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If Only

"… So… how long do you think it'll be before someone finds us?"

The question was casual, if perhaps a little cautious; Azula gave the Waterbender sitting across from her a mere flickering glance before turning her eyes patiently back to the sky, wincing a little in pain as blood dripped from her numerous wounds but making sure she showed no outward signs of discomfort.

After all, the young woman sitting with her was the enemy. It was as simple as that.

The sky above was painted various shades of orange and red, indicating the setting of the sun and the coming of night. As she sat there, Azula heard the Waterbender swallow quietly, her eyes fixed anxiously on the horizon and her blue eyes gleaming nervously. She was covered in just as much blood as Azula and was doing her best not to speak about it; but Azula could sense the tension in her body. After a moment, the former Firebending prodigy sighed softly.

"I'm sure we'll be found soon," she murmured, looking away from the sky to meet the Waterbender's gaze. "From the sound of it, my father is dead. It's only a matter of time before Zuzu insists on searching for survivors."

The Waterbender blinked before nodding silently, obviously surprised by Azula's voice; she honestly hadn't expected the former Princess to say anything at all. "How are your hands?" she asked, testing unfamiliar ground again. Narrowing her eyes, Azula wordlessly held up her palms, so bloodied and bruised that merely sparking a small flame caused her whole body to throb in agony. The Waterbender winced. "Sorry," she murmured. "I'd heal them, but…" She held up her own hands, sporting very ugly looking burns that no doubt hurt just as much as Azula's cuts.

Azula felt a swift pang of guilt and blinked in surprise, quietly leaning back against a tree. Well, this was new. She hadn't felt guilt in a long, long time. Actually, she couldn't honestly remembering feeling it at all in her life.

But the feeling came and went quickly, and she spared it no more thought.

Silence took its place between the unlikely pair and continued to grow and lengthen as the fiery colors overhead faded to the more peaceful hue of purple and blue, indicating that sun had passed the horizon and the moon was beginning its slow descent. Azula wasn't worried; even with the moon, the Waterbender's strength would be hampered by her injured hands. Any attempt to Waterbend on her part would only cause pain.

As the darkness began to stretch out and stars speckled the night sky, the Waterbender grew steadily restless, her eyes shifting from the grass to seek out the light of the stars and moon. Even as her eyes focused on those beams of light she started to tremble slightly, small tremors really, and didn't stop. At some point, it started to get irritating, and Azula narrowed her eyes.

"Why are you doing that?"

The sharp tone she'd intended didn't come through, instead giving in to something more curious, in a neutral kind of way. Evidently the Waterbender heard her, but she didn't tear her eyes away from the stars and the moon as if her life depended on it.

"Because." Her voice was soft, but there was a quaver to it that hadn't been there before. "I don't like the dark. I… remember things when it's dark. So… as long as I can look at the light of the stars, and the moon, I'm okay." She blew out a long, ragged breath. "It helps me forget."

Azula said nothing, just staring at the other girl for a moment; what she meant by those words, the Princess didn't know, and somehow she had the feeling she didn't want to know. Everyone had scars, and frankly, she wasn't interested in getting to the heart of the ones this Waterbender bore.

But still… looking at the stars and the moon like that, constantly, was bad for one's health. And… well, Azula didn't want to be blamed for some stupid neck problem the Waterbender would get if she kept her head tilted back like that until help came.

For her, it made sense.

"Hey." She snapped her fingers, causing the Waterbender to jerk and look away from the sky. "Look here."

And then, ignoring the burst of pain, Azula summoned a flame to life, wincing and gritting her teeth as agony washed through her arm but ignoring it; the Waterbender's eyes widened and she unknowingly scooted closer, drawn to the flame's light; then she remembered the state of Azula's hands. "Wait, stop! Your hands! If you keep it up, you'll—"

"Shut up."


"What part of shut up do you not comprehend?"

The Waterbender flinched, but her mouth was shut; Azula closed her eyes. "Thank you," she murmured. The warmth against her palm, the familiarity of it, was soothing even if it made her ache; the fact that the Waterbender had ceased her tremors was a nice bonus, too.

For a moment they sat that way, saying nothing; to amuse herself, ignoring the pain yet again, Azula used her other hand to conjure regular orange flames before, with a single flick of her wrist, making them mingle with the blue fire; the combination was a unique creation of orange/blue, the blue fire becoming the center heart of the orange flames. As a result of the mix, the light around the area grew brighter, the warmth more apparent around them.

"Why are you doing this?"

The Waterbender's voice was soft, but when Azula opened her eyes to look at her, her gaze was steady and sure. The Firebending prodigy blinked several times, unsure of what to say, before lifting her shoulders in a slight shrug and causing her abused spine to shriek in protest. "Why shouldn't I do it?"

To Azula, it was as simple as that. After a moment, the Waterbender settled back down and, much to the young Firebender's everlasting relief, didn't say another word; she just continued to gaze into the flames, and after awhile Azula closed her eyes again.

Not long after, the light of her fire alerted Zuko, Aang, and the search party to their whereabouts, and they were rescued.

It wasn't until later the next day that Azula realized that she'd never gotten the girl's name.

If things had been different, she mused idly as she listened to her brother and uncle discuss how to peacefully end the war with the least amount of backlash, we could have been friends.

The End


Finally wrote this just to get it out of my system... some friendship based Azutara. I blame Fire Lord Azula, I was browsing her profile and this came to me...

Yes, I know Azula AND Katara might be OOC.

Read and review, please!