Title: A Net to Catch the Wind
Summary: The whole Fire Nation is in a tizzy because the most important birth of the century is about to take place. Of course there is only one person the Fire Lord thinks is cut out to midwife such an important delivery.
Pairing: Katara/Zuko, Azula/Hahn/Sangok, Toph/Aang/Ty Lee, June/???
Disclaimer: Seriously, I am waiting with baited breath to wake up and find that somehow I inherited the rights to Avatar the Last Airbender.
Chapter 24: What's Easy and What's Right
"Stupid boy, do you know who I am?"
Keeping his features impassive, Hahn watched the old crone in the cell. The guards had bound her arms together all the way to the shoulder, and she swung them back and forth angrily. She kept looking over at Yeo, the swamp bender was chewing anxiously on her thumb.
"No." He replied.
"I am Master Hama of the Southern Water Tribe. Youngest girl to ever be considered a master on either pole- that is until I met my pupil Katara."
This perked Hahn's interest, and across the room, Zuko spoke up. Until then, he had kept quiet and surveyed the two calmly. They both turned to face him as he joined Hahn by the bars.
"Katara did mention you, it's funny though, somehow, I thought that you would be different. Taller maybe." Zuko added dryly.
"Hahaha!!" Hama seemed genuinely amused by this, she cackled for several minutes. "Did she tell you I taught her the most powerful, and the most useful waterbending technique of all?"
"What technique?" Hahn asked. He had seen her using some fancy and advanced moves on the beach, but, nothing that he would consider the be all and end all of waterbending prowess.
"Bloodbendin'..." Yeo muttered.
"Only seven guards walked out of the Fire Nation prison where I was held captive." Hama told them with a cackle, "Three of them were dead."
Frustrated and exhausted, Zuko reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose. "There's no choice then, she'll have to be executed."
"What?!" Yeo looked surprised. "No! She be from the swamp, our prisoner! We ain't fer killin people fer their crimes!"
"Yeo!" Zuko replied, "She tried to assassinate my sister, she escaped from a Fire Nation Prison, she tried to kill Fire Nation Villagers."
"If I be rememberin' correctly, yer guilty of those things too, Fire Lord." Yeo crossed her arms, a self righteous sneer on her mouth.
"The difference is that SHE will do all those things again." The waterbender had some nerve, talking to him this way. He was the Fire Lord, it was his castle and his decision. He refused to get into a pissing contest with a pacifist from a bog.
"Y'all can't bein serious! Ya canna punish someone fer things they ain't done yet!!" Yeo replied. "Let me take 'er back home!"
"I'm sorry Yeo, my country, my call." Zuko growled, "If you wanted to keep her safe, your friends should have kept a better eye on her in the Foggy Swamp." He didn't think that Yon Rha and the villagers of Hama's old town were exactly the same thing. Plus, he and Sokka escaped the Boiling Rock without hurting anyone. Apparently to the Priestess though, it was all the same, all in the past.
"Oh, but, Fire Lord," Hama pulled herself to her full height, which wasn't very impressive, "Twelve years is a long time. Kill me, and you'll never learn what I know about your mother."
"I know the truth about my mother." Zuko replied, "I know that she was different, and I know that she was ruthless. She was still my mother though."
"I don't mean that... everyone knows about her golden tongue."
"She's playing with you." Hahn said, "Don't feed into it."
"You're right... I don't need to stand here and listen to the memory of my mother be slandered by a crazy old woman." Zuko, however, was not convinced. Twelve years was a long time, and Ursa was nothing if not unpredictable.
For the first time in a long time, Ty Lee woke up without immediately wondering where Kisa was. In fact, the younger Kyoshi's name didn't even cross her sleepy mind. Aang was laying beside her, his left arm slung over her, and his right curled in the space between her back and his chest. She could tell by his breathing and the quick beating of his heart that he was awake, and the excitement that he was feeling was almost tangible in the air. Yup, it was definitely the morning, and Aang was not trying to hide it, that seemed like a big step for the normally shy Avatar.
Gazing at the floor, she admired the old ornate furniture and decorated tapestries that broke up the monotony of the red and gold walls. Where was the wanted poster? It must have slipped though her fingers at some point during the night. She tried to sit up to look for it, but a gentle tug around her waist pulled her back down.
"I see you're up."
"Aang, I have to-"
"How about another lesson, love-sifu?"
"Another lesson?" Ty Lee felt like a macaw, parroting back everything that he said to her. She couldn't deny a feeling of playful interest was blossoming in her lower abdomen.
"Yes, like, what should I do if I wake up with a woman curled against me?"
"Well... that depends, does she like you?" Ty Lee teased.
"I think so."
"...and, do you like her?"
"Well, you could try telling her that you're awake and frisky by kissing the back of her neck." Ty Lee told him, trying to suppress first a grin, then a giggle as his lips tickled the back of her neck. Maybe the student was becoming the teacher.
"Hmm..." Ty Lee had the feeling that he knew exactly what he was planning to do, but, wanted her to tell him anyway. It was sort of kinky. "How about caressing her stomach with your fingers? That's nice." She was torn between doing the right thing and doing what was best for her. It was no secret that she could be self absorbed and narcissistic. In fact, she would readily admit to being an attention whore if asked. She was not, however, a bad person, and she did know right from wrong. As his fingertips brushed over the silk stretched across her chest, she caught his hand and removed it. "Aang, stop."
"What's the matter? I thought you liked it- you told me to." He pulled away from her, worried that he had upset her somehow. As he watched, Ty Lee sprung up and out of his bed, pacing across the floor of his room anxiously. When she reached one side, she paused, laced her fingers behind her neck and rubbed it, frowning in distress. Spinning on her feet, she turned to face him, took a step, then bent to pick something up.
"Aang. I found this. I don't think June is taking Toph out on a bounty hunt. I think she is the bounty hunt." She placed the crumpled wanted poster on the silk sheets in front of him, then turned away and wrapped her arms around her torso, waiting for his rage.
"What's..." She heard him pause, as he read, then his voice turned sharp, "Ty, how long have you had this?"
"Umm, since last night."
"Why didn't you tell me last night?!"
Okay, he was way angrier than she thought he would be, and Ty Lee cringed, chewing on her lip. Time for damage control. Lots and lots of apologetic damage control.
"I know, you're right. You are." First step would be to acknowledge she had done something wrong, "I shouldn't have waited until now. It was stupid. I just... You wanted to cuddle, and, I just... thought-"
"Ty, you didn't think!!" Aang cut her off, jumping up and beginning to dress himself as quickly as he could, "She could be hurt, or in trouble, or dead!"
"I'm sure she isn't dead." Ty Lee tried to be objective, but found herself admiring the muscles ripple across his back as he bent to pull his pants on over his loin cloth. He was getting so handsome, and he didn't even know it. There was something intoxicatingly sensual about his innocence.
"You don't know that." He pulled his robes over his shoulder and then secured his belt into place as he spoke to her. Then, he went searching for his boots.
"So, we're going after her?"
"Not 'we'. I. I'm going after her. You've done enough." He grabbed his glider from where it leaned against the wall and flung the door open. "Just... tell Zuko what happened, okay?"
"But Aang, the wedding! You have to be there!!" With such an alliance between the Fire Nation and the Water Tribe at steak, the Avatar just had to be there to give his blessing!
The door slammed.
Ty Lee stared at it for a good five minutes, totally speechless, her jaw hanging loosely from her skull. She had royally messed up. Her eyes welled with tears, and she put her face into her hands letting the tears come. Aang hated her now.
The Avatar leaned against the outside of his door after he slammed it. He was furious, but forced himself to take a few deep breaths to calm down. He would tack Appa, he would pick up their trail, and he would get Toph back quickly and quietly.
At the sound of the soft sobs coming from the other side of his door, the last dregs of his fury melted. He was still angry with her, but, it wasn't in his nature to let her suffer like that. They spent so much time together that when he looked at her, he understood her top to bottom. She was silly and flakey, but, she was loyal to him, and loved her friends dearly.
He was about to open the door and apologize when he heard the distinct sound of a glider being tapped open and a few running footsteps. Quickly, he pushed the door open, but his room was deserted.
For a while, Hahn and Khar jostled each other for a larger share of the cushions on the sofa. Finally, the warrior turned and snarled at the kit, pulling back his lips and showing his teeth in a masculine display of dominance. Unaffected, Khar pulled back his lips too and showed his own chops. The Dragon made it clear that his teeth were both larger and more impressive.
*Arrogant, insufferable Warrior!* Khar lashed out, *We want Azula to marry sensible waterbender, now, get up or we bite you!!*
"Hahn, I think it would be best if you got up and found somewhere else to sit." Katara glanced at him, concerned. Khar's scales were starting to turn black, he was getting angry. She knew in theory that Azula and Khar balanced each other out, but never really appreciated the extent until now.
Sighing in defeat, Hahn sat up and crossed the room.
*Tara? Will Lala be okay?* Every now and then the kit would get up and peer into the bed to look at his mistress, his chin resting on the mattress, then lean in and lick one of her wounds a few times. At first, Katara and Yeo had shooed him away, but he didn't seem to be doing any harm.
"I hope so."
"Because, contrary to popular belief, I don't completely hate her."
"Because she is family, and in my culture, you stick by your family."
"Probably because you depend on them so much." Katara had a feeling that she knew where this conversation was going.
"Because there's a lot to do in the South Pole, and not enough people to do it." Katara held up her hand, "No more questions Khar, I'm busy. Why don't you go play with Appa and Momo?"
Khar muttered something about Sky Bison not understanding the concept of the game tag, and put his head down on his paws.
"What are you doing now?" Sangok leaned over the bed. Katara had kept an eye on him, and she was quite sure that he had not slept a wink since Azula had been hurt. He went through the motions, lay on the cushions with his eyes closed just as Yeo did, but, she somehow got the feeling that sleep never found him. There was always a tenseness in his brow and a flutter in his eyelashes that those who slept never had.
"Encouraging the tissues to knit-" Suddenly, her stomach twisted, and she had to scramble to throw herself over the basin before the nausea ran it's course. Sangok was behind her a second later, holding back her hair and patting her shoulder as she coughed. Khar nuzzled against her thigh with his nose, broadcasting worry to the room.
"Are you okay?" Sangok asked, "Should I get Zuko? I'll get Zuko."
"It's fine, it's just morning sickness." Khar had picked up the jug of water and a mug with his whiskers, and she took the offered comforts, pouring herself a glass to wash away the taste of her lunch.
"It's not the morning." Sangok argued.
"Well, maybe firebenders get afternoon sickness." Katara replied, she had felt fine that morning, if one didn't count the general groggy feeling, sore muscles, and cranky attitude. She rallied herself, smoothed her clothes, and tried to appear professional and strong for her wavering pupil. "I was saying, encouraging the tissue to knit back together. It's an advanced technique, Yeo is better at it than I am."
"My Lady," A courier stuck his head in, then stood at attention to deliver his message, "The Dragon of the West's airship is here. It will be docked and it's passenger's disembarking in a half of a candle mark!"
The airship was taking for ever to dock, at least, it felt that way for the Fire Lord as he waited for his uncle to disembark. He kept fidgeting back and forth and watching as the air was slowly let out of the balloon while ropes were gradually reeled in.
Katara couldn't help but smile as she watched Zuko rock anxiously from his heels to his toes. If she squinted, she could see the excited ten year old waiting for his favorite uncle ever to return from the war across the ocean. He was just as giddy as he was then, and only pretending indifference.
The call rang out and Iroh appeared at the railing, Ursa tucked against his hip. He waved, and Zuko returned the greeting. Katara did the same.
"I remember him from the Earth King's betrothal. Remember?" Sangok commented beside her, fiddling with his water tribe pendant. "He was thinner then." Obviously, the younger boy wanted to get back to Azula, but, as an emmisary from the Water Tribe, he had felt the need to greet the Dragon of the West, even if he wasn't involved in politics anymore.
"I guess he was." Katara wondered if it was the stress of the new baby or the tea cakes. Her hand pressed to her abdomen and prayed that it was the tea cakes. When she looked up again, the crew had lowered the gangplank, and tied it to the dock.
"Nephew! It's been too long, when are you and your lovely fiancée going to come visit me in Ba Sing Se?" Before Iroh had made it all the way off the gangplank, Ursa was twisting in his arms and surging for Katara her hands outstretched and grabbing for her.
"Daughter, you remember Katara?"
"Ba-Ba-Ba!!!" Ursa screeched, waving both of her hands. Katara was pretty sure that 'ba-ba-ba' meant 'Katara' in some baby dialect, so she said Ursa's name back, which was greeted with an exuberant squeal of delight.
"She wants you to hold her." Iroh was literally being forcefully disembarked. "I would remove those ornaments from your ears and nose first. She likes to grab shiny things."
"Oh, good idea." Katara pulled them off quickly, then reached out to take the toddler. "Ooof!! She's gotten so big!!" Ursa giggled as Katara bounced her, then reached out and grabbed one of Katara's hair loops, tugging with all her might. "Ow! She is a lot stronger than Tom Tom was at that age..." In fact, Katara was getting suspicious that the pretty hair loops were the only reason that Ursa wanted her.
Iroh smiled apologetically and then turned to embrace his nephew.
"I've been busy, Uncle, why haven't you come and visited me?"
"Bah, I'm an old man." Iroh muttered, "You know how set in our ways we are."
In her opinion, if Iroh was young enough to sire a rambunctious little half swamp priestess daughter, he was young enough to visit his nephew. Of course, she kept this opinion to herself, instead turning to Sangok.
"Look, here is your cousin Sangok." She told Ursa, "Sangok."
"Gok?" Ursa tried.
"I'm not her cousin." Yet. The word hung between them unsaid. "But she is adora- OW!!" Sangok winced as his own wolf tail was suddenly jerked in the opposite direction of his scalp. "Enthusiastic little fur rat isn't she? She looks so much like Azula!" He took the girl from Katara and lifted her up over her head, naturally easy with the small girl in ways many man weren't.
"She probably acts the was Azula did at that age too." Katara muttered, rubbing her tender scalp. She turned back to the two men, who were clasping each other by the elbows and speaking softly. Iroh was actually giving Zuko a detailed account of the latest mixtures of tea he had blended, and the Fire Lord was loving every minute of it.
The waterbender in question turned to see Ty Lee gliding onto the dock, landing and trotting a few paces to meet her. Her eyes were red and puffy, and her cheeks streaked with tears, she hadn't seemed to notice either Iroh or Ursa before she threw her arms around the tribeswoman and burst into tears.
An instant later, Ursa burst into sympathy tears.
"Ty Lee? What happened?!" Zuko let go of his uncle, slightly embarrassed and annoyed by the younger girl who had barged in on his Iroh-time. "Are you okay?"
Katara quickly went about rubbing Ty Lee's back and stroking her hair. "Calm down, I'm sure whatever it is, we'll fix it."
"Aang!" Ty Lee explained, "Aang hates me!!"
Katara looked questioningly at both Sangok and Zuko, but when both shrugged and offered her no additional information, she figured this must be a fairly new development. "What exactly happened, Ty Lee?"
"Toph got kidnapped and-"
"WHAT?!" Zuko grabbed her and forcibly removed her from his fiancee's person. "Toph got kidnapped? When?!"
"Oh right, I forgot to tell you that." Ty Lee wiped her cheek on the back of her hand. "Let me back up."
"June kidnapped Toph.. ya know, for the bounty. I found the poster in her room- Why do you guys like her anyway? She is totally mean." Zuko's frown deepened, so she quickly got back on track, "So, I was going to tell Aang, ya know? But, he wanted me to spend the night with him and-"
"He what?!" Now it was Katara's turn to glower, "Ty, you're seventeen." Not to mention GAY and kind of a skank. Though, Katara conceded, for being gay, Ty Lee sure had a lot of flings with boys.
"Fourteen is old enough for men to start having urges!" She decided not to mention the lessons that she had been giving the younger boy. Katara might somehow misconstrue that as corruption... which it clearly wasn't.
"Guys." Sangok interjected, he was covering Ursa's ears. "Maybe we should talk about this later?"
"Right, so, I didn't tell him right away, and now, he is totally furious, and he ran off to go find her, and he didn't want me to come." Ty Lee didn't add that she was quite sure that she totally blew it, and that she really liked Aang. From the looks of Katara's expression, this bit of news would not be received well.
"I'm sorry Uncle. Apparently I have some very pressing issues to-"
"Say no more." Iroh interrupted his nephew, "Master Katara?"
"I'll escort you to your room," Katara replied, "Come on Sangok, bring Ursa, the servants will bring his luggage."
Everything hurt. The soles of her feet to the tips of her hair were screaming in sore agony. The light blankets across her flesh felt like layers of marble crushing her. Her head throbbed with every breath. Her stomach growled in hunger and felt nauseous at the same time.
When she finally managed to drag her eyelids up, she found the world dark, and initially panicked, thinking she had gone blind. Then, she heard the soft trilling of the night birds, and her eyes adjusted to the darkness. It was only the middle of the night.
Easy breathing was emanating from the space right next to her, and she turned her head, finding Sangok asleep right next to her. He was practically cuddling with her, he had curled himself as close as possible without actually aggravating her wounds or putting weight on her. She tested her fingers and when she found that she could move them, brushed them across the tops of his knuckles.
He was awake and attentive instantly, whispering desperately.
"'Zula! You're awake!! Thank the spirits! You've been out for a week!!"
"Water." She managed to croak out, her mouth dry.
"Of course!" He slid off the bed and stumbled across the room. As he crossed the pool of moonlight on the floor, she saw he too had bandages wrapped tightly around his chest, and his lip was scabbed and healing. He bent the contents of the pitcher back across the room to her, then let it drip slowly into her mouth. She swallowed a few times, then shook her head and turned it away.
"He's fine, shaken up and grumpy without you, but fine. Hahn is fine too, just mad that you got hurt. Everyone else is unhurt, and we captured Hama-not the Firebender Malu though. Oh! Toph's been kidnapped and Aang ran off to find her, Ex-General Iroh arrived with his niece, you missed so much."
"You. Are an idiot." She informed him, only half listening to the swill of information pouring out his mouth, "You shouldn't have come onto the battlefield. You can't fight."
"Hahn was trapped, he would have been burnt up if I didn't release him from the ice." Sangok replied earnestly, he chewed on his knuckles then leaned over her. "You jumped in front of me. You saved my life."
Azula scoffed and looked away.
"Don't." Sangok pressed his hands to either side of her head, "Don't pretend like it was nothing, or an accident, or something. I know you did it on purpose, and I know why." His eyes began to tear. "I've been glued to your bed for the past week because I didn't want you to die before I got to say it. To ask..."
Azula shrunk away, watching as one of his tears glided down the bridge of his nose. From there, it fell, landing on her good cheek and trickling down to disappear in the hair below her ear. His display of emotion was unnerving. He sat back and rummaged in his tunic.
"You don't need to thank me. I know you're appreciative- why wouldn't you be grateful?" Azula felt her lungs twist, and suddenly, she was coughing bloody phlegm all over her pillow and silk sheets. He turned to help her, letting go of whatever was in his pocket.
"Are you ok? Where does it hurt? Your lungs?" He pulled back the sheets and placed his palms on her chest, which, Azula realized for the first time, was bare. She felt him mucking about inside her for a few seconds, then, with two fingers, he drew a great clod of blood and bile up her throat and out of her mouth. She could taste the metallic and acidic fluids on her tongue as they passed.
Discarding it on an already blood spattered towel, he turned back to her. The water was out of the pitcher again, and she felt the cool liquid absorb into her skin, and the tight bands of discomfort around her torso eased a few threads. His fingers glided over her bare skin with the ease of someone much more advanced in both healing and pleasing women than he was. Azula felt her insides twist again, this time with unforseen pleasure.
"You've been-" she choked past the acrid taste in her mouth, "-practicing healing."
"Well, it's a lot more fun learning from Yeo and Katara, that's for sure." He replied quietly. They had showed him everything that they did to speed Azula's healing, and for once, the lessons stuck. He was too desperate to care how people saw him, too determined to save her to fear failure. Seeing her, it had somehow broken through his mental wall, and for the first time, he had felt the full scope of his power. He was Water Tribe royalty, just as Katara was. He had old and powerful blood. He studied under three different waterbending masters, and Yeo.
At the moment, he didn't feel any different, but on the beach, his senses heightened by adrenaline and dulled by exhaustion, his body had somehow remembered every lesson that Pakku had painstakingly beaten into it over the years. He remembered every move Katara showed him, everything Hue had advised him. When he looked in a mirror, something was different in him, a determination around the eyes, a tightening of the jaw. When he looked in the mirror, a warrior looked back at him.
"I see." Azula didn't like it. He was different. Where was the soft young boy that she had known? He had left a puppy dog and come back a wolf. The monster in her could clearly see the new man growing beneath the surface. What if he was a monster too, just like her?
She thought back to the first time that he had tried to heal her, working with Hue on the boat. She had been hostile and unreceptive partially because she didn't want to be touched by a heathen, and partially because she was ashamed that she liked being touched by a heathen. It was just as delicious now, and for all her rough attitude in bed, she felt herself shifting under him, trying to press up into his hands. She sighed, a noise somewhere between a moan and a exhale. She tried to grab his hand and cup it to her breast, but he shooed her away.
"As much fun as that would be, See if you can fall back asleep." He advised her as he worked, "You really need your rest." Under normal circumstances, Azula would have protested. Now though, her headache was melting under his fingertips, and his touches were so gentle and felt so good against her bare skin....
She must have dosed off, because when she woke up again, the sky in the east was lightening with the dawn, and Sangok was once again asleep beside her. Her anxiety from before melted in the light of the morning, he was holding her hand. There was no monster lurking, there was nothing to fear. He was the same old clingy and loving boy with a habit of dressing like a woman and a crush on his best friend. She snorted, a wry smile tugging at her lips. She thought such shows of affection were pointless, but she was willing to indulge him this once.
Aang wished almost immediately that he had asked one of his teammates for help. Not that he needed it or anything, but, it was lonely with just Appa and Momo. It was odd, he had never felt lonely when he had his animals with him before, but somehow, they were not quite the same as human company.
The Sky Bison, for one, was cranky about being pulled from his cool stall that morning. He had just eaten a large breakfast, and wasn't keen on flying so quickly on such a full stomach. Aang thought that his companion could use the exercise.
Questioning in the harbor had pretty thoroughly negated the possibility that June had hopped ship in the city. Nobody remembered a shirshu with a leather clad rider, and that was the sort of thing that stuck pretty deeply in people's minds. So, Aang had begun searching the skirting villages with no success.
He pulled Appa down to another town, about twenty miles south of the capital, and began asking his same string of questions. It hadn't been ten minutes before a huge earthquake shook the city, sending children screaming and parents running. Aang suddenly found himself Avatar once more, protecting people by bending the earth beneath their feet as steady as he could.
It wasn't the work of an earthbender. He could tell that by feel, this was an authentic tremor. It stuck in his mind that there had been a few earthquakes lately, a lot more and a lot stronger than what he was used to. He shook his head, dismissing it. He had more important things to do than worry about the Fire Nation's fault lines.
"The balcony that overlooks the plaza will do for the ceremony, but we have to figure out where we're going to seat everyone after," Zuko was saying to her, though, Katara wasn't listening. Instead, she was thinking about tackling him to the ground and ravishing him on the meeting room floor. She knew for a fact that Yeo at least, would not mind. "How about the ballroom? I think it's doable."
He didn't like getting stuck with the wedding arrangements, but, his wife to be was either tending to his sister or sleeping for the past several days, and that meant that most of the festivity coordination fell solely on his shoulders. Usually he just said yes to whatever the head chef or his steward suggested.
"I think that if'n Azula be takin it easy all week, she mayin' be able ta go ta the parties fer a lil while." Yeo put in, "Be yer best mate, er whatever. Don' be puttin' her in that ceremonial armor stuff though, she ain't strong enough to be walkin' round in it." Zuko nodded. It was actually a relief to him, which was shocking. He never thought he would be happy to know that his hellcat sister was doing better, and was getting stronger.
"Have you finished your vows?" Katara asked, crossing her legs.
"Almost." He watched his wife roll her eyes, and he added sheepishly, "Tonight, for sure." He had been too preoccupied with what Hama had said to him. Sure it was probably an old woman's ploy to evade her sentence, but, he wasn't willing to bet her life on it. What if his mother had been hiding something from him? Maybe Azula would know, they had belonged to the same order, and she seemed to know a lot of things that nobody really explicitly told her.
"SHE'S AWAKE." Sangok burst into the room, swinging in with the door handle and holding onto the frame. His pendant swung on it's thong and nearly hit him in the face. "Lord Zuko! She's up! Come see!!"
With his catlike reflexes as honed as ever, Zuko was up and out the door in an instant, Katara and Yeo on his heels. They clattered down the hallway at a sprint, then pounded up the two flights of stairs at the end of it, then into the east wing that housed the infirmary.
"'Tara." Zuko slowed and told her disapprovingly, "You shouldn't be running, you'll overexert yourself." It seemed he had made it his life's mission to firmly place himself between her and anything he decided wasn't good for her.
"I'm a midwife myself!" Katara crinkled her nose at him and sped up, winning the race to get to Azula's room first.
Khar had just dosed off, his big scaly and furry head on a pillow in her lap when all hell burst into the infirmary room. Zuko leaned over her, his hands on either side of her shoulder and pressed his hand to her cheek, as though checking her for a fever. Katara grabbed one of Khar's antlers and dragged his head off of her, scolding him about putting weight on her while she was healing. Yeo began asking her questions so quickly and with such a thick accent that it was impossible to understand, and Hahn jumped up and bellowed that she was trying to rest and that they should all get the fuck out.
"You." Zuko told her, "Are never to do something so stupid again!"
"Aw, how poignant." Azula replied sarcastically. She wasn't quite emotionally prepared to accept her brother's desperate affection. "You were worried about me. How quaint."
*You happy.* Khar replied from his tug-o-war with the waterbender, *We can tell.*
"She's only being snarky because she is touched." Sangok told him, mussing up her hair affectionately.
This did make Azula growl. "Tell me he did not just pet me like a dog!"
"Alright alright!" Hahn waved his arms, shooing Khar away from the soon to be Fire Lady, "Enough. Sangok, did you go to the kitchen and get the cook to start boiling some jook?"
"Oh, I forgot. Everyone started running, so I followed." The waterbender turned and scampered back out the door. Obviously in his excitement he had forgotten to complete his errands.
"Can I stand up now?" Azula asked. In reality, she had every intention of standing up whether she was given permission to or not. She just wanted to gauge how much it was going to hurt by how hard the healers insisted against it.
"Ya can sit up. We be needin ta take a gander at yer back, make sure it be lookin right." Yeo replied emphatically, "Hahn, git out."
"What? Why me?" Hahn was about to say that it was nothing that he hadn't seen, but, after a good look at the Fire Lord, decided that propriety was a better route. "Fine."
"Here." Zuko helped her wrap an arm around his shoulders and pulled her to sit up.
For the first time, Azula got a glimpse of her torso, and the swollen, scabbing, stitched up jagged lines of where she had been skewered. It looked like they had been healing for weeks, probably the benefit of having three waterbenders working around the clock to help you recover.
Zuko was staring at her too, looking horrified and guilty. Obviously some sort of paternal older brother instinct to protect her had kicked in and was stirring up feelings of failure. Azula would have none of it.
"I'm alive, aren't I?"
"But... your stomach..."
"Actually, I'm more upset about the tooth the bastard knocked out." He would die for that. "May I have my clothes now? I'm not accustomed to being this close to my brother while naked." Yeo quickly brought her a red and gold robe and helped her slip it on backwards so it fell over her shoulders and stomach.
"I'm going to check for infection." Katara bent a measure of liquid from her skin and crawled onto the bed, kneeling behind her soon to be sister in law and pressing the water to her back. It seemed fine, almost too fine. She wondered about it for a minute, then dismissed it. Azula had always been a survivor, quick to heal- physically at least.
Azula waited patiently for a few minutes while her brother's fiancée poked around, then abruptly, she pushed herself to her feet. She knew pain. She was intimately acquainted with it. It hit her mind full force, and she felt her body lose it's balance. Zuko caught her and lifted her, scooping her legs right out from under her.
"Azula." He scolded, "She said not to stand up-"
Azula tuned him out, there was no point in listening, she had heard it all before. He was right, she should probably take it easy for a few days and rest. As much as she hated admitting weakness, a few weeks could turn into a lifetime if she stressed herself.
"Why so miserable?"
Ty Lee yanked her head up from the cradle of her arms. She had been so engrossed watching the turtle ducks that she hadn't heard Mai's approach.
"Mai! Wait. How did you know that I was miserable?"
"I hear there is an engagement party tomorrow for the Fire Lord. You're not shopping for a new dress, therefore, you must be pretty miserable." Mai sat down next to her old girlfriend and followed her gaze out over the water.
"Yeah, I messed up big time." Ty Lee sighed, "I don't want to talk about it. How did you know there was a party tomorrow? Were you invited?"
"I believe my family was, I'm not going though."
"Oh come on! You have to!" It was out of Ty Lee's mouth before she remembered why Mai was probably not going to go. "I mean, you should go with me."
"Where is your girlfriend."
"We broke up, a while ago." Ty Lee replied.
"No thanks," Mai had no interest in being some sort of rebound or whatever selfish reason Ty Lee had.
"Come on, I meant as friends." The thought of having to stand around and make conversation with Katara and Zuko so steamed at her, and Aang absent was too much to bide. With Mai standing next to her, she could mope the whole night and look cheerful by comparison.
Mai heaved a long sigh.
"I promise to babysit Tom Tom for you." Ty Lee raised the stakes.
"Alright, but we're not staying long."
"Yay!" Ty Lee gave a half hearted grin and hugged Mai around the middle.
Voting for UFO awards starts March first! Midsummer Madness is nominated. If you have enjoyed the fics I've written this past year, go vote for it! I would much appreciate it.
Chapter 4 of Midsummer Madness is now revised and posted.
Whew! That was fun. I tried to make it a little funnier to help you recover from last chapter... Sorry about the delay, was bogged down a bit with birthday stuff and homework stuff. This chapter is pretty short because of it.
Review! You know you want to.