He yawned, stretching lazily before looking around.
Where was he..?
"What the- since when did I get on Appa?!"
He bolted up immediately, his head whipping up so quickly he thought it would snap. Everyone was accounted for, everyone was alive. How could he have fallen asleep- fuck- why was he-
Aang wasn't looking at him, since the boy seemed to be sulking about something while steering Appa...
Katara was also looking a little different, a little down, he had the feeling he missed something more than Azula here.
"Where's everyone else?"
Sokka closed his mouth a few times before answering, "We had to split up."
"No one could wake you." Zuko glanced at him, and he raised an eyebrow challengingly, causing said crown prince to look away with an eyeroll.
"I would've just left you there." Toph commented from the side, shrugging, and it came as a surprise when he didn't believe her.
He lay back down, not bothering to give the others more space. Everyone was safe, they were in the air, Appa would do something if anything else happened, so...
"I'm going back to sleep."
He opened his eyes reluctantly, a voice in his head that sounded suspiciously like his brother telling him to wake up, because it wasn't good to sleep all day, blah, blah, blah-
Shut up, Al.
He looked around, taking in the fact that he was under the sun – too goddamned bright – and he had been left on Appa. Jeez.
He jumped down and walked over to where Sokka was struggling with a flower garland, stifling a yawn before sitting down.
"Look who woke up." Aang grinned at him, picking up more grass piles from the ground and tossing it into Appa's mouth.
"Shut your trap. What'd I miss?"
He leaned back against a rock opening his mouth to ask where Katara was when said female stormed past them, not even giving them a glance.
"I need to borrow Appa."
Aang gave both Katara and Zuko - who had followed her along like some sort of puppy - a look before turning back to his bison, "Why? Is it your turn to take a field trip with Zuko?"
"Yes, it is."
Aang turned around, surprised, eyebrows furrowed, looking as confused as everyone else.
He raised an eyebrow, "Why?"
"We're going to find the man who took my mother from me."
Everyone quietened, and he thought Sokka's jaw dropped out of the corner of his eyes, his fingers stop doing whatever to that flower necklace that he was no doubt going to give to Suki.
"Sokka told me the story of what happened." Zuko explained neutrally, looking like he always does, "I know who did it, and I know where to find him."
"Um," Aang spoke up after a while, a small frown on his lips and a sad, knowing glint to his grey eyes, "What exactly do you think this will accomplish?"
Katara stared at the avatar for a minute before her lips quirk into a condescending smile and she scoffed, shaking her head, "I knew you wouldn't understand."
He watched as she passed him, Zuko immediately doing what he would probably be doing for the rest of the day - following her around.
… He didn't have his coffee.
"Wait, stop," Aang took a step forward, his hand reaching out to his friend before it faltered, "I do understand."
This was going to get real angst-y, real fast, and he really wasn't in the mood for it since he just woke up, and it was a sunny day, and there were birds chirping-
"The feeling of unimaginable pain and rage-"
Listen to that boy speak.
Oh, look who decided to pop in, he drawled sarcastically, picking at the grass beneath his feet, The fuck have you been?
Planning on what to do after I take over your body.
Yeah, cause i'd definitely just let you have it.
Would you? That'd be great.
He snorted, causing all eyes to turn to him, and he gave them a glare, causing Aang to frown at him before turning back to look imploringly at Katara.
"She needs this, Aang." Zuko said reasonably, as if it were the perfectly right thing to do, and he had to agree with the prince."This is about closure,"
If it were his mother, he would hunt the man down, transmute him into a rock and then watch as his insides turned to stone and heart stopped beating, until he drew his last breath.
In and out.
"I don't think so," Aang retorted, his lips pulled into a thin line, "I think it's about getting revenge."
Katara glared at the ground, and Aang turned to her in surprise, as if he hadn't expected her to admit he was right, as if he thought Katara would deny it to the ends of the earth.
"Maybe it is, maybe that's what I need," Katara said, expression hard, "Maybe that's what he deserves."
"Katara, you sound like Jet."
Jet. Jet? Who the hell was Jet?
He wondered idly if he should ask.
This was not the time to ask about these things; probably not that important anyway...
"It's not the same!" Katara turned around, glaring at them, looking at each one of them angrily, "Jet attacked the innocent. This man, he's a monster!"
In, and out.
"Katara, she was my mother too." Sokka spoke up quietly, a small strange frown on his lips. "But I think Aang might be right."
This was something neither of them had forgotten, but Sokka seemed to be the only one who had moved on.
"Then you didn't love her the way I did!"
He glared at Katara, even as Sokka jerked back in horror but finally backed down, because dammit- you just don't treat family that way!
There was a horribly tense silence, before Aang broke it hesitantly, glancing at the ground as he spoke.
"The monks used to tell me revenge is like a two-headed rat viper,"
A what? Two-headed rat viper? Did that even exist?
"While you watch your enemy go down, you're being poisoned yourself."
"That's cute," Zuko said sarcastically, "But this isn't Air Temple pre-school. It's the real world."
"Now that I know he's out there, now that I know we can find him," Katara looked up from the ground, her eyes steely and cold, "I feel like I have no choice."
Wanna break this up?
"Katara, you do have a choice," Aang said gently, "Forgiveness."
"That's the same as doing nothing!"
"No it's not."
Will they please stop fighting?! Just let Katara kill the guy and be done with it!
Shit, his head hurt.
"It's easy to do nothing, but it's hard to forgive."
"It's not just hard," Katara looked Aang in the eye and said grimly, "It's impossible."
He gritted his teeth when Sokka grabbed him from behind and pulled him out of his tent in the middle of the night. He knew what was happening, and he thought it was none of his business.
Oddly enough, 'Mother' was a topic he found sensitive, and he decided that if it concerned someone else's, he wouldn't get in the way.
Where was Toph?
He hadn't seen her all day.
Aang peered over a boulder, disapproval so clear in his expression that he didn't even need to ask.
Why was he here?
Sokka and Aang shared a glance before they apparantly decided to approach Katara, the very unstable ticking time-bomb.
"So you were just going to take Appa anyway?" Aang demanded, very surely announcing their presence.
He looked around, taking in the brief gust of wind before humming quietly to himself. Oh look, a worm... that didn't even look like a worm- what the hell in wrong with this place?!
"It's okay," Aang sighed, "Because I forgive you."
Sokka looked like he knew this wouldn't work, but went along with it for the sake of his sister, because Sokka obviously couldn't persuade Katara otherwise, and had already resigned himself to what she was going to do, and this was a last-ditch effort with Aang to bring her to her senses.
"That give you any ideas?"
"Don't try to stop us."
"I wasn't planning to,"
He wrenched himself out of Sokka's tightening grip, and promptly fell to the ground. He 'tsk'ed in annoyance.
Zuko glanced at him and nodded in acknowledgement, to which he returned.
Katara turned on him.
"Ed, you going to sneak along?" she snapped, dismissing Aang for a while.
He paused, went through his mental list, and then shook his head, "No."
"Yes." someone had to keep Aang and Sokka from messing things up, "You and Zuko are qualified, with a high chance of not dying."
Sokka crossed his arms, but Aang took the following silence as an opportunity to continue his speech.
"This is a journey you need to take. You need to face this man. But when you find him, please don't choose revenge."
They already went through this!
Could they just let them leave so he could find out where Toph had disappeared to? No doubt she knew what was happening; the girl had bat ears, and also the feet thing.
"Just let your anger out, and then let it go."
Katara didn't look like she planned to do that at all, but she nodded anyway, and that seemed to be just enough to assure Aang.
The next morning found him hollering around the area for that pipsqueak who – he had checked – had not been in her tent.
He was bored, and Toph reminded him of Panina.
This place was so deserted. An unhabited beach.
He could write another report on his mission to Mustang, rant to Alphonse, but he really couldn't be bothered and he wrote to Al just two days ago. Better to wander around, and look for something to distract himself from, you know, Resembool, Amestris, his team.
"What is it?!"
There we go.
He went around the sandy bend, admiring the waters for a moment before going back to looking for the earthbender.
"What the hell..?"
She was staring at a sort of box made of sand, not doing anything else.
"Is this where you've been all this time?"
He approached her, and finally got a good look at what she was doing.
"It's... a maze."
Toph gave him a deadpan look before turning back to her experiment, and he rolled his eyes.
There were chimera-like creatures, what this place called animals, the size of mice, and they were scurrying around, looking for the exit of the labyrinth.
It looked complex even to him.
"Spent half a day making it." Toph shrugged, placing a palm on the ground and closing a way out when a mouse – whatever it was called – almost succeeded.
"That's cheating." he pointed out, eyes taking in the best way to escape if it were he in the labyrinth. He couldn't help it; days without a puzzle, a challenge or a code.
Toph's maze was not bad.
"It wouldn't be right if they all won."
She looked at him, lips twisting into a frown.
They were talking about something else now, and he thought he knew what she meant. They glanced back at the direction of the camp, the direction of the Avatar.
"Someone has to lose."
Katara and Zuko came back a few days later, and he thought he saw something in the waterbender's eyes that meant she'd finally grew up.
But maybe that was just Kimblee.
"How'd it go?" he asked Zuko casually, as if talking about the weather.
"She didn't kill him."
Yeah, he gathered.
He wanted to be able to honestly tell himself she did the right thing in letting her mother's murderer go free.
But after saying that outloud in his head, he changed his mind.