This chapter took forever to write- I officially hate writing anything dramatic and/or romantic. For those of you who like to leave reviews- point out any mistakes you notice, so I can run back to fix them.
Katara awoke with a start- there was some kind of commotion outside the room... wait, she was in a room? She groggily stood up, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed- where... was she? There was a mirror, and... a large window. There were lanterns hanging outside- it was morning, so they weren't lit. Stretching, she noticed something- her neck was sore. She rubbed it absently- it felt like a small bruise. Again, something from outside the room- it sounded like an argument. She walked slowly to the door- she could make out the voices now, but she wished her head would clear a bit more- she still had no idea where she was.
Suki stood firmly between Sokka and Toph in the small hallway of the inn- they had been arguing for quite some time now, which was understandable- he had, after all, come back from being stuck to a roof for half of the night, only to find that his best friend had apparently gotten romantically entangled with the former princess of the Fire Nation, who was as of now a war criminal and an inmate at an asylum. He had a surprisingly easy time dealing with that when he had finally been made to believe it- mainly because he was now focused on the fact that his girlfriend had knocked his sister unconscious while all this was going on.
Suki put a hand on Sokka's shoulder, trying to calm him down, and spoke in her most sympathetic tone. "She was going to attack them, Sokka, we didn't really have much of a choice about it-"
He shrugged out of her grasp. "She was trying to protect Aang! Unlike you two, obviously, who took it upon yourselves to rub out half of the people who were supposed to be guarding him-"
Toph cut him off with a smirk, shifting against the wall. "You know, I can't seem to remember him calling out to be rescued while we were there."
Katara's eyes narrowed- okay, that had done the trick. The last thing she could remember before waking up here- Aang... and Azula had shoved him down, was laying on top of him with that smirk, and exactly what was he doing- That must have been when they got her. She felt the back of her neck again... It had to have been Suki. She shoved the door open roughly, stepping into the hallway- she noticed the sudden silence and ignored it, instead looking for the next door she could find and rushing towards it.
Exhausted, laying face down in a pillow just down the hall, Aang tried to remember exactly how long it had been since he slept in a real bed- it must have been three or four days, at least, but now that he was actually getting a chance to rest, he found he couldn't stop his mind from doing all it could to keep him awake. He ground his heel against the bed as hard as he could, and wondered exactly how long that scene of Azula getting dressed- or rather, undressed- was going to keep popping in uninvited.
It seemed his thoughts had grown accustomed to that method of expelling them, however- instead of allowing him to clear his head like usual, the feeling of his foot pushing against the blanket simply made him remember the feeling of Azula's dress when she shoved him to the ground. Trying to ignore it simply brought him to the kiss- not the first or second- he had been taken by surprise. The third was forceful- he had tried to avoid that one... hadn't he? But the fourth... he hadn't fought her at all. And then the fifth- the last- that one was his. He shook his head again, letting the realization settle- he had kissed her. Azula.
He could feel his heart racing- he put a hand to his head, feeling his face burning, and ran a hand along the cool blue arrow marking his scalp- what was it that he should do? What should he be feeling, now? He slumped against the bed again- he loved Katara, not a doubt in his mind, but if what he felt for Katara was love, then... didn't that mean that he loved Azula, too? He rubbed his jaw, absently- it wasn't like the thought had never crossed his mind. In the time he'd gotten to know her, she had been an amazing- he shook his head- but he wasn't supposed to be in love with her. And she definitely wasn't supposed to be in love with him- the idea sent shivers down his spine, and it took him a moment to realize that he was smiling when he did so. He was supposed to be better than this- he glared at himself coldly in the small mirror, and noticed his bruises were coming in at last.
He removed the top of his robes, checking himself out- aside from the large bruises, he had several small cuts in his right shoulder and a few small cuts in his cheek from Azula's fingernails. As soon as he started remembering the feeling of her nails against the back of his neck, he laid his face in his hands, slowly rubbing his eyes- he definitely needed some rest. There was no way to sort all of this out now, when so much had happened- he wondered what Katara was going to do when she woke up, and found himself wringing his hands.
He had learned all about what happened from Toph and Suki when everyone got back and settled- he was still amazed at the act they had managed to put on for Azula, considering all that had happened, but to make things easier they had waited to rescue Sokka until after she had retired to her room and he could be dealt with more discreetly. Katara, though, was still unconscious- they didn't have a choice, they needed to keep her from attacking and blowing their cover... but Aang was more worried about the fact that when it had been happening, he hadn't considered that the others might have seen them- or was he just too caught up to care?
He grabbed his staff from beside the bed and tried to stand, suddenly- there was no point to it, really, he just couldn't clear his head enough to sleep right now. He started towards the window and shut the small curtains, hobbling with the glider on the way- his foot really hurt, for some reason. He looked down and noticed the stains of red on the dark stone floor, sighing- of course, he would have had to tear the wound open again before it even got a chance to start healing properly. The sound of the door cracking behind him caused him to spin around too quickly- it took his eyes a moment to adjust to the light in the hall.
"...Katara!" He smiled widely, completely forgetting his exhaustion- he took a step forward awkwardly, forgetting to use his staff, and his knee buckled- quickly, he pulled himself up, hoping it was too dark in the small room for her to notice his slip. "Are you alright?"
Katara stared into the room, attempting to let her eyes adjust to the darkness for a few moments, speaking as nonchalantly as she could manage. "Of course I am- Suki just knocked me out for a few hours, it looks like. Nothing permanent."
Aang stared straight ahead, trying not to let her see the way his smile twitched at her voice. She was definitely angry- he expected that. He sat back down against the bed, glider in hand, sighing in relief- at least she as alright. "...That's good, then."
Katara glared at Aang- she tried to stay angry, she really did. She was planning to rush in here and berate him, ask him what he was thinking- but something about him threw her off, and she found herself softening. She closed the door behind her, shutting off the light from the hallway now, and as she became accustomed to the dark room she could see him more clearly- he was bruised along the chest and shoulder- he had cuts in his cheek and his chest- she was taken aback when she noticed the sound of a small drip, and noticed the blood from his heel already at work staining the floor beneath him. She stared intently at the ground, biting her lip. "...Do you need me to heal you?"
Aang glanced up, smiling again- it sounded like she was feeling slightly less angry, even if it was just out of the pity he must have inspired- he was in pretty sad shape right now. "No, I don't even have any water nearby- and the air here is so dry it'd take a while to get any that way- so don't worry about it. I'll be fine."
Katara's eye twitched slightly at this. "Fine. Just like those scars on your arm and your chest are fine, then?"
Aang was surprised at the sudden bitterness in her voice. "...Those? Those are nothing-"
"Nothing wouldn't have left a scar." She was staring him down, now, and he could feel the air thickening. "Why didn't you come and see me when you got them? You know I could have healed them in a few minutes, at most- then you would be fine, and they'd be nothing."
Aang stood again, firm this time, meeting her gaze. "I was dealing with a riot in the Earth Kingdom- I didn't really have the time to swing by the Southern Water Tribe afterwards-"
"Had to run and visit Azula, right?" Her voice was smug, taunting.
Aang sighed in frustration, furrowing his eyebrows. "Yes, I was almost late for her therapy that day."
Katara scoffed at him, ignoring the obvious way he was getting more and more tense. "Look at you- you're a wreck! You could at least take a rest- I can see the bags under your eyes, even in this light."
Aang took a deep breath, trying to sound as serene as possible. "Because the world needs me to be the Avatar, now- because I have to make up for the last 100 years when I should have been helping them. I have to put what the people of the world need before myself-"
She immediately took a step forward, almost yelling now. "The needs of the world- so why exactly are Azula's needs so important all of a sudden?"
Aang tightened his grip on his glider, knuckles whitening. "Because Zuko asked me to help her-"
Katara clenched her teeth. "Zuko doesn't even want to help her anymore-"
Aang looked away for a moment, stepping towards the mirror. "That's because he doesn't even want Azula back! He just wanted me to walk into her cell and pull out a completely different person that he could tell everyone was his sister- as soon as he realized that it wasn't going to instantly erase every problem they had with each other, he decided it was a waste of time."
Katara stood for a moment, startled, and Aang looked back towards her, his expression softened. "...And after I actually saw her- the condition she was in- I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do everything I could to try and help her."
She readjusted her position, now, crossing her arms. "...So why does it have to be so often? Why is it that you can't take a short break to come and visit everyone- we barely even get to see you now, Aang."
Aang looked down- he was worried he may have been a bit harsh there. "Look- don't take this the wrong way, but I knew you guys could handle yourselves for a while without me. Azula... she needed all the help I could offer."
Katara leaned back a bit- she might as well get to what she wanted to talk to him about, anyways- she sighed, calming herself down. "...So exactly how did telling her all about... well, us, help her?"
Aang grimaced- he had forgotten she heard that part of the conversation. "...Look, I needed to get closer to Azula to help her, alright? That's the only reason I told her about all of that."
Toph stood at the door, listening, amazed- that was a lie. Since when did Twinkletoes lie to Katara? This was starting to get good- she lowered herself, blocking out Sokka and Suki's discussion behind her. She wanted to hear the rest of this- and she definitely wasn't going to let Twinkletoes get out of here without finding out what he was really up to.
Katara could quickly feel herself losing control of what she was saying, but she didn't care at this point. "So, do you think you got close enough to her, yet? Or were you planning to-"
Aang took a step forward, his voice growing louder now, eyes narrowed. "Really? That's what this is all about?!" Katara winced- maybe she had gone a bit far. "I'd never even thought about that before this all happened, Katara!"
Toph was squatting close to the door, disappointed- both of them were so worked up now that she couldn't tell if they were lying or not. She tried to ignore the small pang of guilt that came with hearing the pair yelling at one another- she wondered if she should feel responsible for it at all, but her inner musings were quickly interrupted as Sokka and Suki crowded against the door with her, jostling for the best position to overhear what had now become a very interesting conversation.
Aang looked at the ground, stepping back and sitting on the bed quickly, his face the very picture of remorse. "...Katara- I'm sorry. I didn't-"
She interrupted him, her voice quieter now as well, trying not to look at him. "No, I'm sorry- I was baiting you, I just..."
They sat still in the dark room for a small time, eyes locked on the floor, neither one willing to break the silence. Finally, the soft sounds of rain hitting the window made Katara wrenched her gaze off of the small specks of blood on the stone in front of her, looking at Aang intently. "...So... are you thinking about it now? Her, I mean. And you."
"...I think I am." He slowly opened his eyes, breathing out- somehow, he had expected... something, when he finally said it out loud- a stabbing pain in the chest, or maybe relief- but there was nothing except a renewed silence in the room. Looking at Katara, he could tell she must have been thinking the same thing.
Toph backed away from the door, moving to guard the room Azula was sleeping in- there was nothing else that she needed to hear, anyways.
Katara's voice was still quiet, but the anger and stress had left, now- all Aang could hear was concern, and he was surprised to feel relieved at this. "What if she was lying to you? It could be some kind of trick."
He sat for a second, then smiled, looking back at her. "She's wasn't- and it's not."
Katara leaned forward, resting her hands against the floor. "But how can you be sure? She's so good at it that even Toph can't tell the difference."
"You don't have to use earthbending to know when someone means what they said- especially not something like that." He adjusted himself slightly on the bed, pulling his legs up so that he was in a more comfortable position, and tried not to agitate his foot any more than he had to.
Katara noticed that his bleeding had stopped, now- how long had they been sitting here? She shook her head, standing slowly. "Aang... even if you say it, I don't think I can believe this."
Aang stood slowly, stretching as he did, and straightened his shoulders, still clutching the staff in his hand. "So go hear it from her." Katara's eyes widened, and he smiled. "She's in a room at the end of the hall- sleeping, the last time anyone checked. If you want to decide for yourself whether or not she's serious about it, there's no better way, right?"
Katara shifted her footing uncomfortably, not looking him in the eyes now, and could hear the rain outside starting again. "...And are you going to be there to guard her?"
For the first time in what seemed like ages to him, Aang grinned across the room at her, and his voice returned to it's usual playful tone. "Oh, come on- I trust you. I mean, I also trusted you all not to follow me, but hopefully this has taught you an important lesson." Katara glared up at him, a small smile at the edge of her lips.
Suddenly, Aang waved a hand absently through the air in front of his face, watching it closely. Katara raised an eyebrow at him, and he frowned at her. "Right, I thought something was funny- I'm starting to see double, so- if it's alright with you- I'm going to try to get some rest. We can talk about this as much as we need to later, right?"
Katara nodded gently, still smiling, and put a hand on her hip. "You do that- but first, can I at least take care of that foot?"
Aang looked down, clenching his teeth at the recently re-reopened wound, and sighed heavily, sitting back on the bed with a beaten smirk.
Sokka was standing in the center of the hallway, staring wide-eyed at Suki and Toph, both standing in front of him, hands on their hips. "...So... you mean that Toph really saw-"
"Not saw- but yeah, everything." Toph grinned up at him, and he could feel himself growing faint- that was just-
"...And... why were you watching?!" He glared, doing his best to keep his voice hushed, despite feeling like he could have died from the shame at any moment.
Toph pointed at him accusingly, baring her teeth. "It wasn't like I had much of a choice! I'm just trying to get some sleep, I roll over, and the next thing I know- BAM- there it is!" He tried not to cringe, putting his face in his hands.
Suki put a hand on his arm, trying to calm him down. "Look, Sokka- it's not that big a deal." He looked at her, horrified, and she raised an eyebrow. "...What? I mean, it's not like-" He jabbed a finger over her shoulder, and she suddenly felt a delicate hand resting there.
"Thanks, for earlier- I got a little bit too wound up." Suki recognized Katara's voice and turned, hoping that the other girl hadn't noticed the small yelp she made, only to see her already making her way to the end of the hallway.
It took everyone there a moment to realize what had happened- Suki let out a sigh of relief, smiling warmly. Toph and Sokka just stared, horrified, as she slipped through the doorway at the end of the hall into the pitch black room, disappearing from view before they properly react.
Aang stepped up behind the trio as they all seemed to be frozen- Sokka finally started to make a move for the room, stumbling as he went, and Aang sighed. "Guys-" They whirled to face him. "It's fine. Let her go ahea-"
Sokka's hands were suddenly wrapped around his shoulders, and he was being shaken back and forth violently. "Are you insane?! You know whose room that is!"
Aang grabbed Sokka's arms, stopping him for a moment, and sighed, wondering how many times he was going to have to go over this. "Look, Sokka, I know you're worried, but I' positive that Azula's not going to-"
Sokka stared at him for a moment before slapping his face into his palm, growling in frustration. "Not Azula, Aang- we had to knock Katara out once already because she was trying to freeze you both-"
Suki shot a hand up from behind him. "Actually, it looked more like she was about to use that bloodbending stuff you guys mentioned."
Sokka stood up, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers and clenching his teeth. "Oh, well, that's just wonderful- you know what? New team rule- we never schedule anything important on a full moon from now on. How do we keep giving her excuses to try this stuff out?!"
Aang quickly grabbed Sokka by the shoulders, staring him determinedly in the eyes. "Look- trust me- it's going to be fine. You and Suki just head out to the town for a while- you can go by that nice little restaurant at the plaza! Me and Toph can handle anything that happens here."
Sokka gave him a glare, staring back towards the door at the end of the hall- there hadn't been any damage done yet, at least... and that restaurant had spent half the night taunting him with promises of a particularly well roasted cow hippo steak- and he was really going to have to thank Zuko for exporting those from the Fire Nation later...
Suki gave Aang a quick nod, grabbing Sokka by the arm and dragging him out while he was still lost in thought- Toph just glared as they disappeared slowly down the stairs. "I really hope you weren't expecting to kick back and sleep while I played referee."
Aang gave her a sly grin, not really thinking about whether she could see it or not. "The thought never crossed my mind. Now, you're pretty good at things like this- so what's the best way to spy on that back room without them noticing?"
Toph turned and gave him a quick punch in the arm before returning his grin. "I'm not sure I like what you're implying about me there, Twinkletoes- but are you really sure you want to go spying on those two after all those little speeches about trust?"
Aang waved a hand dismissively at her. "That's totally different- I trust them just fine, as long as they're not together. Katara's got kind of a temper, and Azula is... well, let's just agree she can rub people the wrong way." He noticed Toph snickering, and slapped a palm against his face. "If you don't make that joke, I won't tell Zuko how all of Mai's knives ended up at the bottom of a lake and put her in such an awful mood before the wedding."
Toph tried not not sound too disappointed. "...Fine. There's a room next to hers, right? We can just go in there and crack the walls a little bit- we'll be able to hear everything, and keep hidden, as long as you can keep your knees from shaking too loud."
Aang decided to ignore that. "Alright, then- just lead the way."
Toph took a few steps down the hall, and then slowed to let Aang catch up, grinning. "...So, what way would you say she was rubbing you, Twinkletoes?"
Aang clenched his teeth, ignoring the obvious redness in his face. "You know Zuko is going to make you pay."
"He can try- and it was still worth it." She gave him another quick jab in the arm, and he silently wondered if there was anywhere he wasn't going to be bruised by the end of this mess.
The first thing Katara noticed about the room was how dark it managed to be on her side, while simultaneously being a warm golden color near the window, the light splitting the room almost in half, right across the bed. The second thing she noticed was the bed itself- it was normal enough, until you realized that there were large metal bars sticking out from underneath it, curving up and around like some kind of massive reptile bird-cage. She shook her head, realizing from a sudden glimmer of gold that Azula was already awake, sitting up now and glaring at her half-lidded from the bed.
Katara tried to ignore the sudden dryness in her throat. "Aang- he told us everything."
Azula stared at her for a moment, no reaction visible on her face- then she simply fell backwards against the sheets, arms wide. "So- are you planning to do anything about it? You'd probably be able to get away with it since there aren't any guards, but you should probably hurry-"
Katara put her hands up in front of her in an almost apologetic manner, sighing. "We... we just need to talk about what happened."
Azula sat back up straight again, sliding to the edge of her bed and casually running one of her nails along the metal bars. "No, I think you're the one who needs to talk about it- but I'll be happy to clear up any questions you have anyways."
Katara was surprised- she had walked into this room fully expecting that she'd be getting dragged back out by her friends after making a lunge for Azula's throat- but she wasn't angry with her- she wondered if it was because of the bars between them. "No, we both need to talk about it- for Aang's sake, if nothing else."
Azula stared at her for several moments, placing her hands in her lap, not showing any emotion on her face whatsoever. "...Well, there's no point in dragging this out- the sooner you get started the sooner we can all get back to sleep."
Katara sat herself down in a small chair, trying to decide- where should she start? She'd never honestly expected to get any kind of cooperation out of her in the first place... well, it was best to start off with something simple. "...So, why did Aang tell you about- about me, and him?"
Toph felt Aang tense immediately, and decided she'd have to think of some way to thank Katara later- she couldn't have come up a better way to start it off herself.
Azula smirked, stretching one hand in front of her and seeming to absently admire her nails. "Because I made him."
Katara tried not to give a noticeable reaction. "...Why?"
Azula sighed, leaning back and resting her palms against the edge of the bed. "Knowing you, you've already hassled him about that scar on his arm, right?
Katara sat forward a bit, ignoring Azula's suggestion that she knew her. "That was from a riot in the Earth Kingdom- What does that-"
Azula laughed through the bars so forcefully that Katara rocked back in her chair, startled. "Do you honestly think that a bunch of Earth Kingdom peasants could have inured the Avatar so badly under normal circumstances?" Katara opened her mouth to speak, and Azula put a finger up to shush her. "You're not giving him enough credit, then- he got himself pummeled because he was distracted. Of course I tried to make him tell me what it was that made him so careless- he avoided the question, but by that point we had other things to talk about, and I didn't press the issue. Several sessions later, he came in again- smart enough to hide the bleeding, but he couldn't cover up the problem he was having breathing."
Katara narrowed her eyes, her attention drifting- that scar on his chest-
Azula snapped, bringing her back, and gave her a commanding glare. "So- I made him tell me about that, too. Turns out there was another little riot in the Earth Kingdom- and again, he'd gotten himself banged around because he was distracted. It was obvious that he had to tell someone, or he was just going to get himself pulverized over and over- so I decided to make him tell me."
Katara arched an eyebrow at this. "So why didn't you just let him keep getting injured? It seems like the kind of thing you'd get a kick out of."
Azula let out another small laugh. "Normally, I would have- but I was in an asylum- I don't exactly get much company, and I wasn't going to let one of my only sources of entertainment get himself killed by some unruly little children playing around with their earthbending."
Toph noticed Aang tense up a bit, and wondered if bringing him along to spy on these two was really that great of an idea- well, at least she was going to be getting some entertainment out of this mess.
Katara clenched her hand against her seat. "...So, what was distracting him?"
Azula smirked and tilted her head to the side a bit, her hair tumbling across her shoulders. "You don't really have to ask, do you? He couldn't get over how confused you were making him-" She noticed Katara tensing up and paused for a moment. "...As soon as I actually managed to get him talking about it, he told the whole story- you and your brother finding him in an iceberg, traveling the world with him in an attempt to master waterbending, and all of his mostly futile attempts to get your attention- and of course, the time you beat Zuzu to a pulp at the North Pole, which I have to admit was my favorite part of the story." Katara found herself straining not to smirk at the memory.
Azula shifted a bit, crossing her arms, her smirk fading. "Things got a little more interesting when I pressed him to talk about the two of you specifically, though, and he told me about the time you went chasing after some little earthbender you knew in prison- and forgot about the next day, so apparently that didn't work out." Katara bit her lip, fighting the urge to get up and just leave. "And then you all met up with a dashing young terrorist called Jet." Katara winced, trying not to break eye contact. "Oh, don't be so touchy- he told me you had no way to know what he was planning until after you were wrapped around his finger anyways." Katara glared at her, and Azula raised a hand. "My words, not his." Katara was biting her lip at this point, almost ready to just up and leave- the former princess smirked widely, feeling a bit like her old self again, and continued. "So, by this point, we'd established that you have awful taste- and Aang was still absolutely in love with you."
Azula clenched her fist- she wanted to mention how his love for Katara was directly responsible for his death in Ba Sing Se, but he had made her swear not to tell anyone about that- and for some reason, it seemed needlessly cruel to lay that on her as well. Her nails bit into her palm- that was officially the most ridiculous thing she'd ever thought. "...Did you know that he actually thought you might have had a thing for Zuko?" Katara's eyes bulged, and she tried not to laugh. "I know- it's preposterous, and I told him so, but apparently you two were standing a little bit close for comfort when he found you in that cave- and then the Ember Island fiasco didn't help any..."
Katara lowered her head, trying to absorb this. "So... why didn't he come talk to me about it?"
Azula stared for a moment, looking confused. "...You're joking, right?"
Katara tried to be patient, biting her lip. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Azula sighed, toying with one of her bangs with her fingernails. "Because you told him not to talk to you about it!" Katara started to speak, and Azula simply raised her voice over her. "Think- he finally comes straight out and tells you how he feels, just days before the biggest event of his life thus far- and you tell him that you're too confused to talk about it- that you need time to sort it out, and then you leave and never mention it to him again. He deals with it as best he can, but later on, it starts affecting his performance in battle- he could run to you to get healed, of course, but then you'd obviously want to know how he got hurt. He then has two choices- lie to you, tell you he simply wasn't good enough to avoid it, and appear weak- or he could tell the truth, that he couldn't stop thinking about you, and seem like an impatient child who couldn't put his personal needs aside in order to carry out his duties." She sighed, leaning back, and took a breath- she hadn't gotten to go on a good demeaning rant in far too long, now.
Katara sat still for a moment, obviously shaken, and Azula stared at her- she had better say something or this might go on for a while. "Look, we both know you're entirely too nice to ever think less of him for being injured- but he doesn't think of things like that, you know. If he has a choice, he'll always make it harder on himself instead of troubling other people- you should know that by now, right?"
Katara nodded gently, relaxing in her chair, her head still swimming as she tried to absorb all of this. At the very least, she knew what she wanted to know next- she just had to figure out how to say it. "...Azula." She waited for a reaction, and got none. "...I'm not really sure how to ask you something-"
Azula sat forward, smiling widely. "So just ask. The best way to handle complicated matters like this is to just be direct about it- or hadn't you learned that from my rousing success last night?"
Katara wondered how noticeable it was that her knuckles were whitening against the chair beneath her, smiling as politely as she could. "Alright- direct it is. Are you in love with Aang, Azula?"
There was a deafening silence as Azula's face seemed to change in an instant, lips straightening and tightening against each other, her eyes narrowing down to a half lidded stare. Katara could feel the hair on the back of her neck standing up, and wondered for a moment if she might have been a little too direct.
Toph marveled at Azula's calm- she was the only one in either room who wasn't holding their breath for an answer. Katara was on the edge of her seat, and Aang was focusing intently on not making a sound-
Suddenly, Azula's smile returned, and she looked towards the wall just to the left of her bed. "Toph." The small earthbender tried not to yelp. "I know you're over there- and don't worry, I'm not going to be blaming you for this."
She sighed in relief and felt Aang's heart stop cold. "Works for me, but how did you-"
Azula laughed, cutting her off. "Don't worry- you couldn't help it anyways. But you might want to tell Aang that the next time he wants to try something like this, he should make sure he covers the lights."
Katara suddenly became aware that since the window was behind Azula, she shouldn't have been able to see her face at all- her eyes trailed slowly along the wall she was speaking at, and finally noticed the many thin streams of light coming out of it.
Toph glared at Aang as he slowly backed away from her, smiling sheepishly- she began to march towards him, yelling over her shoulder at the wall. "Are either of you going to mind if I-"
"Do whatever you think is necessary, Toph." There was a moment before everyone realized that Katara and Azula had spoken in unison, and a collective shudder passed through both rooms- Aang knew that he would be hearing that sound in his nightmares for weeks to come.
Katara turned towards Azula suddenly, realizing that she still wanted her answer. "...Azula- if you don't mind, I'd still like to hear-"
The former princess held her hand up, stopping her. "Of course- one moment." She turned towards the wall again. "Toph! Could you make sure he can't hear us for a moment?"
"Oh, no problem!" Toph turned back to Aang, grinning widely, and he tried to back away- the next thing he knew she had him in some sort of headlock, and his world was filled with an excruciating pain.
"I'm telling you, that's not why I was looking at the waitress- I didn't even notice those things!" Suki glared back at Sokka as he pleaded for his life- she had decided to leave the restaurant a bit early after she thought she saw his eyes wandering a bit, and wondered exactly what they were feeding that girl.
Sokka pulled his hair, looking into the sky- in all honesty, he had just been hanging around her because she smelled like tea- and not just a little- it was like she took a bath in it, or something, and he was trying to figure out if it was her or her clothes- his thoughts were interrupted suddenly, though, as they approached the inn. "...Aang?"
Suki looked up, startled, and noticed what appeared to be Aang's head and shoulders sticking out of a large cracked hole in the wall above them- and he looked like he had taken quite the beating, judging from that swollen eye.
Sokka gave her a quick glance, and then looked back at Aang, waving his hand in front of his eyes. "...Suki, did you taste anything funny in our tea back there? Anything... cactus-y?"
Aang sighed, looking down at the pair below him, his head still ringing- he would have said something to them, if he wasn't sure that Toph would continue his beating if he tried. He could only make out brief mumbles coming from the window beside him- and he thought he might have even heard a laugh-
He suddenly felt a strong pair of hands grip his waist, pulling him back into the building in a cloud of dust. Toph patted him on the head gently with one hand, leaning down into his face to grin at him again. "Alright, twinkletoes- Suki still owes me a favor, so I'll be heading downstairs- you think you can handle things up here?"
He nodded weakly, and Toph disappeared through the doorway in a matter of seconds- as his head cleared, he realized that he still had a chance to catch something important from the next room- he threw himself against the wall, pressing his ear against a crack, just barely catching Azula's voice.
"-so, is that close enough for you yet, or am I actually going to have to say it?"
Katara rested her hand on her chin, smirking. "No, I think that's good enough, actually."
Azula leaned back against her bed again, sighing. "Good- and you remember what I told you, right?"
Katara nodded curtly, standing and stretching a bit. "Of course- as long as you remember what I told you."
Azula laughed, cracking her fingers. "Don't worry- I'm not going to hurt him. I mean, unless he asks-" she turned, glaring at the wall again, noticing a distinct lack of light coming from one of the cracks. "He's back- you should probably go make sure Toph left him in one piece." There was a small sigh as Aang retreated from the wall once more.
Katara stared for a moment, and slowly made her way for the door. "...So, you really think that I still-"
Azula laughed, cutting her off, and checked the wall again to make sure her mention of him had kept Aang away. "...Yes, of course you do- you just don't realize it yet." She smirked at Katara, eyes blazing with intensity again. "...And you'd better hope that you do soon- because I'm not the type to let something good slip out of my hands when I get it."
Katara sat for a moment, smiling grudgingly towards her. "I wouldn't approve if you weren't- just remember that I'll be watching."
Azula watched her slip slowly out the door. "...You know, you're better at this than Aang is." The door froze, not quite closing yet. "...I mean, one month with him- and I feel more insane now than I ever did trying to kill you all."
Katara leaned back in the door, smiling. "Yeah- I know the feeling- but I think you'll get used to it." Azula tried not to laugh at the idea, sinking back onto the bed and closing her eyes, finally. She was going to have to get some rest, now- there would undoubtedly be a meeting with Zuzu when he realized that she was missing from the asylum. She absently wondered if she or Aang had ever remembered to tell anyone exactly how little he really knew about the trip, and shrugged to herself- it's not like it really mattered that much, now.