Toph had heard the bison's roars from about two minutes before it landed. Aang and Katara had let her know they would drop by to visit her today, which was why she had been expecting them at the door of the Beifong Metalbending Academy. She had given the Lily Livers a break after an intensive afternoon of constant training, and while they regained their energies, she stood outside waiting for her friends to land. Appa went lower and lower until he finally dropped on the ground loudly, and he growled as if to declare his arrival.
"The furball is as noisy as ever, isn't he?" called Toph, smirking slightly
"Hey, Toph!" said Aang, grinning as he took Katara in his arms and jumped off the bison with her while using airbending to make slow down their course to the ground "It's been too long since we last saw each other!"
"I've never really seen you, Twinkle Toes" she said, her smirk growing more pronounced as her two friends approached her
"Your sense of humor is as sharp as ever" acknowledged Katara, hugging her "How have you been doing?"
"I'm doing great! The Lily Livers are improving a lot; even if I won't say it to their faces" said Toph "I have to keep them disciplined, you know?"
"Right…" said Aang, gulping. He remembered clearly his times as Toph's student, and he knew what kind of discipline she had in store for them…
"I'm surprised to have you guys show up like this" said Toph, as she led the way inside the Academy "I thought you were busy settling down in Yu… I mean, in 'Republic City'… Seriously, why did you and Zuko change its name? It was fine as Yu Dao… Republic City sounds weird to me"
"We called it that way because it's the center of the United Republic of Nations" said Aang happily "I think it fits the city really well!"
"Right" said Toph, yawning "Well? Why are you both here?"
"We just wanted to drop by and say hi!" said Katara, smiling "Did we come at a bad timing?"
"Not really" said Toph, shrugging "But I was sure you two would be having so much fun together you would never bother dropping by; well, that was a relief, actually…"
"So you really don't want us here?" asked Aang, his eyebrow twitching
"No, I meant I thought you both would spend every waking hour giving me the oogies with your sparkly romance" she said, shivering at the thought
"Oh, come on!" said Katara, blushing "It's not that bad! You and Sokka complain far too much!"
"Speaking of… where is he?" asked Toph "The last I heard of him was that he was living with the two of you… wasn't he?"
"He wanted to go to the Fire Nation Palace to visit Suki" said Aang "We left him there about a month ago, I think…"
"I see" said Toph "Well, it's a good thing they're not around right now, then. He's always so clingy to her… it's even more disgusting than the two of you. No offense"
"None taken…" lied Aang bitterly, as Toph led them into a sitting room
"I sent the Dark One to make some tea" said Toph, dropping on a cushion in front of a small table "He should be done with it any minute now"
"It seems you've been taking after Iroh's tea-loving ways" said Katara, smiling as she and Aang sat next to each other
"Maybe" said Toph, sighing "I do miss his tea, though… the Dark One is the best brewer among us, and he's definitely not up to Iroh's standards…"
"Maybe he'll improve with time" said Aang, smiling
"I can only hope he does" said Toph, shrugging "So… what's up with you guys? Is there any particular reason you came here, or did you miss me so much?"
"Well… remember you met with the Police Chief of Yu Dao?" said Aang "You two hit it off really well…"
"Right. What about him?" said Toph with a bored tone.
"We need better measures to keep Republic City safe…" said Aang, as the Dark One entered the room while carrying a tray in his hands "And I came up with the idea of a police force formed by metalbenders…"
"What?" said Toph, raising an eyebrow "You want my metalbenders to fight crime? Why?"
"It makes sense, Toph! Just hear me out!" said Aang "Metalbenders are strong and they can manipulate both metal and earth, right? If any bender tries to do something out of line, you and your students can catch him and have him face justice!"
"Aang, I'm more of the type to break rules rather than enforce them…" muttered Toph, picking her teeth with her fingers "I don't really know if being a police officer works for me…"
"Excuse me… Sifu Toph…" said the Dark One, kneeling next to the girl and interrupting what could have developed into a full-fledged argument "I've brought your cup of tea, and… a letter arrived for you today"
"What? A letter?!" said Toph, in dismay "Why don't people get it? I CAN'T READ!"
"If you want, I can read it for you" said Katara, smiling and taking the parchment and the tea cup the Dark One had offered her.
"That… that could work" said Toph, taking her own cup as Aang did the same. The Dark One bowed and walked away, leaving the chamber as Katara inspected the outside of the scroll
"Huh… it has a royal seal from the Fire Nation" she said, frowning "What's with this?"
"Maybe it's from Zuko" said Aang, shrugging
"Does Zuko want me to become a Police Officer of the Fire Nation Capital now?" asked Toph with sarcasm, and Aang cast a scornful look at her
"That conversation is still pending, you know?" he said, frowning
"Whatever you say, Twinkle Toes" muttered Toph, smirking
Katara opened the scroll and stared at her brother's handwriting with surprise
"Hey, it's from Sokka!"
"What do you know?" said Aang, smiling "How is he doing?"
"If she gets to reading it, we might find out at some point" said Toph, stretching her arms
"Okay, then…" said Katara, reading the parchment "'Dear Toph: It's been a while since we last met, hasn't it? How have you been?'"
"Does he really expect me to write him a reply?" she asked, skeptical
"It's Sokka we're talking about" said Katara, smiling "You can't expect him to think everything through, can you?"
"I guess you're right…" said Toph, shrugging
"'You must be wondering why I wrote this letter to you. I really didn't know what to do or who to tell about the most recent happenings in my life, but since you're my best friend, I realized I had to tell you before letting either Aang or Katara know about this' Hey, what's with that? Why does he think he should tell something to you rather than us?"
"I'm guessing he said that because he thought you wouldn't be the one to read the letter…" said Toph, smirking
"This is ridiculous!" complained Katara, but Aang patted her on the shoulder
"If you continue reading, we'll all find out at the same time even if he didn't intend us to…"
"I… I guess you're right" she said, sighing "It's just a little annoying to think that my brother doesn't trust me… well, anyway, I'll just carry on now! 'You might judge me and think I'm crazy for what I've done, and in a way, you would be right. Still, I thought that, if anyone would understand, it would be you'… why? Is it because you're the only one who's crazy enough to take in what he did?"
"Stop being so jealous, Sugar Queen" said Toph, smiling "And get to the point already, will you?"
"Okay, okay… 'It may look like a complete mistake to you, and you may think there's something seriously wrong with me, because that seems to be the popular opinion of everyone who finds out about this; still, I had to say it, because this isn't the kind of changes that could go unnoticed… The thing is, Suki and I broke up, and I'm involved with someone new'… WHAT?!" yelled Katara, in shock
"He broke up with Suki?" said Toph, raising an eyebrow "Sounds fishy to me…"
"And he's with someone else already?" asked Aang, surprised "Couldn't he wait at least a few weeks or something?"
"Who knows what happened between the two of them…" said Toph, shrugging "Still, why is he telling me this? What do I have to do with it?"
"How could he…? Why did he…? WHAT'S WRONG WITH HIM?!" yelled Katara, losing her temper and prompting Aang to take the scroll on her hands
"You know what, sweetie?" said the Avatar, smiling "I think I'll finish reading this…"
"What's the matter with him?!" she screamed, annoyed
"Come on, Sugar Queen…" said Toph "It's up to Sokka to choose who he wants to be with, so leave him alone"
"Yeah, I'm sure he must have his reasons to do this, even if it doesn't make any sense to us right now…" said Aang "Let's keep on reading, okay?"
Katara didn't seem willing to listen to the content of said letter, she was too angry at her brother to even think straight anymore. Aang and Toph realized she was on another one of her usual stubbornness fits, but nevertheless, they still wanted to discover the contents of the rest of the letter.
"'I'm sure this must have come as quite a shock to you'…"
"Not really" said Toph, shrugging "I couldn't care less who you make out with, Sokka…"
Aang decided to ignore her comment and he resumed the reading
"'And I haven't even told you the craziest part just yet…'… W-Wait a minute…" said Aang, reading ahead.
"What?" asked Katara, frowning "What does it say, Aang?!"
The Avatar's face grew paler and paler as he read Sokka's revelation several times, trying to understand how something so ridiculous and absurd could have happened… Katara lost her patience and snatched the paper from his hand, and Aang hardly even noticed, as dumbfounded as he was.
" 'The reason I broke up with Suki was because I fell in love with someone else, and that someone is…' W-wait… t-this can't be right…" she said, in complete shock
"What's going on?" said Toph, annoyed "I can't read it, so just tell me already? Who's Sokka's new cute and silly girlfriend? Ty Lee? Lei? Zuko?"
"Those options… were far more likely…" said Aang, twitching
"HOW THE HELL DID MY BROTHER GET TANGLED WITH AZULA?!" screamed Katara, jumping and throwing the half-finished letter to the floor, hysterical
"Gee, no wonder he thought I'd take it better than either one of you two" said Toph, smirking "Although I'll say that's hard to take… Sokka and Azula? Sounds like a match made in hell to me…"
"How?!" yelled Katara "HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?! HOW COULD THAT IDIOT DUMP SUKI FOR A PSYCHO LIKE AZULA?!"
"This is… so weird… is it a prank?!" said Aang, finally coming to his senses. He took the letter on his hands and scanned it quickly, but the more he read, the more he found himself in complete disbelief "'I know you'll think this doesn't any make sense at all, but Azula and I have grown closer over this past month. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was completely in love with her. I'm sure you'll be the only one to understand this, which is why I wanted to let you know first. Could you vouch for me when I tell Katara and Aang? Those two are bound to kill me if they find out about this before I'm ready to tell them…'"
"We were bound to kill you anyway!" yelled Katara "This is unbelievable! WE HAVE TO GO TO THE FIRE NATION CAPITAL AND ASK HIM ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW!"
"Appa is tired after such a long trip, Katara…" said Aang, even when he was as willing to discover the truth as his girlfriend "We can't go right now…"
"You two need to calm down" said Toph, shaking her head "Whatever Sokka does with his life isn't your business. In fact, if you want to give him a hard time for dumping Suki, you shouldn't bother. I'm sure being involved with Azula will be enough of a divine punishment for what he did to Suki…"
"You don't get it, do you?!" yelled Katara, pacing down the room while stomping as she went "It's Azula we're talking about! She's crazy, she's evil, and she's probably got a wicked plot to kill him once he's too in love with her to care about what she does to him!"
"In that case, she's going to get away with it easily" said Aang, looking at the letter "'I know how ridiculous it seems, it doesn't make much sense at first thought. Believe me, I went through the same denials when I fell for her… but I can't keep deluding myself, I love her, and she loves me back…' How on earth could Azula love Sokka? What is there about him that could have her fall for him? She always called him names and diminished him with her words! How… how… how?!"
"That's why we have to go to the capital RIGHT NOW!" yelled Katara, and Toph yawned, bored
"Good thing to know nobody remembers anything about me forming a Police Squad now" she said, smirking as her two friends kept trying to make sense out of the latest revelations, trying to understand how could such different people, who used to claim they were mortal enemies, fall in love with each other in the span of a month… But Toph hardly cared about the reasons behind their romance. As far as she was concerned, Sokka could be quite an idiot at times, but if Azula could make him happy, she wouldn't get in their way. Of course, if the firebender dared hurt her best friend, there would be consequences… but for now, she would trust Sokka's judgment. He'd made the right decisions before, so maybe this crazy development wasn't as absurd as it seemed to be…
"This is RIDICULOUS! It's actually impossible!" yelled the Fire Lord, walking up and down his office
Mai sighed, annoyed at her boyfriend's attitude. Normally he wouldn't care at all about his sister's relationships, because Azula never got involved with anyone at all. And now he was going on a rampage, trying to defend his little sister… or his best friend. Mai had no idea of who worried him more.
"You have to accept this, Zuko" said Iroh, sipping tea. He and Mai were sitting calmly on a couch as the Fire Lord walked around, losing his mind "It doesn't involve you, and it won't do you any harm. Accept it, and move past it. This might do well to both Azula and Sokka; you can't judge them without fully understanding the circumstances that led them to this"
"How can you be so calm about this, Uncle?!" yelled Zuko
"Maybe because he doesn't take everything to the heart, Zuko" said Mai, sighing "It's the first time I've seen you in months and this is how you welcome me…"
"Excuse my nephew" said Iroh, bowing his head towards Mai "He's so headstrong he forgets his priorities surprisingly often"
"I've known him for a while now, that's not news to me" said Mai "But I'll excuse him. I always do"
"Could you FOCUS on the real problem here?!" he said, turning to both of them looking exasperated "What am I supposed to do about this mess? It doesn't make any sense at all! Sokka… and Azula… it's plain ludicrous!"
"It's none of your business, Zuko" said Mai, sighing "Whatever those two want to do with their lives is their own decision. Leave them alone already"
"But… It's just absurd!" he said "In fact, as far as I know, they might be doing this for the sole purpose of making me mad!"
"If that were true, you would be giving them exactly what they want by being so angry, Zuko" said Iroh, to his nephew's dismay
"B-but… but I'm supposed to be mad! I told Sokka not to get involved with her, and he did!"
"Are you jealous Azula got Sokka and you didn't?" asked Mai, a grimace on her face "Because if that's the case, I think I'll break up with you again…"
"Of course that's not it, Mai!" yelled Zuko, disgusted "What's the matter with you?!"
"I think we're all wondering what's the matter with YOU" said Mai, frowning "Seriously, leave them alone. If Azula had opposed you and me being together, would you have cared at all?"
"Well… no, but… it's different!" said Zuko
"What's so different about it?" said Iroh, taking another sip from his tea "Everyone is allowed to fall in love, Zuko. You should be happy they're mutually in love rather than condemning their union in such thoughtless manner, my nephew"
"B-but… Uncle, it's her!" said Zuko "How do we know this will end well?"
"Why would you want it to end?" asked Iroh, smiling "When people get into a relationship, they're not thinking about how it will end. It's the journey in itself what they're concerned about… and if it's true love, it will endure every obstacle, and it will never end"
"But… Uncle, do you really think those two are in love?" asked Zuko "Isn't this… I don't know, lust instead? Maybe they're just physically attracted towards each other!"
"Oh, I don't think so" said Iroh, laughing "You have a lot to learn in life, my nephew. Ever since we were playing Pai Sho I sensed there was more to them than it seemed. And when I realized they'd been left alone on the Palace, I knew something was bound to happen. Still, even if you don't understand it, couldn't you at least feel happy for your sister?"
Zuko sighed and looked at the floor, irked
"I could try, but… Is she really happy with this? Is Sokka happy with this?" he asked
"Only time will tell" said Iroh, smiling "For now, you just have to go with the flow, Zuko. Their love might not last long, just as you think it won't… but it could easily become an affair of a lifetime. Don't judge them so rashly, my nephew"
Zuko sighed and shook his head, and Mai couldn't help but smile a little towards him. She was glad to see him genuinely concerned for the well-being of his friend… because she rather doubted he'd be feeling so worried about Azula. Since when had he become such a caring brother for her? Mai had been absent for all this time because she'd been on a lousy trip to her family's country house, since her parents had forced her to accompany them, and thus she had missed the latest happenings… She wouldn't show it, but even below the calm surface, she couldn't help but wonder: what could have possibly pushed the Azula she knew so well towards the Water Tribe peasant she had always despised so much…?
"He's… he's the worst!" yelled Lei, pacing down the room in which the Kyoshi Warriors were assembled "How could he do this to you?"
Suki sighed, trying to hide the fact that her friends questions only made her feel even more uncomfortable and depressed than she already was. The group of female warriors was in the chamber where they used to spend their spare time in, and since the break-up between their leader and his long-term boyfriend had been so unexpected, it was bound to be the conversation subject for weeks to come. Suki was being hugged by another one of the Kyoshi Warriors as she tried to put up with the comments the group was making upon the situation, especially Lei.
"Seriously, how?!" insisted the girl, in complete disbelief "And to leave you for that blasted princess… what's the matter with him? Did he want power or money, by any chance?"
"Come on, you know Sokka isn't like that…" muttered another girl, and Lei turned towards her
"I think we didn't know him as well as we thought we did" growled Lei, frowning
"Lei…" said Suki, surprising everyone "It's enough already. I… I understand you're mad at him, and so am I, but by being so angry we won't achieve anything at all. I have to move on, and it would help me if we just stopped talking about this already…"
Lei froze and lowered her head, realizing how selfish she'd been by speaking of this matter without thinking about how Suki would take it. The other Kyoshi Warriors approached Suki to show her their support, and the girl smiled
"For the record…" said the one that had been hugging her "Sokka is definitely an idiot for dumping you, and I hope he learns that the hard way"
Suki couldn't help but giggle and nod at her words, to the other's relief. Maybe it would take a while for her to heal these wounds, but she seemed to be trying her best to move on, to resume her life and to look back at the times she'd shared with Sokka with a smile on her face.
Only one Kyoshi Warrior seemed unwilling to walk up to Suki to show she'd stand by her leader. Ty Lee stood by a window, watching her friends with mild concern. She truly hoped they would understand her withdrawal from their group hug; how could she condemn Sokka for dumping her leader hook up with her best friend? In fact, she wouldn't say it, but she was sure Azula needed him far more than Suki did. Surely Suki would be in pain for a long time, but she had friends to support her, and she would be prone to find another man eventually, since she was far more adept socially than Azula was; she could survive this break-up even when things seemed so gloomy now. Azula would have never recovered from the blows of falling in love with someone like Sokka to no avail…
But it had worked out. They were together now, and they had pretty much announced it to the rest of the world by now. She had witnessed how Sokka explained it to Zuko, while Azula smirked behind him, wondering if her brother would die of a heart-attack with news like these. To Zuko's outrage, the two of them walked away from him holding hands, and holding back their respective fits of laughter at his reaction. Ty Lee had been left to 'comfort' Zuko, but she had pretty much passed him to Mai by the time the girl had showed up on the Palace. Only reminiscing about these events, Ty Lee found herself smiling involuntarily, hoping that the relationship between both her friends would last forever and after…
Azula was sitting on the edge of a walkway that led outside, towards the garden of the Royal Palace. Leaning against a pillar, her gaze was fixed on the skies, watching the two stars Sokka had mentioned to her once before. Truth to be told, Azula had never been one for similes and metaphors… but the one Sokka had come up with made her smile every time she saw those two dots up above, glittering as if in the middle of a conversation…
And close to the where the stars were, the moon seemed to be in the middle of her travel through the skies, on the last quarter before a new moon arrived. Azula didn't think it was normal to feel so fond towards her boyfriend's former lover, but she couldn't help but wonder if Yue was the one she had to thank for everything that had happened so far. It had been a rough and long road, and she had shed so many tears she wouldn't be able to count them even if she had tried to keep track… but they had been worth it. She had never been happier, never before had she felt whole and completed. The road she had been walking down through had always seemed dark and depressing, she had no expectations about it whatsoever, just hoping that her pain would fade away someday… And then Sokka appeared. He had shed light down that road of hers, and he had given her everything she had ever wanted… She knew she had hurt him several times, and she had made so many mistakes… but she wouldn't mess up ever again. She loved him more than he could possibly imagine she did, and she would do everything in her power to make him as happy as she was.
Had Yue been the one to tie the red string around their fingers? Truth to be told, she didn't know… but somehow, she hoped it had been her. That way it would seem as if the Northern Water Tribe Princess was blessing them and asking her to take care of the boy she had loved so dearly; and Azula planned to fulfill her wishes, no matter what.
She heard a set of familiar footsteps walking towards her, and Azula found herself smiling as he approached her. Just by being nearby he made her entire world far brighter…
"The kitchen staff has hated me for ages, and I keep making everything worse" said Sokka, sighing as he walked up to her while carrying a bowl full of orange snacks "Every misfortune they have, they'll blame on me, even when it's clear I wasn't the one to ruin their pretty stove"
"They still believe you to be the one who melted the frying pan?" she asked, amused "They're surprisingly stupid, aren't they?"
"I guess they are, but… what's that supposed to mean?" he asked, raising an eyebrow as he reached her, and she turned to look at him.
"How exactly would you have melted a frying pan?" she asked
"They seem to think I made you do it or something" he said, sighing
"And they think you can force ME to do something. Proof that they're truly idiots, see?"
Sokka rolled his eyes and sat down right next to her, setting the bowl between them
"I guess you're right, even if I hate to admit it" he said "The one forcing the other to do stuff over here is you, isn't it?"
"Yes, and that's the way it's meant to be" she muttered, smiling. She looked down at the bowl, and raised an eyebrow, surprised "What…? How did you…?"
"Why do you think I was talking about the kitchen staff?" he said, smirking "I sent them a note from Zuko, saying he wanted to eat some cheetos. The main chef headed out to deliver the snacks, but he didn't expect me to strike him on the head with my boomerang once he was on his way. He nearly went down with the bowl, but I managed to catch it before it fell… and I came here"
"You can be quite the criminal mastermind when you want to be" said Azula, smirking "The dreadful serial kitchen robber Sokka… chefs all over the world will cower in fear"
"You'll never change, will you?" he asked, as she laughed "Well, whatever. I like you just the way you are"
"Will you quit being so cheesy? It's embarrassing…" she said, her laugh vanishing as a blush showed up on her cheeks
Sokka chuckled and handed her the bowl, smiling
"I will, but you'd better thank me for my troubles" he said "I think the kitchen staff will try to banish me from the Palace after what I just did…"
"I'll make sure that doesn't happen" said Azula, taking a cheeto "But I guess I should thank you for doing this anyway. The consequences may be horrid, but you did it nonetheless. Thanks"
"No problem!" said Sokka, proudly. If she actually appreciated what he'd done, he could spend the rest of the night smiling non-stop.
He watched her as she ate the snack, and he was surprised at the look of utter delight she had on her face once she put the cheeto in her mouth. She took her time before swallowing, savoring the food for as long as she could, and once she did, she was smiling in such carefree way that she hardly seemed to be the powerful and deadly Princess Azula anymore
"I enjoy food, I really do… but only these little flaming marvels can make me think my life is far more valuable just because I've been able to eat this snack…"
Sokka seemed completely shocked, and he looked at the bowl with disbelief
"Is it really that great?" he asked, raising an eyebrow
"Didn't you nick any while you carried them here?" asked Azula, surprised "I can't believe you didn't…"
"W-well, I got them for you, so… no, I didn't take anything" said Sokka, shrugging
"Then take one!" she ordered him "You won't understand what I'm talking about if you don't do it! But just one… the rest is mine"
"So this is the way I'll be rewarded after all my troubles to get you your favorite meal" he said, in disapproval "I should've seen it coming…"
"Oh, alright, you can take some more…" she said, even though the decision seemed to be one of the most difficult ones she had made in her life.
"It's okay, Azula. I was just joking" he said, smiling as he took one cheeto.
Azula stared at him, wondering if he'd enjoy the snack or not… but she had no doubt about it once he finally ate it. His eyes broadened as he chewed it, and he seemed to enter a state of shock as the flavor of the snack spread through his mouth
"W-wha… WHAT IS THIS THING?!" he yelled, impressed "IT'S SO GOOD I COULD DIE!"
"I… I know the feeling, but you have to calm down now…" said Azula, trying to appease him
"It was over way too fast! Give me another one, I beg you!" he said, almost in tears
"Calm down, Sokka!" she said, shocked "Have more, it's fine!"
To her dismay, Sokka took a fistful of cheetos and shoved them into his mouth, enjoying the wonderful taste with a stupid smile on his face. He wouldn't doubt Azula's liking for food ever again, that was a given.
"You're unbelievable" she said, smiling as she took a fistful as well, trying not to fall behind him.
They ate silently since they didn't really engage in a conversation, but they were really noisy as they ate, since eating cheetos quietly wasn't an option at all. Azula kept staring at the moon, which moved slowly through the heavens, approaching the spot where the two stars were. She smiled, truly believing the moon spirit was the one who had given her an opportunity with the wonderful man next to her… she turned to look at him, but she caught him in the middle of stuffing his mouth with more and more cheetos, to the extent that both his cheeks were accumulating the snack as he kept throwing more into his mouth.
Sokka gulped when he realized she was looking at him in slight disgust and he cleared his throat, embarrassed
"I… I didn't mean to do something so inappropriate… sorry…" he said
"I don't blame you, but you do need to learn some manners" said Azula, smirking "Even cheetos should be eaten with a far more educated demeanor…"
She stretched her hand to her left, but rather than finding a cheeto, she hit the bottom of the bowl. She looked at it and found there was nothing but crumbs left. She frowned, and Sokka looked at her, feeling guilty
"I'm… I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to!" he insisted, bowing down his head.
Azula sighed and shrugged
"It's too late for me to do anything about it now" she muttered "I've learned to enjoy them as I eat them, so I'll get by this somehow. You, on the other hand…"
"Yeah" said Sokka, sighing "I miss them already…"
Azula giggled, prompting him to laugh too, still ashamed of his behavior. He looked at her, unable to erase the smile on his face. How had he managed to make such a wonderful girl fall in love with him? Was he truly worthy of her? Well, even if he wasn't right now, he'd do everything he could to improve himself to become the man she needed… But in the meantime, she seemed happy and relaxed, which wasn't a sight anyone was used to witnessing. Sokka smiled, wondering if these were aspects of the girl that only he had gotten to see… He liked to think that way, it made him feel closer to Azula than anyone else, and after all, he truly was that close to her, just as she was close to him as well.
"What… what are you looking at?" she asked, noticing he was staring at her as if in a daze
"I have every right to look at you nowadays, accept it already, woman!" he said, folding his arms and making her giggle again
"Will you ever answer a question like a normal person would?" she asked
"Will you ever act like a normal person?" he inquired
"I doubt it" she muttered, amused
"Well, neither will I" he said, making her smile even more
"Fine, I won't insist, then…" she said, staring at the sky again.
"Say, why were you here?" asked Sokka "I looked around for you, but I didn't really think I'd find you here…"
"I was just staring at the sky, I guess" said Azula "You could say I was talking to your first girlfriend"
"Huh?" said Sokka, puzzled "What for?"
"No particular reason…" muttered Azula "I don't think she and I would have gotten along if we had met, all I know about her is that we were nothing alike…"
"True" said Sokka, nodding "The only similarity between the two of you is that you're both princesses. Your hair is black, hers was white… you can be the cruelest person in a room, and she was the kindest instead… Yeah, you wouldn't have gotten along at all"
"Which is why I don't really know if she meant for you to end up with me" said Azula "But then again, she's a spirit… she must have known what she was doing, right?"
"I guess she did know" said Sokka, smiling "Tying up the red thread of destiny between the two of us wasn't something she did out of chance. I'm sure she knew it could work out"
"I only hope not to disappoint her" said Azula "I'm sure she must have loved you very much…"
"I guess so" said Sokka "But still… it's not as if our relationship had been allowed to bloom. I guess our feelings didn't develop as much as they should have…"
Azula looked at him, knowing that Yue would always have a special place in his heart, only for her. It made her feel a little jealous, but she was more than willing to accept it, since she truly believed the moon spirit was the one who had joined the two of them together.
"Anyway… you really are weird" said Sokka, smirking "Most girls hate their boyfriend's first love… how come you even sit here talking to her?"
"I thought you'd realized I'm not like most girls" she said, shrugging "It does bother me a little to think you have such history with other girls, but it doesn't annoy me so much not to be your first one…"
"Huh" said Sokka, surprised "Well, that's all fine, I guess… At least I'm your first guy, right?"
"In a way, you are…" admitted Azula "You're the first one to be formally involved with me. But I should note you weren't the first boy I kissed…"
"W-wait, WHAT?!" yelled Sokka, outraged "How…? Why…? WHO?! Who kissed you before I did?!"
"Why does it bother you so much?" she asked
"B-because… I don't know, but I just don't like it!" he said "Well? W-who took your first kiss, then?"
"Ty Lee and I were discussing him back when you interrupted our conversation" said Azula, smirking "He was a moron called Chan. He wasn't worth my time, of course…"
"If he wasn't, why did you kiss him?" growled Sokka, unable to hide his jealousy
"I guess I was intrigued" said Azula, shrugging "I wanted to try and fall in love with somebody, even if it was someone I knew nothing about. It was something really meaningless, and I scared him off right after he kissed me, to be honest…"
"How?" asked Sokka, curious
"By telling him that together we could conquer the world" said Azula "He wasn't as ambitious as I thought he'd be, so he fled as soon as he realized I was far more demanding than the girls he was used to"
Sokka couldn't help but chuckle at her story.
"Didn't he know anything about you?"
"We were on a trip to Ember Island, and I never bothered telling him my identity" said Azula, shrugging "If I had, he might have acted differently for the mere sake of taking a place in the Royal Family for himself… But he didn't know, so I got the chance to make him pay for his cowardice and burned down his house"
"Yeah, that sounds about right" said Sokka, puzzled as Azula smirked, recalling the wonderful feeling of destroying the teenager's home "So… conquer the world, you said?"
"Exactly" said Azula "It wasn't the greatest phrase for flirting, which I learned the hard way, some would say…"
"Maybe it wouldn't have worked with guys like that one" said Sokka "But it might have worked on me"
"Seriously?" said Azula, skeptical "Do you want to dominate the earth with me, Sokka?"
The Water Tribe boy smirked and winked at her
"It's too tempting an offer to refuse, Princess"
Azula found herself laughing at his response, unable to believe someone would actually do agree to such insane proposal. Sokka put away the bowl that still was between them and surrounded her shoulders with his arm, pulling her closer to him.
"Well, whatever" said Azula, letting her head rest on his shoulder "Even if we had previous romances with other people, we're together now, and that's what matters"
"True…" said Sokka, smiling "But… do you really think what you had was a romance? I mean…"
"Shut up" she said, and he obeyed her promptly, knowing that pestering about that matter wouldn't get him anywhere.
The two of them looked at the moon right then, as it passed by both their favorite stars.
"She really tied us together, didn't she?" asked Azula, smiling
"I guess she did" said Sokka, caressing her hair "And I'm really glad she did. Seriously… now I'm with you, I know there's no one else I'll want to be with from now on"
"Good to know our plans are that similar" she said, looking at him "So… I guess this is it, isn't it?"
"What? The closure of this mess?" he asked, smirking
"No… the beginning" she said, closing her eyes "It may look like we finally solved everything, and we're finally allowed to be together… but truth to be told, this is nowhere near the end. This… this is only the start. We'll be walking the same road from now on, Sokka… are you sure you want to walk it with me?"
Sokka raised her head towards him and smiled at her gently
"I'll be holding your hand as we walk down that road, if you don't mind" he said, caressing her cheek
"That's exactly the way I wanted it" she said, smiling with such pure joy that Sokka couldn't help but say
"I love you, Azula"
Her smile brightened up even more as she answered
"And I love you, Sokka"
They hugged each other close as they joined on another kiss, and this time, she wasn't crying. He made her so happy that she couldn't imagine having any other motive to cry anymore… it was all because of him. She had a life she could lead proudly, a fate that no longer seemed dark and pointless, and she had the most wonderful lover, who was the reason why the path ahead of her looked brighter than ever.
THE END… or is it?
Woah, I can't believe this is done. I started to visualize this crazy story's plotline back when I was writing the Origins of Pro-Bending, and back when I began that one, I had no idea I'd fall in love so deeply with this pairing. I'm not the type to ship insanely too often, few couples produce in me the crazy urge to ship to death… In fact, I think I've got a list and it doesn't surpass 20 ships in EVERYTHING I'VE EVER WATCHED AND READ… And believe me, I've watched and read quite a lot of things! But Sokkla… it took over me before I could even realize what was going on…
Alright, if you don't care about the details on this fic, you're welcome to ignore what I'll be about to explain, but before you go… if you liked The Reason, check out The Origins of Pro-Bending! It's the sequel to this fic, and even when the plots are really different you should give it a go! You might like it, you never know!
Okay, now onto the details of this whole ficlet… I have to tell the story from the beginning, I guess! xD A friend of mine and I were talking about Pro-Bending, arguing if the Gaang could beat the Fire Ferrets... and I started wondering what team would the Gaang comprise of if they actually tried to fight a Pro-Bending match. Because whatever line-up they used, one of the Gaang's benders would be left outside... so I resolved that Aang would fight against the other three and Sokka would be the referee. I told my friend I would make a fanart about it. Nevertheless, I didn't find the time to take my digital tablet and start a masterpiece such as the one I had in mind... so I never drew the fanart.
One day I was riding a bus on my way home, and I remembered my plans to make that drawing. Since my mind loves to play games with me, I suddenly started wondering what sort of circumstances could lead Aang to battle against Katara, Toph and Zuko on a fair bending match with rules and all... And of course, who could come up with Pro-Bending and why? Since I'm a crazy Azula fan, I immediately wanted to throw her into the equation in some way, but I had figured Sokka would be the planner of Pro-Bending... Still, there's plenty of small details in this sport, and Sokka, even if he's smart, he tends to forget about a few things while drawing out his grand plans...
I had seen a beautiful Sokkla artwork by saanika on deviantart only a couple of days ago, and, like any regular person, I thought "Oh, please! Granted they look good together, and this fanart is really pretty, but there's no way this could happen!". Funnily enough, up until them I'd been a proud canon shipper, because ships such as Zutara, Tokka and others didn't cause me any interest; even if I tried to ship them, something just wouldn't click in my head. But, before I knew it, I was becoming more and more curious with Sokkla... Maybe it was because I knew why people shipped those other two I mentioned, but Sokkla was a complete mystery to me. Even so, I found amazing and inspiring fanarts and eventually, I decided to throw in a little crack in my Pro-Bending fic nearly as a joke. I thought Azula would make a living hell for Sokka, but he'd be so stupidly in love with her that he'd welcome that hell gladly.
Which is why you can see Azula being all high-and-mighty on Pro-Bending's chapter one, and Sokka seems like some silly fanboy trying to defend her from his mean little sister. Still, I realized there was no way Sokka would have jumped into a relationship with Azula without a reason, without another storyline... but said storyline didn't come to mind until a fateful day, when I was cooking, I think...
I had put on some music on my computer while I made some hamburgers. I was thinking about the Origins of Pro-Bending at first, but the question of how could Azula and Sokka get together in something that wasn't an AU came to my head yet again. How, how, how...? And the answer came when my Windows Media Player decided to play a certain song for me...
I'm not a big K-Pop fan, the only boyband I can stand is SHINee, and not even all of their songs. In fact, the only song I ever listened to was Sherlock, but with the mini-album of the same name came another song called The Reason. I hardly liked this song, I think I'd heard it on the wrong moment, I guess. But this time, it was the right moment. I don't know if any of you readers use music as an inspiration to write, but I do, and that's what gets me going: I listen to something and an entire movie plays in my head, which I later polish and perfect before I write it.
And that's the way The Reason was born. I had no idea of what the SHINee boys were singing about, I know a little japanese but korean is totally foreign to me. But that song sounded so perfectly accurate, so ideal for Sokkla that I didn't even need to understand what they said for my head to go through such creative explosion. Later I searched the lyrics, and when I found a good translation I realized I had been right: it was the perfect song for Sokkla.
After that it was hard to focus on the Pro-Bending fic XD I just wanted to write The Reason so badly! And, of course, after listening to that fateful song, I realized I'd fallen headfirst for Sokkla. They just made so much sense together, even when I know there's virtually no way for it to happen in canon... So I guess you could say I wrote my own canon XD unless Bryke expressly says otherwise, I'll stick to my Sokkla theories!
So that's how it all began. You could consider this entire fic was built based on songs, something that didn't happen with The Origins of Pro-Bending. Granted a few songs helped me figure out what to do with that one, but this fic has a general theme song and each chapter had one or two songs to inspire it. I have to mention some special songs too, and the first one of them is Ito, by SID. It's pretty much a song about adultery... but it worked perfectly for the moment where Sokka realized that what he'd done with Azula was stabbing Suki in the back... Ito means Thread, by the way. And thread... do I need to say more? XD SID's vocalist tends to throw in the red thread of destiny on his love songs, such as in Natsukoi, Hosoi Koe and others I can't remember now. And once my head had started to create my plot, I also listened to Ito, which got me thinking about using the red string of destiny. I researched a little bit about it to make sure my facts would be right, or at least, not too far off... and then I find in Wikipedia that the responsible for tying the red string around the lover's fingers was none other than THE MOON GOD! I mean, how much luckier could I get?! Everything added up!
So that's pretty much all of what I wanted to explain concerning the creative aspect of the fic. I refrained from writing author notes because I wanted this fic to be as genuine as possible, so instead, I threw in phrases about the red sting of destiny. Of course, I wrote an author note on Revolving Lantern because the cheetos were too much of a crazy spin-off, and I had to explain where that had come from XD thanks again to the amazing Grey DeLisle for the tip! XD
So... down to the songs aspect! What song and why? I pretty much compiled a score for this fic, and I felt obliged to post it here! I can't put the lyrics of all the songs I used, or else I'll make this epilogue even longer than I intended to, but I'll throw youtube links to the songs so that you can hear them if you want to ^^ Still, my musical likings might not match with yours, so it's okay if you don't like my setlist XD copy the links, paste them on your browser and erase the spaces to get the actual link.
First off... Chapter One: Boy Meets Girl. This is a pretty generic phrase, people use it ALL the time! But in my case, it was brought up because of Evan Taubenfeld's song. I don't expect many people to have heard it, but it's really good if you ask me! XD The saying "Boy Meets Girl" pretty much implies the beginning of a love story, so that's why I used it as a name for the first chapter. Also, I made a Sokkla AMV to it, so rather than sending you to an official video, HERE! Enjoy the Sokkla! www. youtube watch?v=gRKISVoQlsc
Chapter Two: Garden of Ruin. Another SID song, this one is actually called Rakuen in the original japanese. Rakuen translates literally into Eden, but our cool Mao changed the first kanji of the word to alter completely the meaning of the word. So it became a Garden of Ruin. This song is about loneliness, literally, and it's pretty much what Azula was feeling while firebending… It's quite the heart-breaking song, but I just love it! www. youtube watch?v=efCdA0cLIR4 Oh, and if you want a link for a translation of this song, ask me on a PM.
Chapter Three: Stranger. I wasn't a big fan of the huge change The Rasmus went through on their latest album, I'm a huge fan of their previous work, but the new album was very different… nevertheless, I did like the first song, Stranger. And I managed to witness all the struggle between Sokka and Azula with it: how Sokka ran towards her, how Azula threw her blue fire at him, how he hugged her even when he was bound to get killed for it, how she let him comfort her even when he was a complete STRANGER… See? Get it? xD okay, okay, enough of it, here you go! www. youtube watch?v=efCdA0cLIR4
Chapter Four: Thread. The Ito I already mentioned earlier. Another SID song, I think I already explained what the deal is with this one, it's a song about two people getting involved and pretending nothing happened later on… you can take it for adultery in a way, or as in a forbidden romance that might destroy them… anyhow, here: www. youtube watch?v=FAIsKF1Gyro Again, if you want a translation, PM me!
Chapter Five: Speak of the Devil. A Sum 41 song this time, one that I never had managed to apply to anything I was writing about even when it's one of my all-time favorite songs by this band. But in this case… it was perfect. The phrase "I've been waiting for a chance to nullify this sick romance" applies so perfectly well to the way Sokka is trying to fix his situation with Suki by leaving behind what happened with Azula… So yeah, he pulls the cord to detonate, but blowing it up didn't work as well as he thought it would… www. youtube watch?v=7FeTs5l5gRQ
Chapter Six: Stronger. This song I owe to Generator X, since it was a recommendation he made me. It's a pretty popular song, but I hadn't really bothered to listen to it closely…and when I did, I figured Azula was bound to decide that, if her weird affair with Sokka wouldn't kill her, it would make her stronger. So yeah, Kelly Clarkson for you! www. youtube watch?v=Xn676-fLq7I
Chapter Seven: Anything You Can Do. I had NO idea of what to name this chapter. Originally it had been meant to be the first part of Revolving Lantern, but I realized it was coming off WAY too long, so I split it in two. And so… what should I have called it? I'm currently obsessing over The Mentalist as well as with Sokkla, so one day, by chance, I was watching videos and I ran into a funny little musical with a song I'd heard a few times before… Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better! It doesn't apply perfectly to the chapter, I'll acknowledge that xD but since Sokka and Azula were so busy trying to prove their superiority on Pai Sho, I thought "Why not?" so I used this song ^^ here, have a link to the video, and I hope you laugh as much as I did if you watch it! xD www. youtube watch?v=3bEn8HyI0iY
Chapter Eight: Revolving Lantern. In the original Japanese, it's Soumatou. SID strikes again, this time with a song about how Azula lives in a world that Sokka can't reach. I didn't really link the song so much to the events of the chapter because our sweet little pairing insisted on fighting and arguing, and they didn't let me make them think about what troubled the other. Still, I had Sokka trying to know a little more about Azula, so it works like that, I think… Also, it's a pretty song with an oriental edge, so I had to use it at some point xD www. youtube watch?v=wxY74vGvc04
Chapter Nine: Stay (Be the One). I've been a fan of Avril Lavigne ever since I was eight years old. Yeah, that means that I've listened to her from around the time she first put out her first album. She has changed over the years, but nonetheless, I still love her music and her beautiful voice! This is a B-Side for her first album, I think she recorded way too much music back then and most songs didn't make the cut. Getting around finding a few of these songs isn't easy xD but still, it's the perfect song for unrequited love. It's Azula's fantasy to have Sokka all to her… but Sokka's got someone else, so she's left doing nothing other than long for him in silence… www. youtube watch?v=q9oskOLYX-U
Chapter Ten: Fall to Pieces. Two Avril songs in a row! I don't know if any of you noticed, but this is the only chapter without a "red string of fate" reference. It has a little phrase below, but no mention of the red string. Why? Well, I guess it's because I centered it on Suki, and as anyone would figure out… she's not the one Sokka was tied to, even if it always looked as if she were. Fall to Pieces applies to her completely, because she's totally in love with Sokka even if he's fooling around with somebody else… I know a few of you didn't buy the way she gave up on him so selflessly, but if she had kept him, she would have never forgiven him for what he'd done with Azula while disregarding her completely… it's pretty complex, I guess. But I refused to hook her up with other people for two reasons. The first: I'm sick of reading fics where she's portrayed as a, in the lack for better words, heartless bitch that never made Sokka happy. Wake up, fandom! Suki is a good girl, even if you don't want her to be! Those two loved each other, and maybe Sokka loved Yue more than Suki, but it doesn't change the fact that he had strong feelings for Suki. Therefore, I refused to have her look like a heartless bitch. It's time this girl gets a little respect, and if I had her look like a saint, then I guess I was merely making up for all the hate she gets on other fics. The other reason… is that I just couldn't hook her up with anyone; I don't have any prospects for her. I'm fine with Zuki or Suko, dunno what it's called, I think they might be a good pairing, but since I've started these fics with Maiko in mind (I expect those two to hook up again at some point in The Search, because that's the way they are…), I couldn't throw her to Zuko's arms. So sorry, Suki… anyhow, here you go, Fall To Pieces. www. youtube watch?v=q9oskOLYX-U
Chapter Eleven: Light. Or Hikari, in the original language. Another SID song, because these guys never cease to inspire me! This song is really pretty, and it talks about discovering the meaning of life and such… also, it's about wanting to protect. Sokka wasn't really trying to protect Azula directly, but everything he did on this chapter, he did it with her in mind… A phrase of this song says "I'd like to live on in somebody's heart. Here's hoping that it'll be on yours". You could consider it to be Azula's hopes to become somebody important for Sokka… she didn't know she already was xD again, if you want a translation, just PM me! Here you have the link: www. youtube watch?v=23lTDJ50Hpc
Chapter Twelve: Affection and the Norm. I returned to my origins! Yeah, I'm a hardcore Digimon fan, and Digimon Tamers' second ending is really pretty… Its original name is Days ~Aijou to Nichijou~ by AiM, or Ai Maeda. It's a song about somebody who's feeling uneasy, troubled, maybe even suffering… but someone is standing by her, no matter what, always giving her support. It sort of says that, as long as he's there, giving her kindness, she'll be able to look at the future gladly. And… seriously, it couldn't have applied more to what was happening to those two in this chapter. Azula truly endured that rough ride, traveling for the first time in years, just because he was there cheering her on and leading her to a better place… PM me for the whole translation! Here's a link: www. youtube watch?v=0dMz_2gda1A
Chapter Thirteen: Naked-The Temperature of Your Tears. Naked is by Avril Lavigne again, and I'll be totally honest: back in the day I used to take this song completely literally, because I stink at understanding metaphors xD but suddenly, ten years later, I found an alternate meaning to it, and by hearing the song, you might understand it too while thinking about Sokkla: www. youtube watch?v=_cO_Gn15Ba0 "I get up every morning, put on my face. The one that's gonna get me through another day. Doesn't really matter how I feel inside. This life is like a game sometimes" Azula always hides what she feels, puts on her mask every day and nobody cares if she's hiding her true self or not. But… "Then you came around me, the walls just disappeared. Nothing to surround me, to keep me from my fears. I'm unprotected… see how I've opened up. You've made me trust" Pretty much explains itself, doesn't it? Sokka got through all her façade, her masks, and discovered the real Azula… but rather than fleeing or laughing, he accepted and embraced everything she was… beautiful, huh?
Namida no Ondo is another SID song, and while Naked was pretty much from Azula's point of view, this one is Sokka's. It's about someone trying to help out somebody else in every way possible, and it has some really pretty verses too. So it added perfectly to Sokka. Again, if you want the translation, PM me. Here's the song: www. youtube watch?v=Kc7ryOQ3SKc
Chapter Fourteen: Faint Voice. Hosoi Koe, by SID yet again. I prefer the live version of this song, but nonetheless, the meaning is the same. This one has a reference to the red string of fate, saying "Also, we didn't care if the thread connecting us turned red". It applies so well to the whole pseudo-break-up of our main characters, because there's an unreasonable gap between them, because the uncertainties increased, and because there was one premonition… that their wonderful affair would come to an end. Oh, the angst… PM me for the translation if you want it… www. youtube watch?v=RWTvQkZEN6U
Chapter Fifteen: The Story of Me and You. Another song by Evan Taubenfeld. This pretty much stuck to any chapter of the end of the fic, since it's about a wonderful relationship getting rugged and messed up slowly… they're trying not to break everything off, trying to make it through, but it's really hard, so… yeah… www. youtube watch?v=6FWNSVS7a7k
Chapter Sixteen: Razorblade Limeade-What Remains. The first song is again by Evan Taubenfeld, and on this one, it's about how Sokka is trying to think about this carefully, realizing his feelings for Azula were far deeper than he thought. He offered her everything, and he walked out on that promise at the first hurdle, just as he said… and he knows he'd go six feet underground to prove he'd die for her. But Suki's still there… here's the song www. youtube watch?v=0bKnxLI3FFc
And to solve the Suki issue… Nokoriga by SID. It's supposed to translate into Lingering Scent, but I decided to take it on a different edge and turned it into "What Remains". Maybe you really can't translate it like that, but I did anyway, and it worked wonders. It's a break-up song, about someone still loving the other person, but knowing things were meant to end somehow. It hurts, but he, or in this case, she has to move on. Ask for the translation if you want it, and only listen to the first song here, the second one has nothing to do with the fic xD but if you like heavy stuff… listen to it. You might like it xD www. youtube watch?v=Y1fGVvd_qAM
Chapter Seventeen: Another SID song again, this one is Circus and even if with that name it seems to apply better to Ty Lee, it's again another brilliant metaphorical song, and it refers to a boy admiring a girl from afar, too afraid to take the plunge and confess his feelings… "A relationship as unstable as walking on a tightrope" is a phrase I borrowed from this song, Ty Lee thought about this while she talked to Sokka, and it couldn't fit the situation any better. Their relationship is crazy, it's bound to have its ups and downs, there might be times when they'll end up wondering if being together is the right thing… but even if it's a rough ride, they love each other enough to get through every single obstacle on the way. Circus even gave me the sensation of Sokka running through the streets, trying to find Azula, doing everything he could to tell her what he truly felt for her and hope she'd take him, even when he thought he wasn't good enough for her… This song is amazing; if you want the translation, let me know! And here you go the link! www. youtube watch?v=F6jtpa8GftQ
Epilogue: The Reason-At The Beginning. I think I said everything I had to about The Reason XD this video has a pretty decent translation to the lyrics, even though it's not the one I'd used while writing this fic XD Anyway, here: www. youtube watch?v=5VyCDXusYGQ And as for the other song…If you ever watched Anastasia while growing up as I did, maybe you'll remember the song on the credits, and that's the one I'm talking about. Because this isn't really the end for the two of them… it's the beginning of their lives together! Sorry if I'm fangirling uncontrollably, I'll shut up now, then…here you go a link, just in case you haven't heard it or don't remember it: www. youtube watch?v=Mct2-ElrXbE
So if you managed to read ALL of that…I'll give you what you've surely been waiting to hear xD This isn't really the end, I have more Sokkla ideas, but this particular fic is over. Maybe I'll write another fic about them in the future, but not just yet. I need to focus on writing an original story for now, but don't lose hope! I've got a two-shot (it used to be a one-shot, but I realized a two-shot would be better) on my mind for some more Sokkla… also, I've got an Legend of Korra fic in mind, and even when Sokkla won't be the main deal there, I'll give them tons of cameos whenever I can, and I'll put their kids on it too ^^ if you don't know who the kids are… I suggest you go read The Origins of Pro-Bending. It's not as Sokkla centered as this one, it has some action even though it's also packed with some drama… Yeah, I'm a drama queen. You wouldn't guess it if you knew me! xD
Well, that's that! Thanks for reading The Reason, and thanks for reading this extremely long author note if you actually bothered to read it xD See you around!