Author's Note: I wanted to get this chapter up over a week ago, but because of work, it didn't happen. Hopefully, the next chapter won't take as long. Enjoy!

Chapter 20: The Battle Begins

Ikuo spotted Ayame ahead of him, and he ran up to meet her. Ayame turned towards him, startled at the sound he was making in the otherwise quiet hallway.

"I see you're ready," Ikuo murmured as they walked. It was a somewhat odd thing to say, but his mind didn't usually want to work right when he was around Ayame.

"Yep," she replied a little shortly. He could tell by the look on her face that she was in an extremely bad mood. Who wasn't right now?

Suddenly, he knew he had to do what he'd been to scared to do for the past year. The problem was his mouth and vocal cords were refusing to cooperate with each other.

They continued down the hall in complete silence. It was beginning to become slightly awkward. Finally, Ikuo gave up on even trying to form words. He put his hand on Ayame's shoulder to prevent her from moving forward. She looked up at him in surprise. Her eyes widened as she saw him beginning to lean towards her. Before she could react any further, his mouth was on hers.

He could feel her freeze in shock as soon as their lips were touching. For a second or two, he thought she would pull away. He wouldn't have been surprised if she'd slapped him and stormed off. She surprised him by actually deepening the kiss after her initial shock had worn off.

After a moment or two, Ayame broke off the kiss and crossed her arms across her chest. "About time, you idiot."

"What?" he asked her in slight confusion.

"I've been waiting for you to do that for over a year," she explained in exasperation.

"Really?" he asked in shock.

"Yes, really!" Ayame threw her hands up in frustration, "Are you capable of speaking more than one word?"

"Yes," Ikuo wanted to add more, so he could prove his point, but nothing seemed to want to come out.

Ayame seemed to have become amused by now. She was smiling at him slightly as he tried to figure everything out in his head.

"Don't you have something you want to ask me?" Ayame said with barely contained laughter in her voice.

"Huh?" Ikuo asked. Then it dawned on him. "Oh! Ayame, will you go out with me?"

"Finally," Ayame said half in exasperation and half in happiness, "Yes, Ikuo. I would love to go out with you."

"Great," Ikuo replied as a large smile spread across her face.

"I see we're back to the one word responses," Ayame smirked as she took his hand and led him down the hallway again. She was beginning to give his sister a run for her money in the sarcasm department.

He walked happily down the hallway with his new girlfriend. For a moment, he'd managed to completely forget why they had both even been heading down the hallway in the same direction anyway.

XX

"Make sure you don't leave here," Zuko told the children sternly.

They had all finally gathered in the bunker. The children were all huddled in a tight group on the ground. They seemed to feel safer if they were in a small, condensed group. Their parents stood over them as they gave them a quick lecture over safety, as if they could get away with anything while they were locked away in this place.

"There will be guards outside of the bunker," Aang explained, "Don't allow anyone in, even if they claim to be on our side. One of us," he motioned to the other adults standing around him, "will come and get you all. Don't open that door unless you know for sure that one of us is on the other side."

The kids all nodded. The younger ones were all crying while the older ones struggled to hold their own tears back.

"Haruki will be right outside the door," Zuko continued, "He'll let you know if anything happens. You can trust him."

Zuko looked at Haruki, who was standing near the door, as he spoke. Haruki looked down, unable to meet his girlfriend's father's eyes.

The children exchanged tearful goodbyes with their parents before they left, locking them in the bunker.

"How long do you think we'll be in here?" Kuuya whispered. There was really no need to be quiet. The enemy was no where near them, at least not yet, and even if the enemy was right outside the door, they'd have to shout to be heard. Still, all of them felt compelled to whisper.

"I don't know," Ai replied, "But it will probably be a while. Anyone know of a way to pass the time?"

They all looked around at each other. No one said anything.

"All right then," Ai continued after a pause. She sighed in exasperation, "I guess we'll just sit here then."

XX

Azula's face broke into a cruel smile as she began to make out the outline of the palace in the distance. She turned towards her father and saw a similar cruel expression on his own face. He grinned at her, "Finally, the time is here to take back what is rightfully ours."

She allowed herself a small chuckle. "It will be a day to remember, father," she said as she spotted Zuko's army marching towards them.

Ozai also allowed himself a small, cruel laugh before yelling, "Attack!"

XX

"What do you think is happening?" Ayame whispered to the others. They were still huddled in a tight group.

"No idea," Hajime answered.

Kazuna held her two-year-old brother, Yuuga, on her lap as she tried to calm him down. He hadn't stopped crying since their parents had left them there. Ichiko felt as if she was about to lose her mind from all of the crying. It didn't help that the four-year-old twins, Toya and Sugi, also looked close to tears at the moment.

Ai reached over for Yuuga. "You need a break," she explained when Kazuna gave her a questioning look. It was true that Kazuna was beginning to tire of her useless attempts at comfort, but she was still reluctant to hand him over to Ai. Nevertheless, a moment later when Kuuya's cries seemed to become even louder, she handed him over to her friend.

"I hate being in here!" Ichiko said through clenched teeth.

"We all do," Ikuo send a glare towards his twin sister.

"What do you think the chances are of Haruki letting us out?" Ichiko asked Ai who would obviously know him the best.

"I'd say none," Ai answered as she hugged Kuuya to herself, "He wouldn't disobey my father. He knows he'd never see me again, whether I live or die, if he did. In fact, he probably wouldn't live." Then, she went back to comforting Kuuya.

"Wouldn't he want to listen to you though?" Ichiko continued on, "I mean, you could get mad at him too."

"I think I'd be a lot more forgiving than my father the Fire Lord," Ai said.

Ichiko sighed, "There's no way we're getting out of here, is there?"

"I would say not," said Hajime as he squeezed his girlfriend's hand in an attempt at comforting her.

"Hey!" Akatsuki exclaimed as his head suddenly jerked up from where it had been resting on his hand, "Ikuo, has you're mom taught you any metal bending?"

"A little. Why?" Ikuo asked before it finally dawned on him what Akatsuki meant. "No way! I'm not any good yet. It won't work."

"I don't care," Ichiko said with sudden excitement in her voice as she stood up, "You're trying it." She grabbed a fistful of Ikuo's clothes and pulled him up. "If you screw this up, you're no longer my brother."

"If that's the case," Ikuo grumbled as he made his way towards the door, "I'll screw up on purpose."

XX

It was a scene of utter chaos. Everywhere you looked there seemed to be dead bodies. Neither side seemed to have a higher death toll than the other, not that it was easy to count from the emaciated bodies that covered the ground all over the capital city.

A spectator of the battle would view two very well-matched forces fighting in a battle that seemed to be going no where. The Fire Nation Army had numbers on their side, but the rebels made up for that with their determination. It seemed that the forces would destroy each other and leave no one left to actually be declared a winner.

In the five hours that had past, the Fire Nation Army had stopped the rebels from advancing further into the capital, but they hadn't succeeded in pushing them back either.

At this point, there was no telling which way this battle would go.

Author's Note: Thanks Astropuppy for reviewing last chapter!

Only two chapters and an epilogue left!