Thanks for the reviews again! And I introduce the tenth chapter of Azula's mischief, please do enjoy.
Night fell over the City of Ba Sing Sei and the streets had long since cleared of activity. The upper rings held, not so surprisingly, the upper-class citizens of the city. The well crafted buildings housed aristocrats, politicians, wealthy citizens, and friends of the Earth King. The importance of those who lived in those rings granted them more security and safety than those who lived in the lower rings and outskirts of the main city. In the upper rings, Earth Kingdom soldiers themselves patrolled the streets at night, giving the citizens an eased state of mind and a feeling of security.
It was for that reason that Katara hadn't felt the need to return home when dusk began falling. It was the same reason she didn't wander back now that the sky was dark. She finished blowing off the steam of Aang's accusations and her own frustrations a while ago. Now she walked the barren streets to think.
Her mind somewhat mirrored the cool of the night, the sensitiveness she'd been accused of earlier was gone. She had to admit it was easier to look at the situation with more clarity and fairness now than at the time it happened. She sighed as she turned down another barren street. She had already passed several soldiers who eyed her strangely, but nodded to her as they went by. It was probably rare that people wandered the streets aimlessly, but she really didn't want to go back.
She had yelled at Aang. He was probably so upset and hurt by it, far more than was ever necessary. But he was right, she did get pretty sensitive when it came to Zuko. He attacked them countless times, always shouting how he needed to capture Aang. It was like he didn't even think of him as a person, which was probably why he insisted on calling him 'the Avatar' all the time.
She wondered about him though. The time they had seen him in the deserted town, he seemed so hurt. She almost wanted to help him after Azula attacked his uncle. She knew what it was like to lose a family member. Though she had no idea what it was like for that family member to be lost due to another. She really didn't understand them. Maybe that was the reason for her fascination.
There was shuffling in front of her. Her eyes that had been following the ground as she thought moved up to identify the noise. She gasped and took a step back as she reached the person's face.
"You!" She nearly shouted, pointing in a horrified manner. She couldn't believe it.
The person in front of her had jumped back in the same manner, just as surprised as she was. The two stood there staring at each other for a moment in complete shock before the recognized person took off running. Before she even thought about it, Katara followed in pursuit.
She chased them down several streets, winding past closed shops and merchant carts before they both ran down a dead end. Katara smiled victoriously to herself when she saw the runner turn down that street because she'd been there earlier. Panting, she cornered figure that had just spun around finding themselves trapped.
"I'm not here to hurt you!" he pleaded, finding nowhere to go.
"As if I'd believe that Zuko! Why on earth would I trust you?" She glared at the banished prince before her.
"I know you have no reason to…After everything I've done." Zuko trailed off, his eyes finding the floor.
Katara paused for a moment. He looked so different. Where was his fire? That fight in his eyes. He looked defeated instead. He was always such a martyr, fighting against all odds and relentless. Even though he had always been against her, she somehow always admired that in him. She shook her head at the thought. It was Zuko, one of the royal siblings. They might as well be the hell children, but maybe it was just lately Azula. She looked at him again; her feelings of remorse and compassion for him started returning. No he wasn't stuck up like her. He was passionate, not self assured and boastful. He had a reason for fighting; she just did as she pleased. Katara shuttered. Maybe she was just grouping them instead of looking at them separately.
"What are you doing here?" She asked cautiously after a pause.
"Please don't tell anyone." His tone was sincere and caught Katara off balance. He almost seemed, afraid?
She stared at him, trying to read the truth in his body language. She felt for a strange reason like she could trust him.
"What are you doing here?" She asked with a little concern in her voice.
"My Uncle and I, we own a tea shop in the city." He mumbled, his raspy voice fading in the wind as he spoke.
Katara wanted to laugh. Zuko? Working in a tea shop? It had to be a prank. Zuko just looked a little embarrassed now.
"Sorry, I…I've only seen you chase me around…I can't imagine you doing something so…" she trailed off, thinking of the right word.
"Pathetic?" he spat, a familiar fire returning to his eyes. She was taken a back at his reaction. Why would he think something like that? Some of her almost warmed at it too. It was familiar.
"No, that's not what I was going to say at all. I was going to say peaceful." She said almost apologetically.
"Oh." He looked away again. It didn't seem he thought that was any better. He looked ashamed.
They remained quiet, neither quite knowing what to say.
They both spoke at the same time. Their eyes met and then both looked away uncertainly. Zuko gripped the fabric of his pants and spoke again.
"Uncle says…that what we do now, is honorable, but I can't help but feel like I've abandoned all my honor instead. I fought so hard to capture the Avatar, because my father said I couldn't return home without him. I'm a banished prince…and after all that, I leave the war…abandon my country" Zuko spoke freely, in a confessional sort of manner and paused. His grip tightened as she shut his eyes tightly. He and threw his arms aside and shouted "and for what? To serve tea!"
Katara felt her heart pulling. She honestly didn't like to see anyone hurting, no matter who it was. She was always told she had overwhelming compassion. Maybe she could understand where he was coming from. His voice sounded so pained. She knew he was angry, but it was from frustration, not hate. His own father banished him. She couldn't imagine how that might feel.
"Zuko…" She spoke slowly. "I think you're honorable. The Fire Nation is terrorizing the world! Leaving the Fire Nation lines is an honorable thing." Katara tried to encourage, it was what she really believed.
He sighed. "That's because you aren't from the Fire Nation. I'm a traitor Katara."
She grimaced, trying to think of a way to soothe his pain. He had a point, but that was just his mindset. He wasn't a bad person; he was just on the wrong side.
She thought of how pained he was over his Uncle and what Aang had told her he did at the Northern Water Tribe. He had something in him, he could be good. He just didn't know how. He needed to think of it in a different way, a more worldly view. Then she got an idea.
"Zuko, why don't you come with us?"
He looked at her as if she'd grown a third head.
"If you see the world, and how everything is being affected, maybe you can change your mind! And by helping us, you can regain your honor your own way!" She declared. There was a passion burning in her eyes. She felt like she could help Zuko. He was just a poor lost soul, tainted by the Fire Nation. He could help them win, and restore peace in the world.
Katara could feel her heart racing. It made a lot of sense to her and gave her hope. She imagined him, fighting with them side by side, helping restore balance to the four nations. He looked heroic and strong.
"I don't think it's that easy Katara.."
She snapped out of her imagination to see the boy looking downcast to the side.
"But why?" she looked crestfallen.
"I don't know. I don't know what's right, Katara!" He shouted, frustrated with his own thoughts.
She glared at him. How could he not know? He's so stupid! She looked away from him. She was so frustrated with him that tears were welling up in her eyes. Why did she even care?
She stiffened when a large hand fell on her shoulder.
"Is everything okay here miss?" A deep gruff voice sounded from behind her.
Katara looked back to see Jeo looking down at her with a concerned etched in his rugged features. She wiped her eyes and flung the tears from her hand.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I was just leaving." She said, glaring at Zuko.
"Please allow me to escort you home." He said politely in a slight bow.
She nodded at him, for once tolerating his presence. She ignored the thought that she was doing this to make Zuko angry. She turned around with Jeo.
"Katara" He called after her.
"Goodnight Zuko." She voiced over her shoulder, allowing Jeo to lead her out of the ally.
She was lost in her thoughts for the next few minutes as they walked in silence. She was upset with Zuko, but as much as she hated to admit it she was upset with herself. How foolish had she been to simply offer him a place with the gang. It wasn't like she could trust him that easily. Yet somehow, he was so easy to talk to and she got the feeling he didn't do it very often.
They turned down another corner, but she didn't really notice. She did find it rather hard to talk to people. She normally listened, but found it hard to open up to people, even her friends. She could sit there all day and here them talk to each other, joke and laugh, but she was usually reserved. She certainty didn't share her feelings with any of them, she wasn't exactly comfortable, not even Aang. That was probably because he liked her, so she would feel strange telling him everything. So instead she listened to him talk, much the way she had let Jeo do all the talking earlier.
She paused her train of thought. Jeo hadn't spoken since they left Zuko. That was odd; he couldn't seem to shut up on the way to the house. She looked up at him from her place at his side. He was smiling, but it wasn't a normal smile. It looked sort of creepy. She turned her gaze forward, hoping to find herself close to the house, but met an empty dead end instead. Fear started to creep up her spine.
"This is a dead end." She stated hesitantly.
"So it is." He replied almost jokingly, "I thought we could spend some, alone time together."
Katara gulped. She did not like the way his low voice stressed the word alone. That was the last thing she wanted to be with him. She looked around, hoping to see one of the patrolling soldiers. Where were they now? Oh right…in front of you. She felt realization slipping over her. He was the captain, he knew where guard posts were and probably picked a dead spot.
She was walking backwards now as he kept coming towards her. There was a suggestive look in his eyes that frightened her. She instinctively reached for her waterskin, only to find it missing. She glanced down at where it should have been. No, I left it on the counter!
Katara was starting to panic. She could usually hold her own, but without water? That was going to be a problem. This guy was huge! She frantically looked around for someone, but all she saw was Jeo getting closer, his expression growing sleazier with every step. Katara took another step back and felt a stone wall behind her. She gasped. She was trapped. Katara glared at him, but couldn't manage to keep all of the fear out of her eyes.
"Oh don't look at me like that sweetie, I just wanna have some fun." He winked at her again and she felt like she wanted to puke.
"Well I don't so leave me alone!" She shouted at him.
His perverted grin turned to a frown. "Look girl, no one says no to me." His voice grew rougher. He wasn't kidding around.
Katara braced herself, checking her surroundings again. No water. He was about two steps away, if she broke at the right time she could make a run for it. Jeo took a step with his left and Katara made a quick break with her right. She cleared his reach by just a hair and ran down the rest of the ally. She was just about to turn the corner when she ran into another soldier.
"Oh thank the spirits you're here. That man is trying to hurt me!" She cried, almost clinging on to his uniform.
The soldier looked down at her and then at the man who was walking out of the ally. He took a hold of her shoulder and asked her softly.
"You mean that man right there?"
"Yes, yes that's him!" She cried.
"Captain." He addressed Jeo. The soldiers grip on her shoulder tightened. Katara seized up. No…
"No!" She shoved the soldier as hard as she could, but his grip was iron. He grabbed her and turned her around to face the Captain.
"I see you've got a pretty one tonight." The soldier said behind her, giving her bottom a rough squeeze. Katara shrieked at the contact.
Though she was a formidable fighter, she felt powerless. She knew all the implications of this situation; she was going to be violated. If she had focused and used her strength wisely, she might have been able to escape, but she was panicking. It didn't matter that she could defeat an entire brigade of Fire Nation soldiers, right now she felt like the weakest person alive. These men could rape her and no matter how strong she was she couldn't stop them. They were leading her back into the ally.
Jeo put his hand on her cheek as Katara felt hot tears welling up in her eyes. She didn't want this, she was afraid. She didn't like anything about this situation. She wanted to scream for help, but her voice was completely lost with fear. On top of everything that was about to happen to her, she felt absolutely pathetic. Katara clenched her eyes, not wanting to see the face of her attackers. Tears fell freely down her cheeks.
Suddenly, a sound of an explosion hit the wall behind Jeo, forcing him to spin around.
"A firebender!" He cried, turning away to face the new attacker.
Katara refused to open her eyes. She felt hope and relief coursing through her veins at the thought of a possible savior, even if they were a firebender. She feared if she opened her eyes they would disappear. Her heart screamed, thanking Yue for watching her.
She heard a rough grunt as Jeo slammed into the wall, knocked unconscious. There was heat swirling around the ally as she was released, nearly tossed to the ground as the other soldier tried to run away. Katara felt a rush of fire rush past her and heard a shriek just before the soldier was blasted through a shop window.
Katara remained huddled on the ground, her eyes still clenched shut. Her mind was racing as she heard footsteps in her direction. Had Aang suddenly learned firebending? The footsteps became clearer and they sounded like they were made by boots. Her heart stopped for an instant. Did Zuko come back for her? Had he followed her to make sure she was safe?
She heard her hero come to a halt a few feet in front of her. A warm palm touched her cheek. Katara leaned into the touch. It felt gentle and kind. She brought her own hands to meet the touch, trying to cherish this moment of salvation for just a moment more. Katara felt lighter than air. She was moments away from the worst possible fate, but this person, this person here saved her. This person cared enough about her to make sure she was okay. Zuko cares…
"It seems you can't handle two lowly Earth Kingdom thugs, and here I almost considered you my rival."
Katara froze, shock registering harshly in her body. She was yanked from her day dream at the sharp tone, glistening with ridicule and a cool edge. The opposite of the low, raspy but warm voice she'd expected to hear. She reluctantly opened her eyes, very slowly as a Fire Nation uniform and the sharp porcelain features of the Princess of the Fire Nation came into view. Azula was crouched at her level, her arm extended forward, palm still resting gently on her cheek. Golden irises piercing the darkness, locked with her ocean blue ones. She couldn't breathe or move a muscle, much less drop her hands from Azula's. She just sat there and stared into her so called savior's predatory sight.
"You don't have to hold my hand you know, the big bad bullies are dead." She sneered, her eyes never leaving Katara's.
Katara nearly choked. The idea of those guards being dead somehow freeing her lungs.
"Y-you k-killed them?" Azula rolled her eyes at Katara's shocked expression. Really, this girl nearly gets raped and then gets upset at the thought that they were killed?
"Does it really matter?"
Katara didn't answer her.
"Oh Agni. I didn't. You're so pathetic." She drawled, her gaze turning back to Katara.
Katara glared at her, finally regaining control of her body. She shoved Azula's hand away from her face.
"How is that pathetic? It's a life!" She shouted at the cocky firebender.
Azula scowled. "So they deserve to live after nearly raping you?" Her voice was hard, unlike the usual banter she threw at Katara.
"Of course!" She shouted defiantly.
The Princess's eyes narrowed in response. She grabbed Katara by her collar and shoved her against the wall roughly. As her back hit the wall, Azula grabbed both of Katara's arms and thrust them above her head. Azula leaned in dangerously, leaving barely an inch between their faces. Katara looked back at Azula, stunned.
"You wouldn't…" Katara breathed.
"Why not?" Azula asked carelessly. "Apparently I've done worse. After all, you condemn me every time we meet."
Katara couldn't answer. She stared, her mouth hanging open slightly.
Azula sneered. "You're sense of morality is just so impressive."
Katara just continued to stare. There she was, in practically the same position she'd been in just minutes ago, the same helplessness, but she felt so different. She wasn't fighting, it didn't even occur to her to do so. She was getting warmer and warmer. She was too close to Azula, way to close. That was the only thought registering in her mind as golden globes bore into her.
Azula watched her carefully. Katara looked gone, the expression in her eyes was slipping into a vacant one. Perhaps she's already gone through too much trauma for one night.
"I thought I already told you about you're little staring problem." Azula mocked.
Katara blinked at her, the usual presence returning to her eyes. Azula acknowledged this, it was…feisty.
"What the hell are you doing here anyway!" Katara barked at her, ignoring the flush that quickly rose to her cheeks.
Azula smirked at her. She enjoyed this Katara. The feisty one. It really was amusing that this girl was so informal with her, not to mention she dared to talk back in the first place.
"You do know deflection means you're hiding the truth. I am an excellent liar you know." Azula mocked.
Katara clenched her teeth. She hated that tone. It was so self assured and cocky, as if she knew she was right and just taunted you with it. She spoke so casually too, like she knew everything about you and waved you off as if you didn't matter at all. Worse than that, was that the tone had a very distinct characteristic. It was just slightly sensual, but it did the trick. Well.
"I stare because you're ugly!" Katara shouted. Usually she hated calling other girls ugly it was just too personal, but this was Azula. She needed to deliver a blow that would sting and get her to back off in more ways than one.
The Princess jerked back a little as if something bit her on the nose. She glared intensely at the waterbender before drawing another smirk. She leaned against the girl making full body contact, she leaned her face away so that her lips were right beside Katara's ear. She heard the girl gasp.
Azula let warm air caress Katara's ear as the girl shivered lightly against her. "Really?" Azula said slowly, just a sliver away from her ear.
Katara gulped. The warm breath on her ear nearly drew a whimper from her. That wasn't supposed to happen! Katara heart was beating fast now. She could have sworn it was thumping against Azula's armor the girl was so close to her. Despite what had been a relatively cool night, Katara's flesh felt heated and the warmth of the firebender did nothing to relieve her fever.
The actions of Azula were so different now from what she was used to. They were every bit as dangerous and depraved as usual, but instead of being directed in a violent manner, these were undeniably intimate. She was used to the flaming blue inferno, but it had always seemed cold and destructive. Now it held a heat that was threatening to consume her.
There had to be some way out. Katara took a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself, as panic had been the blame of her last undoing. A warm cinnamon scent with hints of peach ambushed her senses. Before she realized it, she found herself trying to draw more of the intoxicating aroma. Her hooded blue opened as her vision was met with the source of the air that now filled her lungs, the silky raven hair of the Princess.
"W-what are y-you doing here." Katara managed to whisper.
Azula smirked, withdrawing from the waterbender's ear. Her face was heavily flushed even though her dark skin. Her body was clearly out of her control at this point, but a defiant ray still glinted in her icy stare.
"Oh peasant, what did I tell you about avoiding questions?" She taunted, shifting her hands so she held both of Katara's wrists with her right.
"You're doing the same thing."
Azula narrowed her eyes at the waterbender. "As if I'd tell you."
"Probably trying to kill Aang again." Katara spat, struggling against Azula's grip.
Azula just rolled her eyes, "Can't I just be here on vacation? I'm not as single minded as my brother you know."
Katara glared at her, the expression in her eyes yelled liar.
"Oh please. I really have better things to do than chase a bald kid all over the world. He isn't very entertaining."
"As if I'd believe you! Whatever you're here to do can't possibly be innocent."
"I did rescue you didn't I? Besides, I didn't claim to be innocent" Azula stated, placing two fingers under Katara's chin. Katara gulped, Azula's tone was much more erotic than she remembered.
"P-probably just to capture me and use me as bait!" Katara put on a defiant mask, but was wavering under Azula's dangerous touch. Damn it Azula, don't do that!
Azula tilted her head as if to consider the statement. "That would be a good idea, wouldn't it." She smirked as Katara's eyes went wide. "Oh don't look so surprised. You were the one that suggested it."
Katara was boiling. Azula always did this to her, taunting her endlessly. Katara would throw back smart remarks of her own, but it was almost like Azula was waiting for them so she could flip them right back in her face. It was infuriating, especially the way she did it. Azula had Katara wrapped around her little finger and merely batted her back and forth, giving her 'chances' to escape, only to block of the other exit. The worst part was that Azula made her more riled up over these encounters than most of her other offenses.
Katara was just about to yell something nasty at the firebender when she noticed a change in the girl's expression. She was scowling and her concentration seemed elsewhere.
"You're boyfriend is here."
Katara answered before she could even think. "He's not my boyfriend!"
"Good. Not that I respect those sorts of boundaries anyway." Azula leered, smirking. The waterbender was always so quick to refute that point.
Katara took a moment to figure out what Azula was insinuating. Her mouth dropped, but she couldn't find a thing to say, her mind unable to register which feeling to process first. She was appalled, surprised, confused, interested, and almost flattered all at the same time.
Katara tried to speak again, but the warm presence that had just been before her was gone. The space in front of her felt empty, as if the air couldn't quite fill it the way Azula had. As she stared blankly forward, something orange appeared in her peripheral.
The orange blur ran towards her. Katara blinked, attempting to regain her composure before Aang got there.
"Hey, uhm…" he paused looking at the surroundings, obviously indicating signs of battle. "You didn't come back." He said slowly, concern filling his voice, "I was worried."
Katara looked at the boy. He could have guessed what happened. He was young, but a lone girl and two large men in a desolate alleyway didn't conclude a whole lot of scenarios.
"Yeah…" she said slowly, just remembering what happened before Azula had gotten there. It didn't seem that important or dramatic anymore, she was still thinking about what the Princess had said. Aang still looked really worried and unsure of what to say. He was probably still affected by her little episode earlier.
"Thanks Aang." He looked up at her hopefully. "I'm fine now. Let's go home." She smiled warmly.
He looked around one more time, recognizing one of the fallen soldiers as Jeo. He gritted his teeth in anger. Katara could defend herself, but he wanted to be there for her anyway. He wished he had been.
As he tightened his fists, Katara noticed Aang's anger. It was a rare sight; he was true to his monk upbringing and rarely got upset like this. She noticed another emotion in his eyes, he felt guilty. She softened slightly and pulled him into a hug, knowing he probably needed more than she did. He relaxed slightly in his arms. Katara often made him feel like things were going to be okay, something he needed a lot these days. The two separated before sharing a soft smile and walked back in the direction of their house.
Azula watched the two from her place in the shadows, a mild tone of disgust lay in her expression. That boy was seriously a pain. She did, however, also watch with a slight spark of interest. He was so obviously smitten with the waterbender, who was in Azula's standards, acceptably attractive. It was pretty amusing; he seemed hopeless in the matter, not that a little boy would know anything about women anyway. To him, Katara smiling at him was a sign. Please, Azula thought while rolling her eyes at the chirpy expression Aang wore, she smiles at everyone. Except me of course, but I get much better reactions out of her anyway.
She'd love to see the big and oh so powerful Avatar evoke any sort of reaction like that in the water peasant. In a head on competition, the airbender wouldn't stand a chance. It was much more impressive to make someone like you against their will. Even with Katara resisting, that boy couldn't ever make her feel the way Azula could. Azula smirked; sneaking into the city was worth the trouble after all.
With having indulged in at least a little fun, Azula disappeared deeper into the shadows to do further recon in of the city.
Back at the gang's house, Suki climbed the stairs to the master bedroom. She never would have imagined herself having trouble walking up a flight of stairs, but each step seemed to take a toll on her resolve to face the earthbender.
They didn't have to talk about what happened on the drill. Although it was something she had thought about for nearly the entire day, Suki wasn't sure if she had the guts to ask Toph about it. The younger girl was inordinately stubborn and as standing up for Suki was far out of her range of normal activities; Suki imagined it wasn't something Toph wanted to talk about. And when Toph didn't want to talk about something, she shut you out with a literal stone wall.
Suki sighed as she leaned against the railing. She was so out of character around Toph. It irritated her. She wasn't the sort of person that took no for an answer. She didn't shy away from things like this. But with a single glance at the callous earthbender, Suki faced the other way and started whistling. The girl could read her like a book, how could she possibly interrogate someone like that. She would see Suki's motives in the first beat of her heart. Suki turned her gaze to the doorway at the top of the stairs, it seemed to threaten her.
Toph was in there. She could probably tell that Suki was lamely standing on the stairs. Suki scoffed lightly, thinking that the attentive girl could probably hear the thoughts screaming about her head. It didn't really matter; they were so jumbled, yelling over each other that Suki couldn't even understand them. She wasn't entirely sure if she wanted to.
It wasn't like she was stupid. All evidence pointed to a conclusion, but that didn't mean she had to say it, not even to herself. If she did, if she let that small voice ring clear in her head she'd have to face it. That was something Suki desperately wanted to avoid. What point was there in admitting anything anyway? It wasn't as if she could do anything about it. Apparently things were different in the Fire Nation, but she lived in the Earth Kingdom and the way they saw it was like Sokka. To them, the Fire Nation was just a hoard of perverts. Everyone knew that.
And yet, something in Suki beat against that. It was small, but held its own sort of ferocity. When she saw Azula and Ty Lee together it felt like something broke loose, something strong. It practically overpowered her when Azula had her pinned to the wall. It scared her, but a part of it felt so natural. So…right, like it was an inalienable truth that Suki had always known. A part of her felt a sort of freedom that she could only liken to the one she felt while fighting and that was the purest expression she knew. She didn't really know, but she had a feeling that whatever she felt then could be purer than the freedom of fighting.
She stared longingly at the soft blue glow seeping through the doorway. But that isn't possible…is it?