The Political Repercussions of Date Night
Rated: Mature for some romance/sexuality (Kataang non-explicit).
Summary: Who knew that taking your girlfriend out to a dance club would have such negative political repercussions? So much for Aang's reassurances that he is allowed to act his age every once in a while.
Disclaimer: Avatar: The Last Airbender is owned by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Nickelodeon, and Viacom. I make no money from this glorified hobby.
LES: This story is inspired by a few things. One of those things was a fanfiction called "A Day in the Life" by MadLori where the author mentioned that Aang and Katara liked to go to a dance club with people their age (what that means to me: a night club). The second is paparazzi. I realize that it is a stretch to say that the media exists three years after Sozin's Comet even though we know that it exists in The Legend of Korra, but this is my story. And it's not really paparazzi, but it is the media hounding the Avatar for his behavior. And third, the silly and mostly modern notion that the sort of things that political figures do in their spare time somehow has an effect of their ability to be a leader.
Aang groaned as he woke up, casting his arm up over his eyes in order to shield them from the light that was invading through the window and making his pounding headache even worse than before.
He had been laying there for about a minute now, but with no real desire to get up and face the world. To put it bluntly? He felt like he'd been trampled by a herd of camelephants.
At least he knew what was going on. He sometimes ended up like this after date night with his girlfriend, Katara. He'd drink a little too much and then wake up hung over the next day. It was something he'd dealt with before, and he started to gather the will power that he needed to sit up and begin healing himself. He sat up, gasping as the change in position caused him to go dizzy and almost black out. But it wasn't just that, the movement of his jaw caused a sharp pain to flare through the muscles of his cheek, as if he were bruised there. Aang gingerly touched the area, finding it to be painful and sensitive. He was most definitely bruised. That's new. He thought to himself.
He forced himself out of bed and staggered his way over to the in-suite bathroom that was a part of his home on Ember Island, a place that was both a vacation house and his normal residence within the Fire Nation. Firelord Zuko had offered Aang housing within the capital city, but Aang preferred the livelier atmosphere of Ember Island over the stuffy nobles of the capital city.
He dipped his hands into a basin of water, using Waterbending to coat his fingers with the cool substance. The water began to glow as it became infused with his chi and he pressed his hands to his temples. He sighed. Sweet relief. He didn't understand how anyone could suffer through a hangover without healing abilities or at least having a Water Tribe healer to heal the hangover for you.
After the healing, he cupped his hands, filled them with water, and drank it. He drank several more handfuls before he stopped. The Waterbending healing was only a temporary fix. Only drinking water would bring real relief.
He gazed at himself in the bathroom's looking glass. When he first stepped in, he'd looked like a zombie, but now he looked much better. Perhaps not fit for the Fire Nation Court, but at least he looked human.
He started to reach for his shaving supplies to take care of the hair growing on his head and the sparse hair growth along his cheeks and chin. He wanted to grow a beard some day, but at the moment, the growth was still too new and sparse. Trying to grow a beard now would just make him look like a half-shed bison.
He was about to pour some shaving cream into his hands when he heard the door to his private suite open. He was not unduly concerned. There were very few people who had the key to the door, and all of them he trusted with his life.
Indeed, the mysterious intruder called out her presence (for she was female) and Aang recognized her voice in an instant. He should be expected to know the sound of his girlfriend's voice.
"Aang? Are you awake?" Katara called.
"Yes, I'm in the bathroom!" Aang called back, and then nearly jumped out of his skin when the door was pushed open and Katara rushed in. The situation could have been worse, considering that Aang was wearing enough clothes to not be indecent, but the fact that's she'd burst in had shocked him, if only because of the knowledge that he could have been indecent. "Katara!" He gasped. "What are you…?"
"I'm sorry, Aang, but I thought you'd… want to see this." Katara finished lamely, handing a paper to him. Aang recognized it as Ember Island's morning newspaper, though he couldn't imagine what sort of information would be on it to interest him. Ember Island was a place built largely upon the party culture, and very few politically important events happened upon its shores. Therefore, the newspaper was mainly a glorified community calendar for the various parties and festivals.
Aang washed the shaving cream off his hands and then took the newspaper from Katara, flicking it open with a flick of his wrist. He had expected to have to search for whatever Katara wanted him to see, but his eyes widened when it became readily apparent what she had seen that caused her disquiet. His name in the headline of the front page jumped out at him, and he read the words that accompanied it, his eyes growing wider with disbelief with every word that he took in.
"Teenaged Avatar too young and immature to serve? Avatar Aang's wild night of partying leaving doubt that he is capable of performing his Avatar duties."
Aang stared in shock at the headline. There was an article that went with it, but he couldn't bring himself to read it. But certain phrases jumped out at him. Public intoxication. Public indecency. Brawling.
"But… but I…" Aang began, stuttering, gazing at the article in shock. "What is this? About last night? It didn't get that bad, did it? We just went to that night club… had a few drinks… and…" Aang trailed off.
"Exactly how much do you remember of last night?" Katara asked, concern in her eyes.
Aang sighed as he cast his memory back to the night before.
When one came to Ember Island, it was really only for one reason. If you were a teenager coming to Ember Island, there was simply no excuse to not join in the party atmosphere.
Parties lasted all day long on Ember Island. While the sun was up, the parties were all family-friendly beach parties. It was when the sun set that parties began to take on a flavor that had parents pushing their children inside while teenagers and adults with no children came out of the woodwork with an irrepressible need to party all night with vast quantities of alcohol.
Given the fact that Ember Island was a high-quality resort, all the people there were used to rubbing shoulders with nobility and royalty. But, even still, it was a rare treat for the Avatar himself to be joining in the festivities.
Both Aang and Katara were dressed for a night out on the town rather than any sort of important political function. Rather than wearing his Important Avatar Robes, he wore a wrap tunic very similar to the one that he wore after the Day of Black Sun, clothes that were more about comfort rather than impressing people. Of course, people were impressed anyway because the wrap tunic showed off his muscular chest, a sight that never failed to have teenage girls swooning at the sight of him. Katara wore even less in terms of actual cloth amount then Aang. Her top was a thin piece of cloth that exposed her entire midriff, which Aang enjoyed seeing on his girlfriend a great deal. But the Avatar's favorite part of Katara's outfit was her skirt. The length itself was nothing unusual, but what made it appealing to the Avatar was the long slit that went up the side, exposing her leg all the way up to her thigh. Yes, he had enjoyed that sight a great deal.
They made their way down the darkened street together, joining the throng of teenagers and young adults who were gathering around Ember Island's most exclusive night club. There was a great crowd gathered outside and a bouncer guarding the door. It was his job to both make sure that no one caused any trouble, and to also keep the undesirables (people without a high enough social status) out. Aang couldn't be sure if he would have gotten turned away if he were not the Avatar because he was easily recognized wherever he went. If the other Air Nomads were still alive, he would have been able to go incognito, but no one else in the world had tattoos like his. Aang placed his arm around Katara and moved to the front of the crowd. The bouncer took one look at him before stepping aside to let him inside. "Welcome back, Avatar Aang and Master Katara." He said.
"Thanks." Both teenagers replied before stepping into the night club.
The inside was dim and loud. The music was fast with a loud beat, as was common in most night clubs. However, the dim lights and the loud music did not stop everyone who was all ready inside from noticing who had just walked it. The entire female population of the night club screamed in unison, drowning out the sound of the music, and calling to get his attention.
One of the waiters rushed over. "Welcome back, Avatar Aang. I assume that you want your usual booth?"
"Yes, that would be fine." Aang said as the waiter led them to a booth that was just to the side of the dance platform and raised and separated from the rest of the club with railing. Their waiter waited for them to take a seat, and then took their orders for drinks and then rushed off.
As was always the case when they came to this club, especially when the night was just getting started, no one wanted to approach him. Everyone desired to meet and speak with the Avatar, but it would take a few rounds of drinks before they gathered the courage to approach him.
Quick as a flash, the waiter returned with their drinks of chilled sake. Aang and Katara both accepted the little cups and their eyes met.
"Cheers." Katara said playfully.
"Cheers." Aang responded as they both took a drink. The first drink was always the hardest. The rice wine burned on the way down. But neither of them were novices when it came to drinking, so they were able to get past the first drink and onto the next ones that went down much easier.
Aang gazed across the small table towards Katara in awe. She was always beautiful to him, but there was something different about the beauty she displayed now, slightly tipsy with a slight red flush across her face from the alcohol. She met his eyes and smiled at him, a gesture that he returned and, before either one knew what they were doing, they had their arms wrapped around each other, kissing passionately.
The alcohol-flavored kiss was somehow more intoxicating than the alcohol itself. Aang groaned in gratification as their mouths opened against each others, allowing their tongues to meet in a passionate dance. Her arms were wrapped around his neck, with one hand cupping the nape of his neck, while his hands memorized the curve of her waist.
It was not the first time they had kissed passionately like this, nor was it only the hundredth. But they rarely did so in public. The alcohol played a great role in lowering their inhibitions, but it was mostly the atmosphere as a whole. In time, their kiss and their caresses of each other's bodies began to match the strong beat that pounded through the night club.
They parted, utterly out of breath from the hard and passionate kiss they had shared. Katara gazed up and him with half-lidded eyes and a flushed face, and Aang amended his earlier thought about the peak of Katara's beauty, realizing that it was here, when she was gazing at him like that: that look of hungry lust.
She leaned closer to him, brushing her lips along his cheek as she kissed her way to his ear. "Dance with me?" She asked, her voice barely a whisper to be heard over the sound of the music.
Aang sighed, brushing his lips against her cheek in return. "Of course." He whispered in return. Grinning, they stood up and moved away from their semi-private booth and towards the dance floor. Predictably, as soon as they made their move, the dance floor was almost instantly cleared of all other dancers as they made room for the Avatar and his girlfriend.
Aang and Katara were famous the world over for their ability to dance. Indeed, their fine ballroom dances were always the prime form of entertainment when attending the numerous balls that they were invited to. But those people had never seen them dance in a nightclub. At the formal balls, they always maintained a respectable distance between themselves, limiting themselves to the ballroom dances that Aang had learned in his youth.
At nightclubs, they used dances that Katara had taught Aang, dances that brought them closer and were far more sensual than the ballroom dances. They moved together, their bodies in constant contact with each other. It was literally sex in the form of a dance, and it would have been sex if they didn't have their clothes on.
Their dance ended with wild applause and their bodies pressed flush against each other, both of them panting and sweating with the passionate heat between them. They kissed, unable to stop themselves any longer, which brought more applause.
After a few more dances, they were finally able to remove themselves from the dance floor and made their way back to their booth where fresh drinks were waiting for them. They flopped down on the cushion, took enough time to have another drink, before they started to make out with each other in a drunken passionate haze.
It only took a little longer for the next inevitable part of the night to happen. As the drinks flowed and everyone began to loosen up, the idea of approaching the famous couple did not seem so scary anymore. The bouncers only stopped people from sitting in the booth with them, but there was no law that said they couldn't stand by the railing and talk to them.
All it took was a single person to gather the courage to approach Aang, and suddenly everyone in the nightclub was hanging out by the railing that separated Aang and Katara's private booth from the rest of the club.
It was always the same: people wanted to thank him for ending the war. Aang did not like taking credit for ending the war himself, but he knew better than to turn the grateful people away. So he accepted the gratitude on behalf of all of his friends.
And then, when the males had mostly left and most of the teenage girls remained, there would inevitably be calls for him to tell stories about his experience with the war.
Naturally, there were plays and novels all ready devoted to telling the story about Aang's journey to end the hundred year war. But there were inaccuracies and there was nothing like hearing the story from the source himself.
So, with Katara backing up his narrative, Aang began a drunken regal of some of his prouder exploits during the war. The music had even been toned down so that everyone could hear his story without a problem. His words became more and more slurred as the girls got him more drinks and begged for more stories.
He had just finished giving his account about his defeat of Firelord Ozai, while leaving out a great many details about Energybending, which even in his drunken state, he knew shouldn't be made public. The whole nightclub applauded as he finished and Aang gave a great theatric bow, which had Katara laughing.
Suddenly, over the sound of the girl's applauding, a drunken male voice called out: "Hey, why don't you leave some girls for the rest of us?"
Aang turned towards the bar and saw that the cat-caller was a young teenage boy who seemed to be only a few years older than him. He stood up and made his way over to the private booth, and the crowd of girls parted nervously for him. Aang squinted at him. Judging by the way he dressed, he was obviously the son of a high-ranking Fire Nation noble.
"Don't you know who that is?" One of the girls asked the newcomer nervously. "That's Avatar Aang!"
"Yeah, calm down." Aang said. "You've obviously never attended a party with me, so this is how it works: these girls will hang around for about another hour or so, but they will eventually lose interest in me, I'll turn my full attention to my girlfriend, and you'll be free to try your luck with any of them…" Aang gazed at the girls, who were looking at the newcomer as if he were the most disgusting thing on the plant. "Though I can't say that treating me like this has earned you any points with them."
"You're not Avatar Aang." The newcomer said firmly. "Avatar Aang is an important political figure, and he wouldn't be caught dead behaving like this in a nightclub."
"I'm also a sixteen year old teenager." Aang commented. "Are you really so drunk that you can't see that I'm an obvious Air Nomad?" He pointed to the arrow tattoo on his forehead.
"I've seen people dress up like Avatar Aang before, and I've got to say that I'm not impressed with your costume." The newcomer said, reaching out towards Aang's forehead like he expected to wipe off a painted-on tattoo.
Aang's body reacted instantly, before his mind even knew what was going on. A lifetime of training in martial arts meant that his body knew how to react to perceived threats without a thought from him. This sort of reflex got even worse when he was drunk. Aang grabbed his hand, and everyone lost track of what happened next. It was a blur, but the next thing everyone knew, the newcomer was being flung away from the private booth several feet through the air and into a table.
Aang stared in shock, his mind trying to put together what his body had done. He was too much in shock to react as the newcomer made his next move. He growled angrily, pushed himself away from the table, marched over to Aang, and punched him square on the jaw.
Katara cried out in shock as she jumped to her boyfriend's assistance, but Aang hardly needed it. He had been punched far worse by Toph during his Earthbending training. The punch barely hurt him physically, but he was shocked by the newcomer's actions. "Did you… seriously just punch me?" He asked.
Two fireballs were started in the newcomer's fists, proving that he was a Firebender. But Aang was not concerned at all. He had fought Firebenders all through the war, and he knew how to handle himself against them. The newcomer launched a fireball at his face, but Aang used his own Firebending to catch the flame and snuffed it out with some quick Airbending. With his other hand, Aang gathered the water in the air, a trick that Katara had taught him years ago and soaked the young Firebender, preventing him from Firebending for a few moments.
And then, with a final movement, the earth opened up and encased the Firebender up to his neck, preventing him from Bending of any kind. He could still Firebend if he knew the Breath of Fire technique, but that was a high-level technique known only to the Royal family or Dragons.
Aang brushed off his robes. "Believe I'm the Avatar now?" He asked rhetorically. The Firebender didn't answer. The bouncers managed to push their way through the crowd and, after Aang released the Firebender from his prison, they were dragged away with the promise that he'd never be allowed in the nightclub again.
(The next morning)
Aang once again stared in shock at the article, this time looking at the name of the person who wrote it. He didn't recognize the name, but he would have staked his life that last night's Firebender was directly or indirectly responsible for this.
The whole thing just got worse when he realized that just about everyone who was anyone in the world had a residence on Ember Island, and at least some family members here at all times. Therefore, it would not be shocking to learn that everyone he worked with would read this article within the next few hours.
"I uh… Katara… I gotta go." Aang said.
Katara knew what was going to happen next. Damage control. It was an unfortunate task for anyone in the public eye, but the last thing Aang needed right now was for people to think that he wasn't interested in, or cared, about his duties to the world, especially when so many people were still against the idea of the United Republic.
"Go." Katara urged him. "Take care of it." She gave him a kiss before he rushed to get dressed and leave to the Palace city.
Aang arrived at the Palace City, and he knew that he would be several hours behind any messenger hawks carrying the news from Ember Island. Sure enough, when he landed in the Palace Courtyard, Zuko was all ready waiting for him. He did away with the customary greeting of his friend as he rushed over towards Appa before Aang even had a chance to leap down.
"Aang, I'm glad you came." Zuko said, clutching a copy of the Ember Island newspaper in his fist. "This news has got the noble houses all in an uproar! Can you please tell me what really happened?"
Aang nodded and began his account of the events of last night, including the young Firebender.
Zuko nodded gravely. "It is likely that I know that man's family. There are many noble families within the Fire Nation who make no secret of their support for Ozai and their disdain for your work. He was likely a member of one of those houses, and used his connections to have this article printed."
Aang nodded grimly. It was unfortunate that there were still noble families that supported Ozai, but both Aang and Zuko refused to take away their titles. If they did, it would only cement those family's hatred of Zuko and the Avatar. By treating them equally and allowing them to continue their business as long as there were no illegal activities, Zuko hoped to win them over. But that was rather hard to do if the Avatar had the reputation of a chronic party-goer, having drunken brawls in nightclubs and having inappropriate public displays of affection with his girlfriend.
"I was about to send a message." Zuko continued. "The noble houses of the Fire Nation have called a council meeting. They want to discuss barring you from all political activities until you reach the age when the average Avatar begins his service."
Aang froze in his tracks. That was not good. Not good at all. Aang had just reached the age when the average Avatar was told about their identity, and it often took five to ten years to train the Avatar and then he would begin his duties. That meant that the noble houses wanted Aang removed from politics until he was about in his mid-twenties, which was absolutely unacceptable. The United Republic needed to happen, and Zuko needed Aang's support to make it happen.
"That's… that's insane!" Aang gasped. "Last night was my date night with Katara! My behavior when I'm not on the job has no effect on my ability to do my job!"
Zuko nodded. "I know, but that's what you'll have to convince the noble houses. There is one good thing, at least."
"What is that?"
"You have a few on your side, including me and Mai." Zuko said. Mai was not the head of her household, but she had a lot more say now in political matters since she was her family's heir and come of age.
"And the Fire Sages?" Aang asked. They were the Fire Nation authority on all matters related to the Avatar.
"They are on your side." Zuko said. "They've cited the story of Avatar Kuruk."
Aang nodded. Avatar Kuruk had been quite the partier, but he had allowed that to take over his life and he pretty much ignored all of his duties, leading to his punishment by Koh. Aang would never be flippant about his duties because of the story of Avatar Kuruk, because Kuruk's failure showed the price that Aang might have to pay for such a mistake: the loss of the one he loved. Aang would never risk Katara's life like that. It also said that the Spirits let the Avatar do what he or she wanted unless it disrupted their job.
"How long has the meeting been going on?" Aang asked.
"About an hour." Zuko said. "One of my runners told me that you were coming and I came to retrieve you."
When Aang walked into the meeting room, it seemed just like any other meeting that he had attended in his life, just a bunch of people yelling at other people across the room. However, the room immediately became silent when Aang and Zuko walked in. It was unnerving.
Aang sighed and made his way to his usual place at the table, sitting himself down. "Let's hear it, then."
"Am I to assume, Avatar Aang, that you will make no attempt to refute these claims to your debauchery?" One of the councilors asked.
"If you're asking me if I went out drinking with my girlfriend to a nightclub last night, then I do not deny it." Aang said simply.
"And what, exactly, do you have to say about that?"
"I see no reason to explain myself or my actions last night." Aang said. "There were no meetings scheduled yesterday, last night, or for the rest of the week. There have been no issues in the rest of the world that require my attention. Katara and I were operating on our own time, and we did nothing illegal. Even the young Firebender had nothing injured besides his pride."
"Our reports say that you attacked first."
"It is true." Aang said. "Like many who fought in the war, sometimes my body will react to perceived threats without a thought. He made a threatening move, and I reacted."
"And the way you carried on with your… Water Tribe girlfriend…" The councilor began with a sneer.
"Katara and I were doing nothing that wasn't all ready happening in the nightclub, and in many cases, we've done far less." Aang said shortly. It was true. While they had certainly moved into the realms of displaying their physical relationship, they had certainly never removed any of their clothes or had sex, both activities that Aang had personally seen happen in the nightclub. Of course, the sex had not been in the main room. Aang had been on his way to the bathroom and stumbled upon the engaged couple in the hallway. That had been awkward.
Of course, Aang knew that these men would hardly understand. They were all years after the point when passion waned in their marriages, leaving them rather jaded towards their respective partners. Aang and Katara still had that passion at this point in their lives, and intimacy to fall back on when passion waned.
"Enough!" One of the Fire Sages said. "We would all do well to remember when we were his age. The Avatar is still sixteen years old, and…"
"Exactly. He is sixteen years old." The councilor said. "I would not have been put political trust in myself as a sixteen year old, let alone a teenager who is supposed to oversee the entire world. He is simply too young to perform his duties. I say we give the Avatar a few years to get his immaturity out of his system, and then he can reclaim his title as a Fully Realized Avatar."
That was the last straw. Now they were talking about taking away his status as a Fully Realized Avatar. Aang had worked himself to the bone for months to gain the title, and he would not let it go easily.
He stood up, glaring at the councilmembers. "I have yet to hear any of you give a single reason why my behavior at the nightclub last night as any legitimate effect on my ability to be the Avatar or do my duties. At the first sign of trouble, I ended my vacation and left behind my girlfriend and flew to the Fire Nation Palace city without a second thought." He leaned forward, resting his weight on his hands on the table. "I was only twelve years old when I woke up into a war-torn world, and I was only thirteen years old when I single-handedly battled Firelord Ozai into submission. I could have refused to fight, being only a child, but I did not because it was my duty to save the world and, now, to help it recover from the scars left on it by the Hundred Year War. There is nothing that I wouldn't do for the world if my duty demanded it of me. Mai? One of your daggers, please?" He turned his gaze to the her, knowing that she kept at least a few daggers on her person at all times.
Mai hesitated in giving Aang one of her daggers, and if he wasn't a pacifist, Mai would have refused. She pulled one of her daggers out of her sleeve, flipped it over in her hand, and gave it hilt-first to the young Avatar.
Aang accepted the knife and, without further ado, he tore the sleeve from his left arm and dug the blade into the flesh on the inside of his elbow. The entire council watched in silent horror as Aang dragged the knife in a straight line down his skin towards his wrist, leaving a long bleeding gash on the inside of his forearm. He didn't even flinch as he cut himself or as his blood began to drip off his arm and onto the floor.
He finished the cut and held up his bleeding arm for the whole room to see. Everyone in the room knew that if Aang allowed the cut to bleed out, it would be fatal. Without medical attention, he would die. The message was clear, and Aang's words confirmed what everyone was thinking.
"I would give my life for this world, without hesitation." He said. "Are those the words of an immature child who is not ready for his position? How many of you would do the same?" No one answered except for Zuko. He stood up, a silent pledge that he would give his life without hesitation as well. Aang nodded to him, as he knew Zuko well enough that what he was saying was true. "Is there anything else you have to say to me?" This time, no one answered. "Good." Aang set down the knife, pressed his right hand to his forearm and stalked out of the room to find a healer.
He left behind silence in his wake, and a roomful of people who knew what true command was all about now. It was not about behavior of people on their own time, but their willingness to give everything of themselves without hesitation to their duty.
LES: Well, this one got a little out of hand. Anyway, I hope that you enjoy it.