy. Something about their new ally was worrying her, and she was determined to fix whatever it was.
And if she could do it without alerting him, so much the better.
There was something special about Ty Lee, something Azula had never really taken notice of or even appreciated. The younger girl had always spoken of auras and what she saw from childhood, and though she didn't speak much of it these days, she understood the meaning behind the auras now. Mai had been sceptical at first, but then they'd all come to Ember Island — was that only a few months ago? — and Ty Lee had seen right through Mai's front, the front she'd been wearing for years, and later had indicated that she'd known all along.
Mai wondered suddenly what Ty Lee had seen in Azula before she'd disabled the princess.