Authors Note: First of all, I am having some major Writers Blockage issues… for the life of me; I just could not get this chapter down. Every single sentence took up so much time, and then I'd go back and erase and re-write. And stare. The staring was the worst.
I've decided that I really don't like how i got us to this point in the story. In the re-write there will be no Serpienti and no Zuko "killing" his concubine. I haven't decided yet whether or not I will re-write the episodes in the actual tv series either while Katara's with Zuko or after Katara and Zuko join back up with the gAang. This fic is just one big mess and thank you all so so much for following it thus far. There will be many changes, hopefully for the best. Please, if you have any suggestions on things I need to fix please review or PM me to let me know your thoughts.
Fire and Ice
Toph was sitting against a trunk of a tree when Aang found her. She smirked, moved her hands out from behind her head and uncrossed her ankles. Twinkle Toes gripped her extended hand and pulled her into a standing position. She pounded him on the back between the shoulder blades, chuckling at his strangled sound "I'm proud of you Twinkle Toes, how are those big boy pants treating ya?-"
The two benders emerged from the trees and Katara stood in trepidation, purposely placing her body between her two friends and Zuko. When she felt they had gotten close enough she shouted to Aang, "You're not coming any farther until you apologize to Zuko."
Aang looked towards the short earth bender at his side, but as soon as he did so he received a sharp elbow jab in the ribs. He yelped and clutched his wounded side.
"I'm sorry Zuko, so sorry."
Katara sucked in a breath at the emotion in Aang's voice. She thought he would have a problem with doing so but… her shoulders sagged in relief. Toph suddenly shoved Aang closer and he stumbled over to Katara and Zuko with Toph following.
"I'm sorry for. . . everything since you came back Katara. " he wouldn't meet her eyes. "I- i- thought that when you came back things would be the same… but they weren't and I just handled everything so wrong…" he looked at her with dark grey eyes and swallowed thickly, "I'm ready to put the past behind me. Zuko… I once offered you my friendship . . ." he purposely skipped over how that offered friendship had been thrown back in his face, "and if you can forgive me for my behavior, I'd be honored to learn the ways of Fire Bending under your teachings"
Katara opened her mouth to speak but she was lightly pushed out of the way when Zuko stood and looked down at the boy. His face was unreadable and Aang looked down at his feet.
"You haven't done anything wrong Aang. I'm the one who should apologize. And it is I who'd be honored to teach You, Avatar Aang." Zuko bowed respectfully in the fire nation way. Aang looked stricken for the moment but he sobered and returned the bow. "Sifu Hotman"
Zuko coughed, the Avatar just called him Master. Maybe it was time for him to start acting like one.
"Hey-" Katara's face pouted accusingly, "-you never called Me Sifu"
Aang's guilty grin filled his face as he scratched his head dubiously.
Sokka called furiously, "Azula! You coward, I know you're there!"
He yelled her name once more followed by a string of harmless insults, because, -because his heart just wasn't in it today. He had trusted her. She had lied to him. His voice cracked, and he coughed violently. Sokka was hanging from the wall; wrists cuffed above his head while his ankles were chained and anchored to the wall as well. The door slammed open and inside, strutted a female guard. Without pause, her fist met his face with a resounding crack. Sokka let out a strangled grunt, his head whipping away from her fist. The woman looked about to continue save for an amused gruff voice calling from the doorway,
"Enough, if the Fire Princess wishes our hand, we'll deal it. Otherwise, we follow orders."
The woman guard huffed in a raspy voice,
"I won't stand to hear her name slandered."
She turned to Sokka who didn't dare breathe. All he could do was glare defiantly into her face. He had forgotten how serious the folk around here were about the royal family.
"You got that bub? If I hear one more peep. . . " Sokka nodded slowly, before coughing out blood. The woman didn't even flinch.
"Good" she left, wiping the spray from her showing skin that wasn't beneath her helmet.
Sokka fell limp, that was definitely not the response he had wanted. A good half of his face ached and throbbed, he could only imagine how it looked.
"Note to self-" he muttered, slurred, "Don't piss off any guards"
Azula's leisurely steps echoed through the metal corridors. Ty Lee and Mai flanked her sides. Out of the corner or her eye she saw Ty Lee's sleeved arm come up to her face as if to wipe it. Azula rounded on her, "Are you crying?"
Unable to deny the truth in Azula's words Ty Lee merely hung her head.
"Stop, or I'll give you something to cry about." She growled.
Ty Lee sniffled angrily, still not meeting Azula's eyes.
"We will be off of this stupid rock soon, and then we can hunt my brother. And Katara, doesn't that sound nice Mai?"
Azula turned and continued walking to Suki's cell without waiting for a response. Her friends were losing it.
Aang was squatting in almost an Earth Bender's pose. His eye twitched under the effort, and his teeth were clinched together as sweat poured down his face. Zuko squatted directly across from him, close enough to smack Aang's quivering thighs with a stick if his head ever became higher than Zuko's. Which would mean that Aang's thighs weren't parallel to the ground. Zuko breathed in a deep cleansing breath, before releasing it slowly. He peaked open an eye, noticing the Avatar's extreme discomfort.
"Breathe!" he snapped.
"No you're not! Trying isn't good enough!"
"Control your breathing. If you can't even do that then you'll never be able to master Fire Bending"
"Can't I breathe without squatting?"
Zuko's eye twitched and he yelled "No!"
"'Self-restraint' and 'Breath Control'. Uncle said that a Fire Bender must discipline these two things in order to control and direct Fire"
Aang looked at him for a moment, "Well You never-"
Aang closed his eyes and focused on his heartbeat determinedly, trying to slow it down and breathe properly. He somewhat remembered Master Jheong Jheong stressing the importance of breathing. Maybe Zuko did know what he was doing.
"Firebending, in and of itself is not something to fear."
Aang sighed in resignation, "Okay, not something to fear. Got it."
"But," Zuko said tersely, "If you don't respect it then it will chew you up and spit you out like an angry Kimodo Rhino!"
Aang yelped at the sudden angry words coming from Zuko's mouth.
Zuko shifted his stance, "Mirror my movements"
"Now," Zuko stood and backed away a few steps, "Show me what you got. Any amount of Fire you can make."
Aang breathed in deeply and thrust an arm out.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing but a gust of air. Zuko face palmed.
"Maaybe I need a little more instruction." The Avatar shrugged his shoulders, "Perhaps a demonstration?"
Zuko grunted, "Good idea"
He moved away from the squatting boy and got into the correct stance, before sucking in a breath and moving forward into a deep lunge with a yell. No flame, no heat. Not even a gust of air. What the heck is going on?
"What was that?" He gasped, not even pausing to hear Aang's response. He tried again and again, all different varieties. But nothing happened. This was definitely a problem.
Azula entered Suki's cell, smirking at the way the older girl's hands balled, and how she instinctually got into a defensive stance. "Well, that was a nice little visit wasn't it… too bad he couldn't stay any longer."
Suki wasn't in the mood to play games; she cut straight to the point. "Where's Sokka? What did you do with him?"
"My, my. Doesn't this sound familiar? Only a few days ago he was asking the same things. Only difference is that, he knew how to get an answer from me."
"And don't even think about-" Azula caught the fist that had been aimed at her face.
"He tried that too. It didn't work." She sneered in a condescending tone, taking a step forward. Suki stepped back with her and went to twist out of Azula's grip and land another blow, but it seemed as if the Princess was already two steps ahead. Azula tightened her grip around Suki's fist, grinding her knuckles and finger bones together. Suki cried out and fell to a kneeling position on the ground, but her captor didn't let up. Nonetheless she never broke eye contact with the deranged girl standing above her. The door opened, neither looked to see who it was.
"Um… Princess Azula?" it was Ty Lee,
"Not now Ty Lee".
"I said Not Now. What part of 'not now' don't you understand?" Azula looked at the girl in the door way and glared. Agni, what was wrong with people lately?
"Okay, okay. Geeze" Ty Lee gestured in a 'you win' gesture and backed out, shutting the door.
Azula turned her attention back to Suki and only stepped forward once more, before releasing the girl and sneering down at her as she cradled her injured hand.
"You really think that he persuaded me to bring him here after beating the truth out of me?" Azula tapped her chin thoughtfully, "I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound very logical."
Suki scowled realizing with her impaired vision and wounded hand she had no chance of fighting Azula. It didn't mean she wouldn't stop trying though. The Fire Nation Princess circled her like an animal circles its prey before it goes into the kill.
Suki glared up at the woman. "Fine, you want a deal? I'll make a deal. What do you want?"
Azula pressed a finger thoughtfully to her lips, "Hmmm, good question. Who says you can give me what I want." she cackled, "Maybe, just maybe I want what Sokka gave me."
Suki steeled herself, not seeing what was so hilarious. But all thoughts of more attacks ceased. She breathed in a calming breath playing along, "What did Sokka give you?"
"Ah, ah, ah I see your interest has peaked. But who says you're fit for the job?" this started up another round of laughter.
Suki rolled her eyes. Great. She muttered under her breath, "You've been spending too much time with Sokka."
"I do believe you are correct. You're boyfriend, however, didn't seem to mind. You see? Peasant," Azula spat as she leered into Suki's face, "Our little Sokka isn't as faithful as one would think"
Azula paused watching the emotions flicker across Suki's face, before straightening herself and walking to the door. "But maybe I'll just let you two work that out. Who am I to spoil all the fun? I mean after all, I'm not the one who kissed another woman."
Azula closed the metal door behind her, just as something went crashing onto it. Self satisfied with the outcome of their little heart to heart; she smiled and breathed in a breath of muggy air. She started to walk forward but stopped when she looked around only to find Ty Lee hopping on the balls of her feet. Her eyes narrowed and she snapped at her friend,
"Where's Mai?" Who only bit her lip and avoided her Princess's glare.
An alarm went off and the doors opened. All except Suki's. As previously planned. The girl would be moved to solitary confinement, in the cell directly across from Sokka's. The two could make googilly eyes at each other for the rest of their days. Or glares, whichever suited that Suki Peasant.
"I tried to tell y-"
Spirits Damn him!
"Shut up! Just shut up" Azula steamed and then growled in frustration making her way hurriedly, shoving guards and prisoners alike from her path.
"Out of my way!"
She yelled in frustration, as this was getting her nowhere fast.
"I said MOVE!" she bellowed and blasted the metal corridor with a good long stream of molten hot blue fire. She smirked; people ducked and dove for cover, in their case it being either the floors or pressed against the walls. One thing was certain, the guards had never seen prisoners get back in their cells so quickly.
When the door opened Sokka thought it was that female guard again. "Oh come on! I was just trying to scratch my. . .!" his nose had been torturing him for what felt like forever, and when he had finally reached it, having to go through a lot of grunting and struggling, before he finally shmushed his nose against his raised upper arm repeatedly. Yue that hurt! That guard woman sure had an arm! He was sure the whole left side of his face looked like a swollen balloon. So yes, he had made quite a lot of noise, but hey he got the job done. And it wouldn't have hurt in the first place if she wouldn't have hit him so hard!
But when the door opened to reveal not the prison guard, but his worst nightmare? He nearly wet himself. He closed his eyes and held his breath. He did not just see Mai enter into is cell… or… hear her…close… the door. Oh Spirits, Why? When he ran out of air he peaked open his eyes and gasped for a breath.
"I'm still here" she said in a deathly quiet voice.
"W-What a coincidence! I- I am too! Alive! Breathing! Heh heh the way I'm supposed to be!" he stammered.
The young woman leaned against the door adjacent to him, picking through her blades. She had paused somewhere during his little panic attack.
"'Alive' Breathing' the way I'm supposed to be'…" she scoffed. "Your sister took my life from me! I was going to be Fire Lady and" she flung the pointy metal objects that were in her hands at him all at once. They landed with loud thumps that cut through the metal behind him. All stuck in random places around his body. "And Zuko's for crying out loud!" she advanced on him pulling out another blade. He gulped.
Then began the panicking.
"Somebody help me!"
He struggled, jerking against his bonds. Mai continued on, until the thing was pressed into right below his jaw line. Only then he stopped, frozen. "Katara hurt me. So now," he felt liquid trickle down his throat.
"I'm going to hurt Katara" she smiled for the first time and seemed to be transfixed on the trail his blood left.
This is it. I'm going to die. Ran through his head. He closed his eyes.
The door was thrown open so hard and fast that the hinges screamed as it bounced off the wall. Mai was jerked from him, her blade clattering to the floor. Azula had the taller girl by her neck pressed up against the wall in front of him. A handful of blue flames in her free hand, held threateningly to Mai's face. He'd never been happier to see her.
"Give me one good reason, Mai! ONE!. . . "
Mai looked stricken as she choked in Azula's grasp.
Azula dropped her. "You've disobeyed me too many times for me to let this go… Guards! Get her out of my sight. I never want to see her traitorous face again!"
Two guards came in and took her out of the room.
"As for you-" she rounded on Sokka. But before she could even finish the sentence, a body dropping caught their ear outside the door. Then another.
Azula stalked towards the door, yanked it open to find Ty Lee standing over two chi-blocked bodies of the guards. Mai was already running, Ty Lee took one look in Azula's direction before bolting. "Don't even think about it -Ty Lee! Mai!"
Azula was shrieking. "Bring them both back to me! Alive."
Sokka watched as the girl before him literally threw a temper tantrum. Throwing her fists into the walls, kicking, screaming- he works. That wasn't even the main problem- she was a fire bender.
"Hey! Hey! Hey! Watch where you point those things!" he shouted when one of her fireballs exploded just a little too close to his body for his liking. That caught her attention though, and she turned to him.
"You!" she screamed, "All of this is your fault! Haven't you already done enough? Now you have to go and take away my friends too?"
"No offence Azula but you kind of did that yourself."
Whoa, was she about to… cry?
She looked at him, then. Noting the blades surrounding him, the blood and his face. She actually looked concerned. But jerked her face in the opposite direction of his and curled her fingers into fists.
"I think it's time, we parted ways, Cheifling." Her voice was quiet and thick.
"Oh come on no kiss goodbye?" he sneered, when she moved towards the doorway, feeling very spiteful towards her at the moment.
Azula turned towards him, facial expression unreadable. Her eyes glittered with unshed tears.
"-I mean, after all… wasn't that how all this got started?"
He smirked when she only looked at him mouth agape.
"You have no one. No brother, no father, no mother, no friends. And you have nobody to blame but yourself."
He heard her choke.
"Wow! Hey everybody look at this! Your big bad Princess is speechless!" While Sokka taunted her she walked forwards her head only coming up to his neck. He said, quieter "Whoda thunk it?"
He was being cruel, he knew it. He didn't care after all she'd done.
She swallowed thickly and looked into his eyes.
"What's the matter Azula? Since I'm kinda tied up at the moment" he jerked against the metal, she winced actually taking a step back. "You can tell me aaanything you want to. Spirits, actually, now that I think about it you can do anything you want to. Why stop with a kiss? Huh? Come on Azula!"
"Wh- what are you doing?" she whimpered, her eyes darting all over the place.
"I'm trying to get you to think. Actually think for once! You are just digging yourself in a deeper hole!" Plus he was incredibly mad at himself for ever trusting her. And mad at her, oh there was no avoiding that.
He said quietly, "All because of your stupid pride."
"I think…" she said, stepping closer to him, taking two fistfuls of his tunic and yanking him towards her, "…that you need to shut up. Right. Now." she growled, her anger finally winning out over all the other emotions that had been competing to break loose.
"I hope you enjoyed your little freedom of speech. Because it'll be your last."
She pulled a hand away lighting it on fire. He rolled his eyes. What a surprise.
"You won't do it." he said with certainty, looking at her indifferently.
Her eyes narrowed, "OH won't I?"
"Yeah, you won't. You haven't hurt me yet. And believe me" he scoffed, "You've had plenty of chances."
She growled and moved to smash her flaming fist into the side of his face. He did the only thing he was sure that would stop her. Well he hadn't planned on it, but she had moved in so close and all of him was shackled.
Sokka kissed Azula.
The assailant arm dropped. Her lips were so, so soft. At first there was only a chaste pressing of the lips but all it took was a little nudge, just the slightest bit of pressure and she gasped lightly which ended up in Sokka deepening the kiss. Nothing too fancy, as he knew next to nothing other then what Suki had showed him. He could tell how fragile Azula was in this moment. There was no thinking, no rationalizing with himself.
This was his chance. She could go either way. He only hoped it would be the right way. She pulled away from him, turning around so he couldn't see her face. His face was wet from her tears.
"You could end this, you know, right now" he murmured in a soft voice. "We could all go back to Zuko and Katara. We could end this war. All you have to do," he swallowed, "is unshackle me."
"Azula" he pleaded in a tender voice.
"Goodbye Sokka" her voice, however, was hard as she opened the door and left him there.
He slammed his head back against the wall twice cursing himself. Cursing her.
Oh no. Oh Spirits no.
Through the small window in his cell door, he could see across the narrow hall, through the cell door parallel to his. Suki looked to be shackled the same way he was. She was looking through her cell window at him, just as he was looking at her.
Azula sat in the Warden's chair behind his desk. Her ankles were crossed on top of a stack of opened scrolls. The Warden eyed her feet with unmasked distaste. He shifted uncomfortably when she turned her molten gaze from his scroll in her hands to his face. "I do hope you intend to re-write this, Warden. I am not pleased in the manner you described me to Fire Lord Ozai." The said scroll disintegrated in her palm.
The Warden scowled, "You wish me to lie to the Fire Lord?"
Azula glared. She had noted the contempt in his voice.
"I am merely suggesting, for your sake of course, that he knows what he needs to know and nothing more." She stood, "I know how much you love your little rock you have going here-away from the city and all of its political complications-and it would be such a shame were you to be transfer back to the Capital. We both know how much you loved the Prison Tower."
The man's head lowered and his fists clenched in anger. He despised the Capital Prison with all he was worth. The only thing he hated more was the girl standing in front of him. The same girl, conversely, who locked his niece and her colorful companion away in his prison.
Azula stepped over so that she was just standing behind him and leaned down so that her lips were at the same height as his ear. "I don't know what my father ever saw in you. But if you think about it -and I mean really think," She straightened, placing both clawed hands on each sides of his shoulders. He could swear he felt heat emanating through his armor from where she held him.
"It isn't You who keeps the prisoners in their place. It's the boiling lake. They fear getting . . ." Her voice dropped an octave and her eyes narrowed dramatically as she place great emphasis on the word, "burned." She paused, and then continued on cheerily. "Sound familiar? Now, be a good little Warden and do as you are told." She patted him on the head twice before leaving the room.
Authors Note: Shoot me a review and you get a sneak peek PM'd to you from the next chapter! I hope it was a little worth the wait? I'm really sorry guys.