Writing as this has taken far longer than I thought it would. Thank you to Eagle Eyes98 and Margery for giving me an outside view.
For Azula sometimes the lies are the truth.
Zuko's words ring in Katara's ears as she leaves out the door of the prince's bedroom. It is late at night but she can't sleep. The moon is nearly full and the energy flowing in her veins combined with Azula's taunts make rest elusive. She makes her way up to the next level of the temple.
The door to Aang's room is open. Katara stands over the thankfully Azula-free bed. Azula's allusions to the activities involving said bed and the presently absent Avatar mock everything Katara thinks she knows. Speaking with Zuko about his sister's manipulative nature had only asked more questions than were answered. Azula always lies except when she tells the truth. The talk with the prince had done nothing to alleviate the feeling of lead in her chest.
If what Azula says is true then it would go a long way to explain some of the Air Bender's more confusing behavior. Taking a prisoner is one thing. Capturing Azula can be one less obstacle to defeating the Fire Nation but taking advantage of her prisoner status goes against everything Katara thought the Air Nomads stood for.
Yue's light is bright as she walks the small rock path to the lake near the temple's edge. She can feel the pull of the water calling to her but for now her thoughts are focused on getting answers. In the distance she can see spouts of water reaching high into the air, higher than she could ever send them herself. It's apparent the Avatar is feeling the pull of the moon as well.
As she nears, the splashes grow louder. The water twists and turns in complicated arcs that Katara knows she could never replicate. She doubts Pakku or any of the Water Benders in the North could either. Aang is truly mastering the elements.
Ahead on the trail a figure in red nears the edge of the lake and Katara slows her pace. Aang stands shirtless and waist deep in the lake. His back is to the path and Katara watches warily for any sign that Azula will attack. The landscape is dotted with fallen boulders and a large rock stands to her left so she carefully steps behind it hoping to avoid detection.
The princess stops to stand on the bank, patiently observing the Water Bending at work. Behind her she hears the soft crunch of gravel underfoot and she knows the peasant isn't too far behind. Azula smirks at how predictable Katara is and decides to give her a real show.
"Avatar." She calls over the sound of the rushing water. He already knows she is here that much she is sure of.
A large wave of water rises from the lake's center as tall as a Fire Nation ship and hovers unmoving in the air. In the glistening liquid she can see fish swim back and forth confused at their new altitude. With a flick of his wrist, the water seamlessly melts back into the placid lake it was before.
"It's a bit late, Azula." He says without turning around.
She cocks her head as she traces the broken arrow down his back. "I couldn't sleep."
It's a truth that she would be otherwise loathe to admit but it does have the delightful effect of drawing his attention as he looks over his shoulder at her. The gray of his eyes shines silver under the moonlight as he tries to discern her thoughts. Azula returns his stare patiently letting him draw his own conclusions. The water swishes around his legs as he steps up onto the shore. He stops in front of her, brow creasing with thought.
"I was trying to let you rest. You've been so tired lately."
He knows he's been taking more than his fair share of her time and attention. Unbidden, his eyes drop to her stomach, noting how tight the fabric is drawn over the swell. Some secrets won't be secret for long.
Azula tilts her head to the side with a smirk. "I'm not tired tonight."
The words aren't a lie. The bounty of food they have been enjoying the past few days has done a lot to erase some of the utter exhaustion she has felt; combined with the too predictable Water Bender nipping at her heels and Azula feels a sort of restless energy flowing in her veins.
From her hiding spot, Katara watches as Aang returns Azula's smile but it's when the Air Bender's hands slip around the princess' waist that causes her breath to hitch in her throat. She blinks unbelieving eyes as Aang pulls Azula to him and their lips meet. It's not a tender kiss, or even a shy kiss. It's a kiss filled with hunger and longing and seems to throw fuel on the fire.
Slowly, Aang walks her backwards. One hand is in her hair holding her to him while the other fumbles at the buttons of her robe. Azula makes a pleased humming sound as Aang's lips works down her neck and to the pale skin unveiled as the robe comes open. A large boulder bumps against her legs stopping her slow retreat but Aang only moves forward to press against her.
The heat rushes in her veins and it feels so close to Fire Bending that Azula is helpless to chase after it. Her fingers grasp at the waist of his pants as she pulls him closer to her and captures his lips in another kiss. Before she can even reach in to touch him, he is taking her wrist and turning her around.
The surface of the boulder is cold and rough but Azula's skin is flushed with desire. The rounded top of the rock bends inward creating a cradle for the princess' slightly rounded stomach. Lacing his fingers with hers, Aang leans over her stretching first one hand then the other out in front of them. The rock responds to his touch creating handholds that her small fingers easily fit into. Molding the stone to fit to her body only drives Azula's desire and sense of satisfaction higher. She glances at the rock she knows the meddling Water Bender to be hiding behind and almost laughs at the imagined look on the girl's face. Let this be a lesson to Katara that the Avatar belongs to Azula.
It's as if Katara is frozen in place. She watches as Aang so easily turns Azula around and pushes her over the rock stretching his body over hers. It leaves little to the imagination when he slides back down and proceeds to push the skirts out of the way. Katara turns her head away even as Azula lets out a low moan matched by one from Aang.
The first stroke isn't gentle but Azula expected as much. The full moon drives his desires higher and draws out an intensity that pales anything else by comparison. Tonight it works for her as she wanted him to demonstrate his claim to her and let the peasant girl see just how wrong she is. One of his hands grabs hold of her shoulder for leverage as he thrusts into her again and Azula opens her eyes at the soft crunch of gravel as she sees a figure in blue run the other way. She smirks in satisfaction before another crash of the Avatar's hips into hers draws her mind back to other matters.
The sound of sniffles reveals her hiding place. Katara looks up startled at the intruder but quickly averts her eyes. She wraps her arms around her bent knees even tighter. Even in the dark of night, Zuko easily notes the red nose and puffy eyes. Carefully he sits beside her leaning back against the broken stones of the temple wall.
"I'm sorry for what I said." The rasp of his voice is thick with the cool night air. "I should have been more respectful of your feelings."
Katara shakes her head, dark curls tumbling about her shoulders. "You didn't say anything wrong."
Zuko frowns at her in confusion."Then why…"
His words are cut off by low murmurings and a laugh that sounds suspiciously like Azula. Zuko leans forward peering through the small doorway he had slipped through only moments before. The couple moves through the moonlight arms intertwined whispering to each other. Azula's eyes are bright and her face flushed as she smiles and leans into the Avatar. Zuko sourly notes the mismatched buttons of his sister's red robe.
Katara has stilled at the sight of the couple as well and he observes how her piercing blue eyes follow their progress through the moonlit courtyard until they disappear through the doors leading to the rest of the temple.
"How long have you known?" Katara's voice is strong though he hears the slight tremble in it.
"Longer than I wanted to." Zuko doesn't meet her eyes as he replies.
"Why…" she strives to remain calm and not lash out at the prince, "Why didn't you say anything?"
Irritated, Zuko snaps, "What was I supposed to say?"
"I don't know!" Katara says in exasperation. "Something! Anything!" She drops her head into her hands. "I feel like such an idiot."
Zuko struggles to reassure her. "You aren't an idiot. You just didn't know." She doesn't look up at him so he continues. "I didn't even know until…" His voice trains off. Aggravated he scrubs his hand across his face.
"Until when?" Katara latches onto Zuko's words.
With a reluctant sigh, the prince eyes her carefully. "Until I seen them together on the solstice."
Katara's mouth falls open in shock and her eyes widen. "It's been going on that long? But..but she was engaged to Zhao!"
Zuko glares. "Like that matters? The engagement was my father's idea. Azula hated the man."
Katara's face brow furrows as she tries to make sense of this information."She almost killed him. Tui, I kissed him in Ba Sing Se!"
Zuko stills at this. "You did?"
Unaware of the prince's reaction, Katara shakes her head frustrated at the course of events and runs her hands through her hair as she drops her head against her bent knees. It isn't until she hears the rustle of silk as Zuko stands that she looks up.
"Zuko?" She watches as he stomps to the doorway. "Where are you going?"
He half turns at the opening in the stones and glares with his golden eyes. "All you ever think about is the Avatar. I get that. I really do. We have to defeat Ozai but, spirits Katara, you can't really think that you're going to end up with him."
She scrambles to her feet. "I didn't say that. But…"
"Whatever, Katara. I don't care anymore. I'm going to bed." He cuts her off as he disappears through the doorway.
The silence rings loud after his departure and Katara sinks back to the ground, feeling even more dejected and confused.
The full moon that night makes it difficult to sleep. Azula breathes deeply and heavy beside him as the light of the moon shines in the room. He watches the gentle rise of her chest under the covers and with careful fingers he reaches out to trace the bare skin of her neck. She gives a little sigh but doesn't stir. He had given up the idea of keeping her locked away. It became clear that Azula wasn't about to do anyone harm once she was stripped of her bending though after Katara's tantrum Aang became concerned about Azula being harmed without it.
He has to keep her close. He wants to keep her close. Moving her into his room only made sense. No one has said anything about it but then again his room is higher up in the Temple than the others. He would have thought someone would have been curious where the prisoner was being kept but they have yet to voice that either.
Lightly he runs his hands down over her breasts to her stomach. She is still naked from their last coupling. The robe does a great job hiding the swell of baby Air Bender but Aang knows that won't always be the case. With the supply of good food, Azula's appetite is being slaked and she is filling out nicely. By summer's end, she will give birth. By summer's end, he will face the Fire Lord. By Summer's end, Sozin's comet will end the war one way or another.
Azula shifts closer to him in her sleep and gives a hum. The shift pulls the blanket down revealing more creamy white skin. Dropping his head he places a soft kiss on the bare skin of her collarbone. The taste and scent of her are as intoxicating to him now as they were the first time he touched her like this.
Inspired by that memory, he gently encircles her wrists with his hands and pushes them up over her head as he moves to lean over her. Again he lowers his lips to her neck gently dragging his tongue along her pulse point. Azula arches against him as even in her sleep he has a way of getting to her. Despite the swell of her stomach, he slips between her legs nudging them apart with his own. He works his way down her neck to the heated flush across her chest. Taking one rosy peak in his mouth he teases it with his tongue and he can feel her hands flexing in his grasp. He knows she is awake when her legs wrap around his waist and pulls him against her center.
"Aang," she breathes his name. "How long have I been asleep?" Her voice is heavy with slumber.
Trapping both her wrists in one of his hands, he shifts her to his liking as he settles against her more.
"An hour or so." He mumbles against her other breast before giving it the same treatment.
It's the moon's fault that he can't sleep but it's her fault that he can't stop craving her.
Azula lets out a groan of frustration. "I'm so tired."
"I know. I'm sorry, Azula." He apologizes to the valley between her breasts as his free hand strokes the heat between her thighs. "I just.." Words escape him as he slowly enters her silken sheath. Beneath him, he can feel Azula trembling as she adjusts to the intrusion. The way her body squeezes and caresses him draws a growl from deep inside.
Her eyes snap open and he loses himself in their golden depths. Her legs tighten around his waist holding him to her as his thrusts deepen. She arches into him even as he drops his head into the crook of her neck and shoulder. He releases her wrists and instead wraps his arms around her pulling her closer. The sharp sting of her nails digs into his back though he barely registers the sensation.
Even before they became intimate, Azula held a power over him. Her mastery of fire and her sheer confidence had been as sexy as it was dangerous. The first time had been like this though it lacked the familiarity they have with each other now. She had found him. She had seduced him. And he had let her. He is sure that she never thought it would end up like this. With a growl, Azula rolls them so she is on top, bracing her hands on his chest she leans over and takes control, moving in a slow lazy pace. When he grasps her hips trying to speed her along, she stops completely and chides him with a smirk.
"This isn't about you, Avatar." The words are murmured in a low throaty tone thick with lust.
Aang forces himself to relax his grip but doesn't relinquish his hold on her. Satisfied he is going to play along she starts moving again, slowly arching up before sliding back down. She doesn't hurry but rather takes her time savoring the sensation of having the Avatar beneath her. Her nails lightly scrap down his hard chest and over the ripples of his stomach. Not a bit of him is wasted and Azula has always appreciated that fact about him.
She rocks onto the balls of her feet giving her more leverage as she begins to move faster. When his breathing increases, she slows down nearly stopping. His gray eyes snap open to glare at her and his grip tightens on her hips. All he gets for his trouble is another smirk and a purr.
"What's the matter? Can't take a bit of teasing?"
It's not just the delight of tormenting him that causes her to take her time. She is tender and a man of his size needs to be more patient. The Air Bender's enthusiasm can sometimes be a burden even though it makes her body hum with excitement. Taking his hands she slides them from her waist to breasts. He eagerly squeezes the heavy flesh and she feels encouraged to begin moving again. He is achingly hard inside of her and she can feel him stretching her more with each downward stroke. It's not an unpleasant feeling and Azula finds herself chasing after it as she begins to move faster and faster. Her peak is near but she doesn't want this to end yet. She wants to take him to the edge and then pull back and make him squirm. Vaguely, she is aware of him shifting underneath her, knowing he is drawing close but having no intention of letting him fall over that edge with her. But she doesn't realize his intent until it is too late and the room spins as she is rolled below him. She struggles against him trying to reclaim dominance but he is nothing but muscle and height. Without her Fire Bending she can't use brute force to get her way and even against him it would be questionable of who would come out on top. Instead Azula wraps her legs around his waist again and locks the Avatar to her as she rides the currents between them. There will be time enough tomorrow to press her advantage.
Katara greets the next morning bleary eyed. Suki knows something is wrong but Katara steadfastly avoids meeting her eyes and instead focuses on the food on her plate. Zuko had refused to even look at her. Azula had an air of triumphant about her and Aang….well, now Katara has had the Avatar's clandestine activities thrown in her face, she can't not-see what was right in front of her all along. The looks, the touches, the attention: how could she not see it before?
"Oh, for Spirit's sake, Sugar Queen, out with it!" Toph demands just loud enough to catch the attention of some of the others scattered around the courtyard eating.
"Toph!" Katara hisses, refusing to look at the two pairs of golden eyes now staring her way. "Quiet!"
Toph snickers but does at least quiet down.
Katara fumes in silence, picking at the meal before her. She had felt sorry for Azula. Was close to saying something to Aang about how harshly he was treating the princess even if she had tried to kill him before. Now Katara doesn't know what to think about any of it.
"You know." Suki says quietly. There isn't question in her voice but rather gentle sympathy.
Katara's head jerks up and she stares at the Earth woman. "You knew?"
Suki nods sadly. "I didn't know what to say."
Toph snorts. "What was there to say? We're here to train him, not worry about who he may or may not be sleeping with."
"It is if it's Azula!" Katara hisses under her breath.
Toph shrugs nonchalantly. "What I'm more curious about is why she's here and not…you know…dead. He told me he was going to take her out. I assumed that's what he meant."
Suki and Katara stare at the Earth Bender.
"He said that?" Suki questions.
"Yeah, he did. He made it very clear what to do. I just wonder why he didn't."
Katara gives a growl. "Because he was sleeping with her. He has been for months!"
Toph shakes her head. "No, this was after that. He said she was too dangerous."
Suki glances across the courtyard to the couple in question, noting Azula's smirk. "So, something changed then. She hasn't tried to kill him again."
"Just give her time," Katara grumbles. "She's up to something. I don't trust her."
Toph flashes a crooked smile. "Don't worry, Sugar Queen. Aang doesn't exactly trust her either. Don't be so quick to think he's not got something over on her."
The next morning Zuko focuses his energy into training and pushes himself to his limits. Sweat pours off his body and his muscles burn with effort. The ground is cool underneath his back as he lies in the grass and catches his breath. The breeze is lulling him to sleep and his eyes flutter closed.
The soft sound of slicing metal cuts through the peacefulness and he jerks upright at the intruder. Azula stands over him, a sword in each hand, as she turns them over. Holding one blade aloft, she peers down the edge.
"These are well balanced." She remarks on the quality as she eyes the glinting metal.
Annoyed, Zuko replies. "They are also sharp."
With a smirk she lowers the swords. "Don't worry, brother. I certainly won't cut myself."
He eyes his sister carefully for anything out of place. For days she has been isolated from the others kept under the guarded watch of the Avatar. Aang has been relentless in keeping Azula imprisoned and has only recently allowed her out for anything more than a meal or apparently an evening by the lake.
The red leather robe is bulky but fitted. It flows easily flaring out from her waist. The splits in the sides enable her to move easily and Zuko can see the silk of her dress peek from behind the white fur lined panels. This particular item of clothing, along with other activities, has ruffled the feathers one very irate Water Bender.
"I never understood your fascination with these things." Azula speaks congenially. "Neither did Father."
Zuko stands but watches her warily. "I had to be good at something."
He has always been in Azula's shadow.
She shrugs as she sheaths the swords. "I've noticed your Fire Bending has improved."
He only nods but doesn't answer the unasked question in her voice.
"So why do you still train with these?" Azula turns to face him.
Her face is free from the smirk he has grown to hate. It only adds to the sense of unease he has around her.
"I didn't want to rely only on my bending."
Growing up with a weak ability to bend left him vulnerable to attack but once he was able to fulfill his true potential as a Fire Bender he kept training just in case. He leaves out that he mostly trained with swords as a potential weapon against Azula and, by extension, Ozai.
Azula looks around them and Zuko, curious, copies the motion. For the moment they are alone on the edge of the courtyard.
"Would you teach me?"
He hesitates uncertain of what he has just heard. "You want to learn how to use a sword?"
Azula bristles at the question. "You heard me, Zuko."
"Yeah, I heard you but I don't believe you. Since when do you care about anything other than Fire Bending?"
For years Azula has mocked his efforts to excel at something, anything, and gain a small measure of approval from their father. Now to have her asking for his help is just unbelievable.
She looks like she wants to give up and tell him nevermind. He expects she will proclaim it a joke and mock him again for his failure as a prince. But she doesn't and that is what leaves Zuko with that feel of lead in his chest.
"You really want to learn?" The mocking is gone from his voice and she nods without looking away from him.
"I don't want to rely only on my bending." Azula uses his own words.
It's all right there in her eyes and Zuko finds he can't look away. The breath is tight in his chest and the impending sense of dread he has carried around with him since leaving the Fire Nation is bearing down on him all over again.
Her golden eyes are wide and brimming with tears. With a quick motion, she snatches his hand and brings it to her cheek nuzzling against his warm palm. The cold skin almost makes him recoil but her hold on him is tight as she presses forward moving closer to him. Once the shock fades his other hand cups her face and he can feel her shiver against the heat of his skin on hers.
Zuko barely breathes in light of this revelation. "What happened, Azula? What happened to your bending?"
Long lashes flutter shut spilling tears onto her cheeks and Zuko's fingers.
The whisper of her words cuts Zuko deeper than the blade of any sword ever could and he knows in his heart just who is to blame.
With a temple full of people, mostly rough and tumble boys, the pile of mending needing to be done seems never-ending. Suki tries to help but the Kyoshi warrior is better with the fan than a needle and thread. Katara spends more and more of her time doing all the domestic things she is beginning to despise. The courtyard near the fountain is quiet for the moment as the denizens are mostly off exploring or whatever it is they do when they are trying to avoid the list of chores she has for them.
Even Zuko, who is usually less reluctant to help out, has ducked off on his own, swords in hand. It's not that she misses having him around, especially after their argument last night. The prince is underfoot more often than not but it is at least nice having someone to talk to.
She hasn't slept, not really. The events of the night before burn fresh in her mind but she isn't even sure how to go about bringing it up. She had been upset after seeing that Azula was telling the truth but it was the way Zuko dismissed her later that really made it hard for her to rest. They haven't spoken about it and Katara isn't sure what to say to Aang about it either. Azula's smirk over breakfast dripped with her victory and it took everything Katara had to not knock her into the nearest fountain. Not for the first time she bites her lip hard enough to make it bleed.
Slyly, Katara looks over at the only other person in proximity to her. Aang usually opts to meditate farther away from the main areas. This can mean he disappears for hours at a time either deep inside the temple or off on his glider to whatever sites only an Air Bender could reach. Today, though, he is seated closer to the edge of the courtyard overlooking the gorge. It is always fascinating how he can sit motionless for long stretches of time. She takes the opportunity to eye the blue arrow down his back. The edges are broken by the marred skin, still healing, but twisted and dark. It is a reminder of just how human the Avatar really is.
Words of protest drag her attention away as a pleading Azula clings to an irate Zuko. Putting down the torn cloth, Katara stands out of curiosity and moves closer as they near the meditating Avatar.
Zuko jerks his arm out of Azula's hands. "What did you do to her?"
Aang doesn't move or make any indication he has heard the prince's demanding words. The anger flares brighter in Zuko's golden eyes and Katara moves to stand opposite the siblings.
"What's going on?" She asks hesitantly.
Since joining them, Zuko really has mellowed a great deal and even if he was angry he never really challenged Aang. At least that is how it was before Azula was thrust into their circle.
"Zuko, leave it alone." Azula hisses in a low voice as her nails dig into his arm trying to pull him away.
Katara doesn't miss the trepidation in her eyes as she quickly glances at the still silent Avatar.
"No, I won't." He snaps with a glare at his sister. "I want to know what happened."
Katara can't help but quickly appraise the princess for whatever slight Zuko thinks has been committed against her. She furrows her brow in confusion.
"You would do well to listen to your sister." Aang says without opening his eyes or moving, his voice is calm but has a sharp edge of threat to it.
The careful warning only serves to enrage Zuko more as he pulls his arm free of Azula's cloying grasp. "Tell me what you did to her."
When his gray eyes open there is a hint of amusement in them. "Can you be more specific?"
The flippant remark stuns Katara and even Zuko's face falters.
"You took her bending." The disbelief is evident in his voice. "How?"
Katara looks back at Azula as if bending were something you could just see.
"That is a bit difficult to explain." Aang replies easily. "It's an Avatar thing."
It's the default response for things Aang either can't or won't explain to them.
"Can you undo it?" Zuko asks.
Aang gives a little laugh as he stands. "Yes but the question is should I."Zuko shakes his head in anger and Katara can tell Aang is working up to something. "Azula is dangerous, Zuko, too dangerous to be allowed to keep her bending."Aang speaks to Zuko but his eyes are on Azula.
"You can't just take this from her." Zuko argues.
The air chills around them and Aang's gray eyes darken. "This has nothing to do with you."
The dismissal angers Zuko and he snaps. "This has everything to do with me. She's my sister."
Aang narrows his eyes and everything stills around them. "Something I am well aware of but Azula is no longer your concern."
Aang and Zuko now stare one another down. Azula whispers Zuko's name with her hands on his arm as she tries to pull him away again.
Zuko's head jerks towards her. "How can you let him do this?" It really is beyond him how Azula of all people is just rolling over and taking it. "You never let anyone get the better of you."
Aang answers for her in a thoughtful voice. "Because the Fire Lord must be stopped." Azula glares at him but he only smiles in response. "Isn't that right, Azula?"
Golden eyes shine defiance, at first, but she blinks and it is gone. "Yes."
"There you go." Aang says with a false sense of cheer. "Once Ozai is defeated, Zuko will be Fire Lord and we can bring balance back to the world." He turns and starts to walk away.
Zuko's voice stops him. "And what happens to Azula after the war is over?"
Slowly Aang turns to face him with a thoughtful look on his face. "You let me worry about that."
"What in Agni's name does that mean?" Zuko snarls, smoke rising from his lips.
"It means I'm done discussing this. Azula is no longer your concern." Aang speaks with a voice of finality as he turns to walk away again.
Zuko stares at him incredulously. "So she's like a prize you get for stopping the Fire Lord?" Aang stops but doesn't turn around. Zuko takes it as an advantage to keep pushing. "Maybe more like a war trophy. Something pretty for the mantle of the Air Nation."
"Zuko!" Azula hisses
Aang half turns back to face Zuko and a flicker of white flashes in his eyes. "Consider her the first of many payments for Fire Nation sins."
The words are so much darker than anything the Avatar has said before. Zuko stills at the implication of his words but Azula pushes past him quickly closing the distance to Aang. They don't hear her rushed words as she presses against the Air Bender but the desperate pleas are clear. Aang doesn't look away from Zuko. The glare is sharp and Katara can tell he is just barely on edge. Any moment she expects a display of the Avatar state. Azula's hands frame his face as she presses closer and whatever she says breaks his trance and instead he focuses on the princess. Zuko and Katara share a confused look as they watch Azula take Aang's arm and lead him inside.
When the last glimpse of red disappears around the temple door, Katara asks in a shaky voice, "Zuko?"