All right, guys... I'm sorry it took so long to get this up, but I was experiencing a bit of writer's block. I hope you're pleased with this. :)

TRIAL BY FIRE

CHAPTER SIX: A SILENT NIGHT

Azula remained outside for a little while longer, and Jet didn't even see her come in when Chan and some of his friends went outside to try to put out the fire that she'd started. Though, Jet didn't tell their host that Azula was responsible for the damages. He was angry and irritated with her, but he did have some class. Besides, these mindless party-goers had no reason to know about what had passed between them. What went on between him and the Fire Lord's daughter was none of their business.

When he returned to the party, Jet didn't know what to do with himself. Suddenly, he was in no mood to socialize, and the thought of entertaining the stupid girl clinging to his arm made his stomach turn. He looked around for help in vain. Zuko, he noticed, seemed to have disappeared; Mai was trying to ignore one of Chan's friends in his absence, and Ty Lee seemed to be in her element with all of the attention she was getting. Jet sighed hopelessly and ran a hand through his already disheveled hair in frustration.

"Is something wrong?" the girl cooed, looking up at him with large eyes as she hung on his arm.

Jet looked down at her with a kind of tortured expression on his face as he disentangled himself from her, freeing his arm from her grasp. "Yeah, what's your name again?" he asked, exasperated.

"Kyou," she answered, disappointed—whether at the fact that he didn't remember her name or the implication that he was about to tell her to get lost Jet couldn't tell. The way she looked at him, like a little lost puppy dog, was starkly different from the way Azula looked at him.

"Look, Kyou," he began, letting out a deep breath as he did so. He wasn't in the mood to be charming, but he also didn't want to be a jerk. In reality, the scene with Azula wasn't Kyou's fault, and taking it out on her wasn't going to change what had happened or how Azula felt. Nevertheless, Jet didn't want her hanging on him for the rest of the night. In fact, he didn't want to stay at the party any longer than he had to. "Can you please just leave me alone?" he asked, hoping that she wouldn't be too upset. "I just… I just have a headache," he added, rubbing his temples appropriately.

Kyou narrowed her eyes and looked at him skeptically, she but didn't say anything to imply that she didn't believe him. "Fine," she muttered as she walked away, giving Jet one last wistful glance before rejoining her friends by the drinks.

After Kyou went and told her friends that he obviously wasn't in the mood to flirt with them anymore, Jet found himself alone and breathed a sigh of relief. Usually he was as into parties as anyone else and he loved attention just as much as Ty Lee. However, that particular evening was different, and, as he wandered over into a corner by himself, Jet asked himself why he had done it.

The surprising part wasn't that he had been flirting—or attempting to flirt—with a pretty girl. That was normal for him—it was expected. Besides, he was willing to do whatever he deemed necessary to achieve his goals… whether that meant destroying an innocent village or seducing a dangerous princess didn't matter. What surprised him was how honest he knew he had been. Azula might not have seen it because she was expecting people to try to use her for her power, but Jet realized just how much he had meant what he had said as he stood rather awkwardly in the corner of the large room full of his peers.

For crying out loud, he had said that he loved her! Where the hell had that come from?

Maybe, he told himself, that he hadn't meant it in the way that one would have assumed. He had been talking about how her friends didn't love her and how not even her father really loved her. That's it, he continued to rationalize. He had meant that he really cared about her… something which he had also told her when she had turned on him. He had been honest, which was frightening to him, when he said that he loved her. However, things weren't as bad as they seemed. Because he wasn't in love with her.

It didn't matter much, though. His plan was to leave her as soon as he got the chance. How could he do that if he had come to care about her? If he really, really had been as honest as he claimed to have been, then how could he justify betraying her trust by deserting her?

The same way he always justified his actions. On the surface, Jet appeared to have changed. He wore Fire Nation clothes, ate Fire Nation food and served the Fire Nation Princess. He even did it with a smile. That didn't mean that his deep-seated hatred for the Fire Nation had vanished. The way that he was being treated now didn't erase the fact that the Fire Nation had killed his parents, neither did his nascent feelings of concern and attraction for Azula. No matter what happened next, Jet knew that he had to get out. The Fire Nation was just as treacherous and unpredictable as its princess, and he had been foolish to forget it.

How long would it be before they turned on him? Who knew what Azula would do in her rage?

No, his life depended on his escape, as did his conscience and his honor. He wouldn't fight for the Fire Nation. His original plan still stood, and he wouldn't let these stupid feelings get in the way. He would earn Azula's trust and then he would escape. It was that simple.

"Mai. Ty Lee. Come on. We're leaving."

Jet looked up suddenly, broken out of his reverie by the commanding voice that he knew so well. He told himself that it was habit that made him respond immediately to Azula's voice rather some troublesome emotion. He hadn't noticed her coming back into the house, but he could tell by the look on her face as she gathered up her friends that she was in no better mood than the one in which he had left her.

"Finally," Mai sighed as she stood up and walked away from Chan's friend, whose name Jet hadn't caught, clearly impatient to leave the party. He watched as Azula turned on Ty Lee, who was having a hard time extricating herself from her admirers. Azula gritted her teeth in frustration and physically dragged the acrobat away from the crowd of disappointed teenaged boys.

"Wait!" Ty Lee exclaimed, suddenly remembering that they were forgetting something. "What about Jet?"

Azula, predictably enough, didn't even bat an eyelash. She neither slowed her pace nor looked back before they reached the door. Pausing in the doorframe, she locked eyes with Jet across the room, and he stood a little straighter in surprise. "What about him?" she asked in a cold, calm voice that sent chills down his unsuspecting spine. Then she turned again and disappeared into the night, her friends following her without another argument.

For goodness's sake, Jet thought slowly as he watched her leave, why did she have to be so hot?

He didn't linger at the party for much longer than that, as he soon realized that he had no purpose there at all without Azula or her friends. He didn't know anyone else in the Fire Nation, and he was half afraid that Kyou and her friends were going to jump him again if he stayed around for too long even though he had clearly expressed his lack of interest. Besides, the noise was actually starting to give him a real headache, and he really just wanted to go back to Lo and Li's house and lie down.

He found his way back from Chan's without too much trouble. Once or twice, he took a wrong turn, but the night was cool and quiet so he didn't mind much. It was late by the time he undressed and crawled into his bed in the room he was sharing with Zuko, but neither Azula nor her friends had returned yet. Drained both mentally and physically, Jet fell asleep easily, listening to the soothing sounds of the beach as he closed his eyes. He slept soundly and, for the first time since his arrival in the Fire Nation, did not dream of Princess Azula.

Later that night—or perhaps it was already very early in the morning—Jet stirred in his bed, awakened by the return the others. Zuko was there, making no attempt to be quiet and not wake him as he got ready to turn in himself. Wordlessly, Jet glared at his temporary room mate and rolled over, trying to get back to sleep. Several minutes passed, however, before he realized that his attempts were futile. Moreover, he was thirsty. Sighing heavily in annoyance, Jet got up and walked out of the room without a second glance at the Prince.

The first time he passed by the girls' room on his way to the kitchen he heard nothing at all. In fact, the whole house was silent. Lo and Li had retired ages ago, and he supposed that Azula, Mai and Ty Lee were tired after staying out so late. However, when he returned with a glass of water, he heard hushed voices—one of which was definitely Azula's. He paused in the hall outside their door, weighing the risks of getting caught eavesdropping. After a few seconds' hesitation, Jet decided that it was worth the risk to hear what they were talking about. He was dying to know what they had done after leaving the party.

"Did you laugh at his jokes?" That was Ty Lee, speaking quietly in a hushed tone. Jet pressed his ear up against the door, trying his hardest to breathe as silently as he could.

"Of course," came Azula's reply. Jet couldn't decide if she sounded bitter or sad.

"Then what happened?"

"I don't know." There was a pause, and Jet heard someone moving. Perhaps Ty Lee had gone to sit at the foot of Azula's bed. "He kissed me but then… I guess I just lost my head."

Jet narrowed his eyes. They were talking about Chan. He was willing to bet on it. He had kissed Azula too, but he hadn't told any jokes for her to laugh at. It had to be Chan. If there was a third player in this game, he wouldn't know what to do with his jealousy.

"What about Jet?" asked Ty Lee, sounding hopeful. "He went out there to see you, didn't he? What happened with him? Why didn't you want him to come with us?"

There was a long, tense pause, during which Jet practically held his breath. Finally, Azula's cold voice cut through the dark silence of the night. "He can't be trusted, Ty Lee. He's my prisoner, remember? He acts like he likes me, sure. But what does he really want? He wants to destroy the Fire Nation. He wants my power."

Outside the door, Jet bit his tongue so hard that it started to bleed in his mouth as he tried to keep himself from doing something stupid to manifest his anger. He wanted to punch the wall or burst into the girls' bedroom and tell Azula that she was wrong—even though she wasn't completely mistaken. He wanted to destroy the Fire Nation, yes, but he also wanted her.

"I think you might be wrong about that, Azula," Ty Lee said softly. "I think he cares about you."

Jet made a mental note to do something nice for Ty Lee later.

"And what would you know?" Azula snapped, raising her voice defensively. "You don't know anything."

"Yes, I do," Ty Lee insisted soothingly. "And I know you, Azula. You've got to stop being so damn paranoid and closed off to everyone. I think the idea of actually liking Jet scares you. A lot."

There was another long pause, during which Jet closed his eyes and exhaled deeply. He really needed to do something really nice for Ty Lee the next chance he got. "Nothing scares me," Azula replied, though she sounded thoughtful and almost… afraid?

"Will you two get to sleep already?" a third voice, Mai, demanded. "It's late, and I'm tired."

After that, Jet heard the telltale sounds of rustling sheets, and he concluded that that was the end of Azula and Ty Lee's conversation. Having almost forgotten his glass of water, he crept back along the hallway and returned to the room he was sharing with Zuko, who was already sleeping soundly. Sitting on his bed, Jet downed the rest of his drink before crawling back beneath the covers himself. He laid awake for some time after that, mulling over Azula's words in his head as he stared at the wall. When he finally did fall asleep, he dreamed of killing Chan.