Alright, disclaimer, you know the deal- I don't own anything except this little chunk of fan fiction. If you don't understand this part, then don't worry, you're not supposed to- Thanks for forcing me to write this thing, /a/.
Aang stared into the mirror as he straightened out his robes for the 10th time this hour- it helped him to block out Sokka's objections behind him.
"Aang, you can't be serious about this- there's no possible way we can protect you out there!" Aang sighed, fidgeting slightly with the sash acting as his belt- he had changed from the heavy yellow robes he had received in Ba Sing Se into the outfit he had worn during the last days of the war. As long as he wore these, the people at the festival outside would most likely assume he was in costume, like so many of the citizens enjoying the celebration in the streets below.
Aang let his gaze leave the mirror, and Sokka's supremely frustrated expression, and looked out at the moon- lit party goers in the alleys of the city. Sokka slid into his field of vision once again, obviously tired of Aang avoiding his questions. "Aang, this is serious, alright? You're not allowed to stare lovingly at your admirers until you convince me you haven't gone crazy"
Aang averted his gaze once again to the mirror, and then paced towards the window where Sokka stood. "Look, I know that this must seem like a stupid idea to you-"
Sokka interrupted loudly, grabbing Aang's shoulders and spinning him around to face him. "This isn't a stupid idea! This isn't even remotely close to being a stupid idea! This is suicide, at best! If you go into that crowd we have no way to know what she might do."
Aang looked up at Sokka's eyes, wide with confusion and worry more than anger. "Sokka, that's the point. Trust me, this is the best way to handle this."
Sokka gritted his teeth, and decided to stop biting back what he had been wanting to say for the last month. "Aang, I know you're the Avatar and all, and that you seem to enjoy trying to help with the insane lightning throwing ex-princess, but it seems to me that the best way to handle this is to lock her away in a hole somewhere and throw away the key!"
He cut Aang off again- When he talked in that tone of voice usually meant some spiritual lecture that he wasn't in the mood for right now. "Aang, you could do it. Take her bending from her like you did Ozai. You could make sure she never gets another chance to hurt anyone, and instead you're going to take her to a celebration of the end of the war?! Aang, you're just begging for a disaster here!"
Aang shrugged out of Sokka's grasp, and put his hand on the window, watching the party for a few seconds. "Look, Sokka, I need you to understand something- what I did to Ozai, I did because I had to. In all honestly, I don't think that removing his bending was much better than killing him- I reached into his spirit and I changed it, Sokka. It seems so... wrong."
Sokka looked at the floor for a moment, trying to think of another way to handle Azula- anything but this. "Aang, I-"
This time, Aang cut in on him. "I could stop her if anything happened- but I won't have to. Nothing is going to happen as long as all the guards stay away for one night- I have to go with her alone"
"Aang, WHY alone?" Sokka looked out the window again- at the crowds of cheering and dancing Earth Kingdom citizens, noticing a surprising number of them dressed up like Aang. He had to admire the costumes, at least- they were almost all perfect matches for the orange and yellow robes Aang was wearing. At least he didn't have to worry about Aang being recognized out there. One especially energetic child even had a menacing scar painted over the sloppily painted arrow running on his back-
That was all it took to snap Sokka back to the problem at hand. He glanced back at Aang, noticing the very real scar that ran from the small of his back up to the middle of his shoulder blades, and spread out like a target in every direction. Sokka inwardly noted that it looked far more gruesome and menacing in person than it did painted on the child down in the streets. It had been fading, lately, but nothing like that could ever really go away.
"Sokka... I have to do it alone because it's the only way to prove I trust her."
"Why would you trust her?! She tried to kill all of us! She captured Suki! She tried to kill Mai! She almost killed Zuko! She tried to kill Katara!"
Aang winced. "Sokka-"
"And she Did kill you, Aang! The only thing that brought you back was that we were lucky enough to still have the spirit water from the North Pole on hand!"
Aang remained silent for a few seconds, and absently lifted his left arm around to his back, feeling the twisting mark burning across his back. It never really stopped burning, he had found- it was a constant, gnawing sort of heat. Just enough to make sure he remembered it was there.
"Sokka, it's... different, now. She's not like she was before-"
Sokka shot him a bewildered glance. "Are you kidding? She's exactly the same! You can't even look at her without getting shot a death glare! She hates everyone and everything good in the world!"
Aang sighed again, rubbing one hand along the arrow marking on his head. "Sokka, trust me on this one, alright? That's just the kind of person she is- she's cold. But she's not evil- just... misguided." Sokka shot Aang another glare.
"Zuko was misguided, Aang. Zuko tried to save our lives-"
"Zuko attacked us more times than Azula did, if you go back and count." Aang smiled playfully up at Sokka, hoping to lighten the mood in the tense room- instead, Sokka took on a stern, scolding face and walked briskly past Aang to the doorway, placing his hand on it and turning to face the Avatar.
"Aang... just tell me one thing. Can you make sure that nothing horrible is going to happen out there tonight? And I mean Positive?"
Aang looked out the window for a few seconds, then back at his reflection again, before setting his gaze on Sokka and the door he was barring. "Sokka, anything could happen out there- but I can tell you that it won't be because of her."
Sokka stood for a few seconds, scratched his head, put his face in both of his hands... and finally looked up at Aang defeated. "...Alright. Just... just be careful. And... good luck, I guess"
Aang gave a solemn nod before opening the door and stepping outside, being sure to leave his staff by the door. If he was going to do this, he had to do it right, after all. He glanced back at Sokka as he walked out the doorway. "Thanks, Sokka. And if it makes you feel better, if we aren't in by the time the party is over, then you can come looking for us with the whole Earth Kingdom army if you want."
Sokka shook his head again, and grinned despite himself. "If you aren't back by then, I think Katara would tear the town apart herself looking for you." Aang smiled again and turned, gently hopping and gliding down the stairs almost weightlessly. Now all that was left... was to wait until she arrived. Aang gulped, nervously.