And here is he nest installement, where the prompt can easily be exchanged with 'In Which There Is Denial'. I know it's late, but I worked really hard on it, so please forgive me.

Warning: There is gonna be a bit of...warped Maiko. You'll see when you get there.

Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar" The Last Airbender

Prompt: Close Your Eyes

" So where have you been running off to?"

" Nowhere in particular."

" Suki..."

" Sokka, please, just for now, can we drop it?"

" Suki...if there's something wrong you can tell me, can't you?"

" Nothing's wrong, honey. I'm just...working on something right now."

" With someone?"

" Well, yeah, Toph's helping me."

" Oh, Toph? That's okay then."

" Huh? What do mean by that?"

" Nothing. Just that you're not likely to run off with Toph."

" You thought-Sokka!"

" I'm sorry Suki.'s just've been distant lately...and I mean...I just get worried, because you're so amazing, and I'm just...just me."

" I wouldn't love you if you were anybody else. You wouldn't be Sokka and I wouldn't have fallen in love with you if you weren't."

" I know. I know that. It's're this incredible warrior, and you're so smart and you're always the most gorgeous girl in the room-"

" You're biased."

"-Maybe, but still. You're all these things, and every day I can't help but think that you're going to wake up and realize how much better than me you can do."

" Sokka!"

" I can't help it-mmph!"

" that. You are...the world...who...could...ever...make Understand?"

" I don't think I got that last bit."

" Stupid. If you want another kiss, just ask."

" I want another kiss."

" ..."


" Never doubt the way I feel about you, okay? You are my one and only."

" It's just...I already lost you...and I lost you too for a while...and the terrifies me. I...I love you so much, Suki."

" I love you too. Now and forever, I promise."

" Hey guys, what's going on-Oh dear Spirits!"

" Toph!"

" This isn't what it looks like!"

" Snoozles, you're on top of her!"

" Okay, it's exactly what it looks-er, feels like."

" Nice save, Snoozy.

" Thanks."

" Sokka!"

" What? If you have a way to explain this, be my guest."

" Well...That is...we were...we...Oh hell, we were making out like rabbit-squirrels in heat."

" More than I ever needed to know, War Paint. Stress on the ever."

" Well, Toph, the day may come when-"

" Snoozles, if you even think about having that discussion with me, I will earthbend your ability to produce spawn very far away from you. As far as I'm concerned, the stork-hawk got mixed up and dropped me off at the Bei Fong house when I was clearly meant for much cooler parents."

" That reminds me. Sokka, I'm adopting Toph."

" What?!"

" Sweet!"

" Legal age on Kyoshi is 15 for members of the Warriors, so I can be her guardian."

" I'm getting adop-ted! I'm getting adop-ted!"

" Suki, wait, hang on! Shouldn't we talk about this?!"

" Probably. But I feel really impulsive today."

" Oh, that's a good feeling. Go with that feeling."

" Suki, be reasonable."

" Screw being reasonable! Where has being reasonable ever gotten us?!"

" Undercover in the Fire Nation alive."

" Oh yeah, Sokka, the birds were totally gonna attack us."

" What?"

" When we started sneaking around in the Fire Nation, Sokka had this big freak out and told us to take it seriously, and we were like: ' Sokka, there are birds. Birds, and nothing else.' And he goes:" Hey! Those are enemy birds!'"

" The one bird went for my neck!"

" You were waving a loaf of bread around in the air. I'm surprised just one got you."

" Enemy birds, Sokka?"

" Hey! It could happen!"

" Yeah, that's about as likely as Hawkey coming back."

" Hey, what happened to Hawkey?"

" Who's Hawkey?"

" This bird Sokka bought."

" He really is a compulsive shopper, isn't he?"

" Worse than my mom when she gets that aura around her."

" The freaky crackling one?"

" Yeah. Usually when there was a sale."

" Ah. So Hawkey?"

" We sent him with a message to my mom and dad and he kinda...just didn't come back. I'm betting they didn't like the message and ate him as revenge."

" Your parents ate my pet?!"

" I said it was a theory."

" Isn't that a little farfetched, Toph?"

" You don't know my dad."

" Well, I can't see my parents eating a messenger hawk just because they didn't like what the letter said."

" No, your mom would hunt down the writer of the message and kill them slowly."

" She's not that bad."

" She chased me around the island, screaming that she was gonna decapitate me for 'compromising your warrior spirit with my filthy outsider taint'. How is that not bad?"

" I remember that! Your mom is awesome, War Paint! Why can't my mom be that awesome?"

" Put it this way, Sokka. You're still alive, aren't you?"

" Barely!"

" It's better than what happened to the last guy who tried to court me."

" What guy?"

" Oh, there was this guy who wanted to court me. He came to the house to meet my parents, and mom asked for a word with him, outside. They went out. Mom comes back in 15 minutes later, alone. We never saw that guy again. I think Mom buried him somewhere in the forest out back."

" Creepy."

" How do you think she killed him?"

" I never said he was dead when she buried him."

" ..."


" Yeah. Think about that."

" I'm trying very hard not to, honey."

" Man, Ha-Dia is so cool. I wish my mom was that cool. I wish my mom was cool period."

" Toph, having a deranged psychopath for a mother might not be a good thing."

" Sokka, my mother is not a deranged psychopath. And even if she was, she likes you, so you're safe."

" She doesn't like me! When has she ever said that she likes me?"

" You survived meeting her, didn't you? And you're still alive today. Trust me, if Mom didn't like you, she'da fed you to the Unagi a long time ago."

" ...Ha-Dia scares me."

" Aren't you insulted War Paint?"

" Nah, Dad and I are used to that reaction when it comes to Mom. We get it a lot."

" Now I really want to be a part of your family."

" Toph Tessen. Sounds cool."

" Do I get a say in this?"

" Do you ever get a say in anything War Paint and I decide to do?"

" No?"

" So what do you think the answer'll be this time?"

" No again?"

" Good Snoozles."

" You two are so mean."

" Yes, but you love me for it."

" You're lucky I do."

" What part of child in the vicinity do you two have so much trouble understanding?!"

" Calm down Toph."

" Yeah, one day you'll understand."

" Do! No! Want!"

And Suki, still trapped in the comfortable circle of Sokka's arms, threw back her copper head and let lose a twinkling laugh.

" You will someday Toph. You will someday."

Toph just scowled at her.


Zuko was in shit, and he knew it.

He supposed he had been in shit for a long time, and this was just the storm (the one that been building for Spirits only knew how long now; the mounting pressure that dug into his shoulders and weight on his head and made his heart leap in confusion) finally coming to a head and breaking over the proverbial horizon like a wave over jagged shore rocks (the water metaphor made him wince. He knew that, at a time like this, thinking of water would be hap hazardous to his health, because water lead to bending water, and waterbending lead to her, and thinking about her impaired his judgement and made him dizzy with something he could only name in his deepest fantasies and most secretive dreams, but it was a wonderful, perfect kind of dizzy; the kind of dizzy he wouldn't mind having buzzing through his brain for the rest of his life) and crashing, the foamy spraying flying everywhere.

Zuko winced as he thought of the analogy, trying very hard not to quail at the side before him as the pale gold eyes darkened.

" What was that about tonight?"

And Zuko, being a man and having that deeply ingrained male part of him that fairly screamed at the sight on angry woman, did what he did best.

" What are you talking about?" He played dumb.

Unfortunately, Mai had known him since they were children, and he'd used that tactic one time too many in his youth for it to work now.

" Don't act stupid, you know what I'm talking about." He feigned a look of confusion. " What were you doing with her?" There was a cruel edge in the way she said that word that made Zuko's hackles rise. Her face darkened and the male part of Zuko quivered in terror and backed up, curling in on itself as it tried to get away from the enraged girlfriend.

' Okay, Plan B.' Zuko's inner voice (which sounded suspiciously like Sokka at times) piped up, and Zuko quickly changed tactics.

" Oh you mean Katara." She glared at him, but he shrugged it off casually. Partial truths were better than all out lies, he'd learned. " Can't a guy off his friend a drink anymore?"

" You weren't just offering her a drink." Mai accused.

" Just because she's a girl, Mai, it doesn't mean you have to get so territorial." Zuko leaned back against the wall, looking away from her and scowling.

" You were practically all over her!" Mai snapped. Then his statement registered fully. " And I'm not being territorial."

" She looked sick. I want to make sure she was okay. And yes, you are."

" Sick my ass. You were practically making out with her! And I'm not being territorial!"

" Yes, you are."

" No I'm not!"

" You are! You're acting possessive, you know how I hate that!"

" I think I have a right to act like this seeing as how you were drooling all over some other girl!"

" You get like this whenever I talk to any girl! Remember when I was apologizing to Song? You freaked out on me right after that too!" 'Good.' Inner Sokka Voice crooned. ' Draw attention away from the way you were eye molesting my sister.'

" You were being way too friendly!"

" I stole her ostrich-horse! She helped me, and I turned right around and betrayed her! I had to make it up to her!"

" By flirting?!"

" By being a nice guy and grovelling for her forgiveness!"

" You didn't have to get down on your knees!"

" Yes, I did! In fact, I should be getting down on my knees and begging for the forgiveness of the whole Earth Kingdom for what I did!"

" You did what you thought was right! You were just 16! You were confused and scared, and no one should hold that against you!"

" I made the wrong choice!"

" And you atoned for it!"

" By doing what, becoming the Fire Lord?!"

" You've done everything you can to stop the war, to make amends." Mai leaned tiredly against the wall, staring out the window of her villa. " The war is over Zuko, get over it."

" There are millions of people dead because of what Fire Lord Sozin started." Zuko breathed deeply and exhaled flames out of his nose. " Even if I spend my whole life trying, I will never be able to atone for the atrocities of my people. I will spend the next hundred lifetimes paying for the Hundred Year War."

" People die, Zuko." Mai looked away from the window, glaring at the corner. " It's the way of the world. Your grandfather only did what he thought was right, just like you did under this city. You shouldn't be blames for it."

" That's the soldier in you talking." Zuko muttered, but it lacked heat. Mai looked at him her bangs falling into her face and her mouth set in a straight line. Zuko stood across from her, his shoulders sagging and his whole body tensed up like he was about to fire a shot at the nearest thing that moved. His fists were clenched and with each gust of breath he let out, a shot, hot blast of fire came with it, searing the air around him. Distantly, as she observed him, Mai thought that this was an image Katara must've seen often.

" This isn't working, is it?" She whispered to the heavy air around them. Zuko's head shot up, his eyes wild, but Mai continued. " You can't forget her, so why are we trying?"

" Mai..." He whispered, but she crossed the distance between them and placed a hand on his cheek."

" That was a rhetorical question, dummy." She tilted her head to the side. Zuko didn't lean into her touch, and flinched back as her hand touched his scar. He pulled his head away, but Mai didn't scowl at the action. Instead, she met his gaze head on and reached forward to press her hand into the cloth the covered his abdomen.

" Zuko," she whispered, brushing her fingers along where she knew his scar to be, " you love her."

" No!" He jumped back from her touch, shaking his head violently. Mai made no move to follow him expect with her eyes, their golden irises alight with something that might have been pity.

" No!" Zuko fell back against the wall, slipping down until he was sitting. He pressed his face into his hand and dragged his knees up. " No, I can't be! Don't you understand?!" He shot her a desperate look, but his eyes were over bright. Mai held his gaze until he dropped it, unable to look at her.

" I can't love her." He said in an anguished whisper.

And then Mai was before him, pressing her mouth insistently against his and holding his face in between her hands, ignoring the way he flinched away she her fingers touched his scar. She pulled back after a moment, to look at him looking up at her desolately.

" Help me." He pleaded, reaching for her. She lowered herself back down into his arms, taking his wet face and pressing it into the junction of her shoulder and neck. He kissed her skin fervently, his grip on her arms bruising. " I can't stand this. I'm going insane."

She stroked his hair.

" I know." She whispered.

" I want her so much...I love her so much..." He sobbed brokenly into her shoulder. " But I...I can't...Because of me...because of what my kin did...Aang...Aang..." He cut himself off with a sob.

" I know." Mai rubbed soothing circles on his back.

" I owe his time...I can't take her away...I have to atone..."

Mai knew Zuko wasn't talking to her; she knew he wasn't seeing her at all. He was talking to the air, to the earth, to any listening Spirits in the hopes that they might take pity on him and cure his misery. Mai knew she couldn't comfort him, couldn't offer him anything more than what she was doing right now; she knew she couldn't take the hurt away. The feel of him crying into her shoulder made her uneasy and scared. She wrenched him back, looking into his wet eyes, and wondered how it had all come to such a state.

" said you'd..." Zuko gulped back more tears, blinking hard and fast to keep them at bay. Mai swallowed her own unease and being totally lost as to how to help him, and held his gaze. " You said you would...make me forget..."

And Mai, who had grown up having to stifle every outburst and emotional display for the sake of propriety and her family's image, nodded curtly and offered him help in the only way she knew how.

" I know." She whispered, and brought his face down for a kiss.


" Not good."

" Not good? What's not good?"

" I just got word from one of the observers I left in place."

" Oh?"

" Doom-and-Gloom and Pouty are in so much more over their heads than we thought."

" I thought so."

" You knew?"

" I had a feeling."

" You and your feelings."

" They've saved your life more than once, if I recall correctly."

" Yeah, yeah. Rub it in, why don'tcha?"

" If I didn't, you would forget, and then who would pay homage to me?"

" Isn't that why you had a daughter?"

" Toph...she doesn't know about this. About me and the Black Lotus."

" No, I suppose she doesn't."

" Is that why you let her come along? Because she's my daughter?"

" She's too much like you used to be for her own good. I couldn't turn her down, aikata."

" Nv wang, sometimes I can't decide if you're a fool or a genius."

" Genius. Definitely a genius."

" You just keep telling yourself that."

" Hey, I am."

" Fine, Tian Cai, what should we do about this...'not good' development of yours?"

" ..."

" That's what I thought."

" Quiet, Belladonna, I'm thinking."

" You were always more of an action girl. Focus on the road, Tian Cai nv wang, I'll do the thinking."

" You're very smug right now, aren't you?"

" A fair bit, yes."

" I still think that if we're going to do anything, it has to happen on the last night of the Chun Festival. The tension will be at its highest then, and the poison will run swifter."

" But we need the loose ends to be tied up before then, or when the poison wears off it'll all go straight to hell."

" Oh, they'll be tied up, alright."

" Honestly, kidnapping and murder? These aren't the terrorists we dealt with when we were teenagers, Jun-chan. These are children themselves. I won't you."

" Fine. A peaceful resolution then. We'll have to get Gloomy to see reason. I think we should use the acrobat."

" Do we have any way to influence her?"

" Besides the usual way?"

" Jun-chan."

" Fine, fine. I was only joking, no need to give me such a look. My new girl is the captain of the Kyoshi Warriors."

" Ha-Dia recommended her own daughter?"

" So you have kept in contact."

" Just with the old group. Speaking of which, has there been any news from her?"

" Just cryptic little clues here and there. Sensei trained her too well. She's staying off the radar. Not even Nyla can pick her up."

" Too bad. She would've loved this."

" Yes she would've. Sometimes, I miss her."

" Yes, me too. But she wasn't the same after that last mission."

" Well, what did you expect? It was an assassination mission to end all assassination missions. You don't go in that deep and expect to come out that same."

" After all this is over, do you think we should try to recruit the Fire Lord?"

" Bring a male into the Black Lotus Ops? That hasn't been done in decades."

" But it's not forbidden."

" Males generally go for the White Lotus. More out in the open, more glory. For some reason, all the women seem more drawn to espionage. I say we go for his wife."

" If they get married."

Jun pulled Nyla to an abrupt halt just outside the walls of Ba Sing Se. Surveying the city as Nyla reared, she smirked. Behind her, seated side-saddle and glaring at the sudden stop, sat Lae-Lia Bei Fong.

" If, Belladonna?" Jun turned back to look her friend in the eye. " If I have anything to say about it, Bera-chan, they'll be hitched before they end of the Chun Festival."

Whew! That was a long haul! The Maiko twist just sorta came to me during the last installement, and I had to use it. See, both Mai and Zuko are at fault. Zuko wants to make it work, and so does Mai, but for totally selfish reasons. Don't worry though, I have an awesome resolution in mind; one that panders to Zutara, but isn't too cruel to Mai.

And Ty Lee. Poor, unrequieted love for Ty Lee. I was gonna have a sub plot, wherein Sokka thinks Suki is cheating one him (because of all the time she's spending with the mission for the BLO), and Ty Lee shows up to comfort him. They talk and stuff, adn Ty Lee is present, internally, with the choice of either defending her captain, or encouraging Sokka's suspiscions and trying to get him for herself. She briefly contemplates the later option, and almost goes with it, but then catches her reflection in a near by window or a stream or some reflective surface, and is disgusted by what she sees. She defends Suki, and later runs into her captain and confesses everything telling her: " For a little while, I actually thought about going with it. I thought, here was chance for me to be happy. Here was a chance to make him mine. And for a second, Suki, I was gonna do it. I was gonna agree with him and lie about you, and say all this aweful stuff, and try to get him to hate you. And I thought that if I made him think you had hurt him, I coulda come in as the confidante and healer and make him fall in love with me. And I was gonna do it. But then, I looked down in the brook, and I saw my face. And it wasn't me, Suki. It was this horrible, ugly girl who was willing to betray a friend for her own gain. It was a weak, stupid girl, who was ready to do anything for her own happiness. It was the girl who followed Azula because she was the strongest, because she was the scariest. It was the girl I thought I left behind that day on the Boiling Rock. And I hated myself for seeing her."

Suki ends up forgiving her, and Ty Lee makes a promise to work extra had and become strong enough to avoid becoming 'that girl' ever again.

But if I had added it in, everything would've gotten too complicated, what with Mai and Zuko's weird relationship, Toph's mom, and Katara's internal (and soon to external) conflict, as well as the plan I have for Toph.

So, symbolism and explanations anyone?

Hawk Stork - symbolic of guardianship, and since in this context it's used in conjunction with the stork, it seems appropriate.

Tessen - iron-ribbed fan.

Ha-Dia as Suki's mother - mostly, it was jsut funny, but it serves a deeper purpose. Notice that most of the Black Lotus Operatives that have been introduced are the mothers of characters. This is a hint as to who the 'she' that Lae and Jun talk about. Also, no one, not even in fanfiction, mentions Suki's parents. Well, here you go. Here mother is a nutcase who raised Suki to be a warrior and views any romantic entanglements as a threat to Suki's training. She however, does admire Sokka's mind, and allowed him to live to see how the relationship wold go. When Sokka did not 'ruin' Suki's 'warrior spirit' (or pride for that matter), Ha-Dia decided he was good for her daughter, and secretly gave her blessings. Sokka is still under the impression that she hates him because she's having too much fun with him being petrified of her to let him know she actually likes him yet. Don't expect her to tell him until the actually wedding day. During the ceremony. Where Sokka can freak out in front of everybody.

Tian Cai - genius.

Tian Cai nv wang - I think it means 'genius queen', but I'm probably wrong.

Bera-chan- Bella-chan.

Jun-chan - Lae calls her this at Jun's request. It makes her feel more at home. In all honesty, she prefers 'Jun-sama'.

I think that's it. Join me laer today for 'In Which There is MORE Plotting', with the prompt: 'Our Two Weapons Are Fear and Surprise and Ruthless Efficiency' Guess who that prompt is talking about.

See you soon!