The Return @tubendo
Chapter 1

Of all the things she could find herself forced to do, it was to go on a fishing trip with the girl she had grown to loathe; Azula didn't hate Katara because of her grating personality or her inane desire to try and spite her an any given opportunity, it was because she continued to do so, despite the fact that she herself had done nothing wrong. Six long months at the South Pole, with the midnight sun, surrounded by people who could never trust her, the Princess didn't try to act cocky, or overbearing on her hosts, who she knew would look for any excuse to get rid of her.

As much as Sokka was able to tolerate, if not enjoy her presence, most of the tribe were more than suspicious of her, being the declared heir of Fire Lord Ozai; if not the de jure Fire Lord, she was technically still Crown Princess, as she was the younger sister of the boy who claimed the throne for himself. Calling her brother a boy when he was reaching the age of eighteen would probably be insulting to him, but she didn't expect to see his traitorous face any time in the near future, so her insults would just remain her inner musings rather than screams on the battlefield.

Pulling the canoe along the icy plain, she reminded herself that despite how frustrating it was to do just that, she might have been otherwise in battles in the Earth Kingdom, with enemies on all sides, hoping to defeat her brother, who to her latest knowledge, was still practically undisputed as the ruler of the Fire Nation. She hoped at the very least that he was running the country competently, and not driving it into the ground with their uncle's stupid principles and wisdoms.

"How much further do we have to pull this spirit damned thing?" she asked of Katara, who was leading at the front, who glared back at her before pointing ahead to a precipice, which seemed to be close to the shoreline.

The problem of the icy plains of the South Pole was that distance was very hard to deduce on land, seeing that everything looked very similar, and outside of the hazardous mountains that sat some distance inland from the village, the terrain always looked the same.

"It's not too far. We're heading to the best fishing ground. Trust me, the ice fields are much better than the open water; less otter-penguins to steal our dinner." the Water Tribe girl raised a finger.

"Perhaps we should be eating the otter-penguins instead. That would solve both our problems, wouldn't it?" she asked her, making Katara's face scrunch up with disgust.

"Urgh." she sneered at the Princess, before her lips pursed slightly, showing off a rare moment of arrogance, "Well, perhaps you should try and catch one? Good luck at that."

"I'm a master firebender." she raised her right hand, "I'm pretty sure I kill an otter-penguin of all things."

Katara's confidence crumbled after that, and her expression returned to one of vindictiveness, "Whatever." she grit her teeth.

As they both fell silent, the Water Tribe girl kept up her suspicious glare, but it was less spiteful than usual; she had saved their village, after all, and she believed that if anything she ought to get the proper respect for her deeds. She didn't like the Southern Water Tribe, not in the sense that she actually liked their land, or their culture, for that matter, but she did see them as her allies, or if she was to be so bold, her friends. In her time as Crown Princess, she hadn't had much of a need or care for the concept of friends, but Sokka changed her mind on that fact; befriending Kori Morishita and Sneers in Yu Dao had inadvertently saved her life, and she knew that her relationship with the Water Tribe boy had done the very same more than once. However, she didn't see herself becoming friends with Katara; if six months of being stuck around the girl hadn't built any kind of bond, then she doubted another six would do them any better.

She had no idea how long she was going to be the South Pole for, anyway, knowing at least there was a possibility that the Southern Water Tribe might decide to go fight against the Fire Nation remnants in the Earth Kingdom, which Sokka would obviously drag her along on to, even if she had no desire to fight men who were theoretically loyal to her father, or even to herself. She wanted to avoid that fight, for as long as she reasonably could; she was loyal to the Fire Nation, but seeing that it was ruled by her brother, her loyalties could easily be bent at present times, depending on what the situation provided.

They did, quickly enough, reach the precipice that Katara had spoken of, and below it, she could see the icy shoreline, which led off toward a large field of icebergs, which seemed to be collapsing off of the nearby glacier. The Water Tribe girl gestured for her to push the canoe down, she responded to with a thrust of her foot, sending the small boat quickly down the slope, the sound of it grinding along the slippery ice echoing around before it came to a halt right by the water's edge. She approached the canoe, snickering as she was side-eyed by Katara, who obviously hadn't expected her to kick their boat as hard as she did; it was her way of quietly expressing her frustrations without having to fight the Water Tribe girl herself. That wouldn't be a fair fight, and Sokka had warned numerous times for her to avoid it specifically, knowing that his sister would enjoy it, but sorely lose against someone as skilled as the Princess.

"Could you avoid kicking our only form of transport into the water?" the Water Tribe girl asked of her, making Azula simply shrug in response.

"I couldn't care less what happens to your shitty canoe." she ignored her, making Katara growl with frustration, hammering a hand down on her end of the canoe.

"This is our family's canoe! My father made this! What do you think Sokka would do if you broke it?"

"What would he do if you broke it?" she quipped in response, the Water Tribe girl seething, clenching her fists hard; the Princess could have sworn she felt the ice shift beneath her feet, and she raised a hand.

"I wouldn't get too angry, Katara. They say an uncontrolled fire is incomparably more threatening than one you can wield." she warned her, to which she raised a brow, looking back at her sceptically.

"Uh... I'm a waterbender, not a firebender." she stated the obvious, making her roll her eyes.

"The principle applies to all bending; you have to learn to control your skill, otherwise your powers are more of a threat to you than they are your actual opponents." she chided Katara, who, rather unexpectedly, tilted her head up, nodding with approval.

"Huh... thanks." she acknowledged her impromptu lesson, making the Princess smirk, "So you know a lot more about bending than anyone else in this tribe." she observed something that was obvious, given the history of the Southern Water Tribe; when the only benders were the two of them, there wasn't much competition.

"I do." she nodded, before she narrowed her glare at her, "Now, we're not here to talk about bending theory, as enticing as that sounds." she sarcastically suggested, before gesturing down to the canoe, "Let's get this thing in the water."

"Have you been in a canoe before?" Katara asked her with a curious tone, although she could tell that it was an opportunity to find herself mocked.

"I have with your brother, a number of times." she told her, the Water Tribe girl's face immediately shifting from one of concerned interests to disgust; even though her assumptions were wrong about what she and her boyfriend got up to on their fishing trips together, the fact that she made them was suggestive enough about Katara's thoughts about their relationship.

"I'm not that much of a... whatever you'd like to call that." she chided her, making the Water Tribe girl's cheeks flush red with embarrassment, before she picked up her end of the canoe.

Azula raised her own end, and with a single heave, they pulled the canoe over the water, dropping it down, which made a small splash; the cold water splattered her furs, which were luckily water-proof enough to prevent her getting cold and wet. She reminded herself to thank Sokka and Katara's grandmother for making her furs, which she herself did not know how to do, seeing that of all the skills she had, sewing was not one of them. Putting one foot into the canoe, she waited for the other girl to step in herself, before kicking off with her foot on the ice. She sat down, moving her behind around rather stupidly, trying to find the best way to sit down in the canoe; hearing snickering in front of her made the Princess narrow her eyes spitefully, the Water Tribe girl's attention diverting away from her to using a paddle to begin rowing. Azula grabbed her own paddle, and began to do the same, her eyes looking to both their flanks as they moved out into the ice-field, trying to spot any fish near the surface.

"Can you use your bending to catch fish?" she asked the Water Tribe girl, whose face reddened with embarrassment.

"Um... I've tried it." she admitted, her tone suggesting that she had no succeeded at that endeavour, before she herself furrowed a brow.

"Firebending?" she questioned her, obviously asking if she could use her own bending to achieve the same goal; she herself had killed fish with firebending, but would have no luck catching them.

"To cook and kill, not to catch." she clarified, before furrowing a brow, "That reminds me of the time I cha-" she began, before Katara rolled her eyes, cutting her off.

"I've heard the story a hundred times now. You attacked set a boar on fire when it was trying to drink at a stream." she recounted the tale, which Azula personally thought to be quite a great one, seeing that prior to that point, she had had no experience dealing with using her bending to hunt, although she had regularly done so at the South Pole.

"Does Sokka really regale our story that much?" she asked her, making the Water Tribe girl groan with annoyance, indicating that she had assumed correctly.

"Way too much... I swear everything he talks about has to do with some story from when you two were out exploring the Earth Kingdom."

"We weren't exploring, it was-" she began to argue against her simplification of the endeavour she had embarked on with her Water Tribe companion, only to be cut off by his sister, who seemed to disapprove of her own mentioning of the tale.

"Just shut it." she growled, paddling harder than she had been prior, to force the Princess to quieten herself and do the same; she had a compulsive desire to be the best at everything, and if it was going to be paddling, it would be just that.

She wanted to chide Katara for disturbing whatever fish might be around, but Azula decided that would only further agitate her; as much as she would like to spar her, for Sokka's sake, she knew she ought to restrain herself. Pulling her paddle up from the water, she let their canoe slow down as they entered the thick of the ice field, knowing that it would be unnecessary for them to move much now that they had reached the supposed fishing grounds that the Water Tribe girl had vouched for. She drew out her spear, which had been gifted to her by her boyfriend; she found it unwieldy for combat, but quite effective against the local fauna, and had grown used to the quick motions she would use to ensnare fish with it, akin to her own firebending strikes, which were similarly fast and calculated. She made sight of a fish, readying her spear above her right shoulder, aiming down right at the small fish that was circling around nearby. Driving the spearhead down into the water, she grit her teeth upon realising that she missed; she tilted her head back, sighing with frustration, before looking back down for more fish, as the one she attempted to strike had swum away.

"Having a little trouble?" Katara asked her, the Princess narrowing her eyes at her with disdain; mocking her when she was trying to feed her own village was a pinnacle of hypocrisy.

"I'm trying. What about you, or are you going to try and splash one onto the boat?" she questioned her, making the Water Tribe teen's formerly smug expression tighten, quickly reaching to grab her own spear.

"Fine, then. I'll catch a fish before you." she declared with a tone of confidence that made Azula grin; she did love competitions, after all.

"Oh, you're on." the Princess agreed to her challenge, before she eyed around the water, trying to spot any distinctive shadows that might be fish; the water below them was dark, and spotting fish was challenging enough already, but the Princess knew that she only had to find one- that would be suffice to win the challenge, in the end.

As they continued to slowly moved through the ice-field, the Princess kept her eyes focused on the water around them, frequently switching sides to try and spot a fish; she eventually did find one, which was swimming by its lonesome, moving about erratically, first under the boat and then circling around on Azula's left. Readying her spear, she smirked confidently, ready to strike the creature; she was about to thrust down when she heard Katara clearing her throat beside her. Turning her eyes toward the Water Tribe girl, she looked above her head, taking note that she had ensnared a fish in an orb of water.

"I won." the Water Tribe girl declared, making the Princess, who was by virtue now the loser, snarl with annoyance, before thrusting her spear into the fish she had been focusing on, successfully catching it on the spear.

Pulling it out of the water, she looked at her fish, cursing her own restraint when it came to hunting; her desire for precision meant that her rival was able capture a fish far quicker than she could. In the end, her own inadequacy was an advantage; if the Water Tribe teen was just as concerned with precision and accuracy as she was, Azula believed that she would have lost. The other girl dropped her fish into a bag that they had on the canoe, the Princess doing the same a few moments later; she might have wanted to mock Katara by cooking and eating her own fish, but she knew that eating an ungutted fish, no matter how well cooked, would not sit well with her.

"So, you're not going to acknowledge I'm a better fisher than you?" the Water Tribe girl prodded, making the Princess sigh with frustration.

"Shut up. Congratulations, you've been a waterbender for what- sixteen years? And you can fish better than a person without waterbending." she chided her, making the Water Tribe girl growl.

"It's not my fault there's no masters left in the Southern Water Tribe!" she shouted at her in recompense, "Your people made sure of that."

"You can't despise me for that. I wasn't even alive when that happened." she argued, the Water Tribe girl calming down slightly, eyeing her with disdain.

"Who said I despise you?" she quipped in response, the Princess shrugging her shoulders.

"I can see it in your eyes." she simply told her, which was the truth; Azula was a people person, and knowing people, she could tell when someone disliked or liked someone or something.

"So what?" she crossed her arms, "You're not a good person. I shouldn't have to like you." she declared, the Princess snickering at her words, knowing that Katara had unintentionally affirmed the Princess's own view of herself, that she wasn't a good person, even if she did do what she believed was right; good and evil were for weak and foolish morons, that was what her father had always told her.

"I'm not good." she agreed with her, which only further displeased the Water Tribe teen, that itself amusing Azula even further; did she really believe that the Princess was somehow obliged to have some kind of morals and principles to drive her?

"H-how... how can someone even say that? Even evil people must think they're good." she declared, making the Princess raise a brow; she was right in a way, knowing that people who she knew probably thought they were good, like her brother, had done 'evil' things, perhaps even enough to make themselves 'evil' by their own stupid principles.

"I'm beyond good and evil. Why should I care what is good or nice? I am concerned about what I think is right."

Katara's eyes widened with surprise, the Princess realising that she had never really explained her own ethos to the girl, "So, do you think the raids on the Water Tribe were bad?"

"They were unnecessary, and ultimately achieved nothing. The Southern Water Tribe was never a threat to the Fire Nation." she declared, stating her own belief on the matter, which she would admit, was shaped by Sokka's own ideas about what had happened.

The canoe fell silent for a few moments, before the Water Tribe girl looked back up at her, "I am both pleased and insulted at the same time." she admitted, which was obvious from her snide glare.

The Princess couldn't help but make a smug grin in response, "Thank you, Katara. That is the exact response I-"

She was cut off by their canoe shaking out of blue, Azula's attention immediately turning ahead of them, taking note of a current that was pulling them along, "Oh... is this normal?"

Katara looked the same way that she did, her eyes widening with fear, "Nope... nope! Start paddling!" she ordered the Princess, who was not in the mood to be given any kind of directive, but conceded that the girl before her likely had a far better understanding of how to navigate amongst the ice floes.

She pulled her paddle up from inside the canoe, and began to thrust it through the water, pushing it backwards to try and both slow their canoe down, and hopefully turn it around so they could head in a different direction, away from the quick moving current. She quickly came to realise how much of a challenge that would be as they were dragged toward a few large icebergs that were converging on each other, with the current dragging them right in.

"Let's take our luck." she suggested, before she began to paddle in the opposite direction, hoping to get fast enough to go speed through the quickly narrowing gap between the icebergs; she paddled as hard as she could, regularly switching sides to avoid any smaller ice floes that came between them at the encroaching walls of ice.

"Faster!" Katara demanded, the Princess flaring her teeth as she reached out with her left hand behind the canoe; taking one deep breath, she sent out a massive stream of blue flames, which increased the velocity sharply, enough to get them clear of the two icebergs, which collided with each other only a few moments later.

The Water Tribe girl's face filled with awe for a few moments, before her focus turned to face ahead of them, her eyes filling with fear, seeing that the current was still pulling them along, and now toward a few ice floes that were obviously going to stop them dead in their tracks, far too large for the Princess to melt or shatter before they arrived.

"Go left!" the Water Tribe called on her, who switched paddle hands, sending her fire stream to their right, which pushed them a bit to the left, out of the way of the ice floe, before suddenly, the canoe was struck by a piece of floating ice from behind, throwing her forward.

Momentarily disoriented, Azula glanced to her right to see that they were now quickly approaching the ice floes, tensing herself as she grasped her spear, knowing that she wasn't going to leave it behind if the worst eventuated; she grit her teeth, watching as the ice floes moved even closer, ensnaring them like they had wanted to do to fish. The canoe began to shatter beneath them, the Princess's eyes widened with fear before she jumped out of the canoe, onto one of the slippery ice floes; of all things, she didn't want to end up in the freezing water. She saw that Katara had done the same a moment later, holding the bag of fish, which spilled out onto the ice floe in front of them, the fish wiggling around momentarily, before Azula reached forward, stabbing them both onto the tip of her spear, ensuring that their efforts had not been in vain.

"Ah-ha! You two aren't getting away." she declared triumphantly, although her confidence eroded once she looked around, realising that that their canoe had just been shattered, "Oh... so now we're stuck here." she mumbled, the Water Tribe girl snarling with frustration.

"Are you kidding me?!" she shouted out, "I said left!" she told the Princess, who looked back at her with confusion.

"I did try to go left; I can't control when we get smacked by ice." she declared, before making a haughty grin, "But you can."

"I can barely control my waterbending." she retorted which clenched fists; something told Azula that Katara was in a bad mood, and not just because they had lost their canoe and were currently stranded on an ice floe with no help in sight- it seemed to have a deeper cause than her primal desire to survive a given situation, "This is Sokka's fault. I knew I shouldn't have agreed to his stupid idea. It was always a bad idea to go fishing with you."

"Oh, is it really? Didn't we both successfully catch fish?" she asked her in her usual argumentative and sassy tone, which only further angered the Water Tribe teen.

"We did, and now look! We're stranded!" she shouted, the Princess sighing, before standing up on the ice floe.

"So, do you really want to fight me that bad?" she asked her, the Water Tribe girl raising her chin, refusing to look at her.

"I never said that." she argued, the Princess smugly crossing her, leaning them on the spear she had stabbed into the ice.

"Huh, is that so?" she asked her, doubting she was saying her true feelings, "Your face says otherwise."

The Water Tribe girl stared at her for a few moments, pulling what looked to be her best game face, before gesturing down to the spear in Azula's hand, "Put the fish away. Then I'll show you what an angry waterbender can do."

"Oh, I've never fought one before... this ought to be interesting." she declared as she moved to placed the fish back in the bag, genuinely interested in fighting her for the intellectual benefit.

She had never seen waterbending properly used for combat, and even if Katara didn't really know how to use it, the Princess was sure that she could give some insights into how her element worked, so she could better learn how to defeat those who wielded it.

Putting her spear down, she took a simple stance, having her left foot forward and her right back, with her left hand up, ready to strike at any moment; the Water Tribe girl took what seemed to be an imitation of her own stance, although unlike the Princess she immediately began to try and bend, taking water from behind her, up in a ball of water. She raised a brow in interest, before she watched as Katara flared her teeth, moving forward in imitation of a firebending form she had once practiced; the result was rather unexpected- instead of a ball of water being propelled at her like Azula herself would send a fireball, the water froze into snow, and covered the Princess's entire upper body, making her stumble back. Stabilising herself after nearly falling in the water, she raised a brow at the Water Tribe girl, seriously confused by her tactic, which did little harm but almost throw her off her feet.

"Sorry... what was that meant to achieve?" she asked her, Katara staring at her, her silence indicating that she was mulling over whether to answer the Princess's question.

"What was it..." she began to repeat her question, before snarling with anger, "I can fight!" she declared, before pulling water up once again from behind her, this time in more of an amorphous blob, which the waterbender directed toward her with haste; Azula smirked, throwing her right fist forward, making a powerful stream of blue fire which cut right through her stream, firing into an iceberg that sat behind her. She smirked as she saw the Water Tribe girl cower below her attack, gulping with fear, obviously realising that her abilities were no match for the Princess's; both of their attention was turned to the iceberg that she had accidentally struck, as it began to crumble from the damage she had dealt down upon it, splitting in half in a spectacle. It looked like it was going to make quite the splash, one which Katara would be hit by.

"Move out of the way!" she told the Water Tribe girl, who looked back with shock as the iceberg finally collapsed, causing a large wave to form; although Katara was knocked off of her feet, Azula grasped her hand, making sure she didn't slip into the water, which she was seemingly thankful for.

"Urgh... what was that?" she looked back behind them, taking note that the iceberg had disappeared.

"I'm pretty sure icebergs break all the time, it's not that weird." she assured her, before they both took note of an unusual bubbling coming out of the water, and a blue glow radiating under the water, "Okay... that's weird."

The two of them moved back as the glow began to spread, and the bubbles intensified, before suddenly a massive spherical iceberg broke through the water's edge, radiantly glowing a bright blue; she was further shocked when she saw what was a person shaped silhouette as well as a large object within the iceberg. She narrowed her eyes, taking note of what she could only describe as glowing lines over his body, which made no sense in her eyes. She had no idea what she was looking at; she considered perhaps she was looking at some kind of trapped spirit or perhaps something even more unusual- she didn't know what was more unusual than spirits, and she hadn't ever witnessed anything to do with those in her seventeen years of life.

"What... what is that?" she mumbled with utter shock, fearful to even approach what was clearly sitting right in front of her; she could tell that it wasn't some kind of mirage or hallucination, as Katara was just as concerned as she was.

Suddenly, the silhouette opened their eyes, which were glowing just the same as the lines crossing their body; she felt a chill down her spine, remembering the mention of glowing eyes once in her education, and it only concerned one person, specifically the greatest enemy of the Fire Nation, the Avatar. She didn't say anything, but it seemed that the Water Tribe girl was more concerned for the safety of whomever lay inside.

"He's alive! We have to help- you can use your firebending to open that iceberg, can't you?" she asked the Princess, who raised a brow at her.

"Who said I wanted to open up the iceberg with the glowing person in it?" she questioned her, to which Katara simply pointed toward the silhouette once more.

"You can't just leave him there! Who knows how long he's been in that iceberg." she told the Princess, who narrowed her eyes, before holding the Water Tribe girl by the arm.

"Fine, but stay back. I don't want you running after if we're about to get attacked by some dormant spirit thing." she declared, the Water Tribe girl raising a brow at her.

"I didn't think you were that superstitious." she admitted, the Princess shaking her head.

"It's not superstition when it's a glowing person. Who glows on a day to day basis, exactly?" she quipped in response, the Water Tribe girl sighing, acknowledging that she had a point.

"Uh, fair enough." she murmured, before standing out of Azula's way, as she took a firebending stance, immediately focusing on her breath.

She would need to make a concentrated and precise attack if she wanted to open the iceberg, and she would do just that; if she was attacked by a spirit, she would unashamedly used the Water Tribe girl as a human shield, knowing that she had asked for their fate, if that was so. Forming a coiled fire whip around her arm, she thrust it up, letting the whip flow on out, before she swung her arm down at the iceberg, striking it with the whip like a knife to a bit of meat. Suddenly the iceberg began to crack, a fissure forming through the orb, wind bursting out of the cracks; within a few seconds the orb exploded in a massive outward explosion, which was followed by a massive beam of blue light that emanated up into the sky above the iceberg. Azula's gut dropped, realising the mistake she might have just made, knowing who might be inside the iceberg she had just cut open; the Princess of the Fire Nation wasn't well versed in things of a spiritual nature, but knew that any wise person would avoid them, while she had just ran into one blindly.

Eventually the light settled, and a few moments after it did, the silhouette inside appeared to be climbing up the edge of the crater of ice, revealing that he wasn't a spirit, but a boy; a boy in orange and yellow robes, with glowing tattoos and eyes. She was certain of it in that moment, and she fell to her knees, realising what had just happened; she had just unleashed the one thing that the Fire Nation ought to have never sought out, and never found, until her, the prodigy princess without a home, accidentally found the Avatar, and released him from his imprisonment.

"What have I done?"


Three days earlier...

Sokka enjoyed sleeping in, and it was the one thing he could do when concepts like day and night were irrelevant at the South Pole; although summer, and the midnight sun with it, was on its way out, the sun had already been up for a long time, and the Water Tribe teen had no intention of getting out of bed. That was until his girlfriend scared the life out of him by putting her flame-covered hand right up against his face; he had squealed, and Azula subsequently mocked him for it, before informing him that his grandmother had wanted his help doing some chores around the village. He had retorted by asking her why Katara couldn't do that very thing. His girlfriend, being the intelligent person she was, told him that she would rather avoid earning his sister's ire by demanding she do his chores. Currently, he was eating some stewed sea prunes, which his girlfriend had heated up for him, ostensibly because she wanted him to get up do his work quicker, rather than because she actually wanted him to enjoy a hot meal. He did enjoy it, but when he batted his eyes at her, she rolled hers in return, seemingly not in the mood for his seduction.

"Stop looking at me like that." she chided him, before she turned away from him, eating her own breakfast, which she didn't seem to be enjoying.

If there was one thing he couldn't get her to appreciate about his culture, it was certainly the cuisine; he would admit that it was an acquired taste, but he was confused why anyone would think sea prunes tasted as bad as Azula thought they did.

"Sorry, I'm just appreciating that you were kind enough to heat my meal." he admitted the honest truth, although he didn't mention the fact he did like looking at her; she was quite pretty after all, and her hair had grown back out from its previously choppy look, now stretching down past her shoulders, with her signature bangs still lining her face.

"Oh, so I'm only useful because I can heat your food?" she retorted, the Water Tribe teen shrugging, before he made a coy smile.

"I mean, I don't like you because you're useful, I like you because you're... you." he tried to compliment her, only coming off awkward, although he realised it must have had some effect as she blushed before turning back to her meal.

"Whatever. Just finish your meal. I don't want Gran Gran harking on me about your chores all day because you're a bum." she chided him, which he took as an indication to dig into his meal; he did love the food, and the fact that it was hot made it better.

The obnoxiously slurping sounds he made as he finished it off were met with a glare from Azula, who then grabbed the bowl out of his hand and gestured out of their tent, "Now, go. I'm sure I can find something to do while your do your chores." she told him, making him smile and nod at her, appreciating that she was willing to pitch in for work.

When they arrived at his village, he didn't know if she would be willing to do the 'peasant's work' that he had heard her explicitly say was beneath her. He was pleasantly surprised that she actually did decide to help around the village, although he was unsure if she justified it out of fear of being kicked out of the village; she was the daughter of the last Fire Lord, after all. She had pitched in on a daily basis, whether through her firebending as a tool, or through pure labour itself; she had learnt how to sew, cook stew, and gut all kinds of animals, the last of which Sokka himself had helped teach her to do.

He waved goodbye to his girlfriend with a bright smile, "Enjoy your... morning- it's still morning, isn't it?" he asked her, only making her glare at him as if he was too dim to understand how the sun worked; unlike her he hadn't actually been outside yet, so he couldn't actually determine what time of the day he actually gotten out of bed at.

"It is." she clarified, before her glare softened slightly, "Just do your chores."

"Then what?" he asked her, her statement having suggested she had something in mind.

She pursed her lips before looking away, "Maybe we can do an activity together." she told him, making a smirk that was undeniably mocking; she was referencing the time he had asked her to do an activity with him when they had returned home, as if an activity was meant to be by-word for some kind of date.

"I'll look forward to that." he retorted, telling the honest truth that he would indeed enjoy spending some time in her company that didn't involve her hiding him for being late, lazy or generally dimwitted.

Exiting the tent, he was forced to squint for a few seconds as his eyes adjusted to the light, before he glanced about, trying to make sight of his grandmother, who Azula had told him wanted him to do some chores. He walked over toward his family's igloo, not knowing if she'd be anywhere otherwise, before he walked on in, glancing about to try and check if anyone was home. Katara and Kanna were nowhere to be seen, meaning that they were out doing the chores that his girlfriend had spoken of; he sighed with frustration, knowing that what he had been told was too vague, so instead of knowing what to do, he'd have to walk around the village aimlessly to try and find them.

He then heard a familiar voice behind him, "Sokka, what are you doing just standing there?" Katara called out to him, making him turn around, narrowing his eyes at her.

"I'm trying to find Gran Gran. Do you know where she is?" he asked her, his sister pointing to her right, back the way he had just came.

"She's helping make a new tent with the other women. I think she wanted you for something else, though." she explained, making Sokka furrow a brow.

"Huh, is there another kid on the way?" he asked her, curious as to why they'd be making a new tent.

"Yep." she simply confirmed before gesturing for him to come forward, "I need to get in our igloo, and you're in the way."

He stiffened up as he realised how unobservant he had been, making a smile to disguise his embarrassment as he stepped out of her way; she rolled her eyes at him before entering the igloo, after which his attention immediately turned toward where his sister had gestured to. Pacing down through the village, he kept his eyes open for spotting his grandmother amongst the lively village, seeing that it was approaching 'midday', or better phrased, the time of day that was brightest, seeing that the sun barely got above the horizon at the South Pole, unlike the other places he had visited on his journey around the world. He did certainly miss waking up and going to sleep with the rise and fall of the sun rather than the unusual variation of sunlight that he experienced at his home. Seeing that his village was quite small in its physical expanse, it did not take Sokka long to make sight of his grandmother, as well as a few other women, sewing large pieces of pelt together as a tent canvas; it seemed that they were making a tent larger, to accommodate for a new child, which made sense to him. He would think that making an igloo would be in order, but the tent was a far quicker solution that made sense, especially when it was cheap do so with pelts to spare after hunting. Kanna immediately took note of him as he approached, giving him a rather sceptical look that he had seen on his sister's face far too many times; she was obviously annoyed with his sleeping habits, although he'd always say, he couldn't help it.

"Sokka, you really do need to get out of bed earlier." she chided him, before lifting up the untreated pelt of a polar bear, "I need you to cut the fur off of this pelt, and then clean it of meat." she explained to him simply; Water Tribe boy nodded, giving his grandmother a reassuring smile.

"I'll get it done, Gran-Gran." he told her as he took the pelt into his hands, before he threw it over his shoulder.

Glancing back around, he realised he ought to find somewhere to cut away the pelt, curling his lips as he realised that he could put the waste to use; seeing that meat and hair were both flammable, he could put the remains in the central campfire, which would both make the village smell like polar bear meat. Not that everyone would enjoy the smell, but he guessed that enough people would like it. Pacing back down toward the centre of the campsite, he passed by his and Azula's tent, momentarily trying to spy through the gap in the canvas to see if she was still inside; from what he could tell with his short glance, she wasn't there, and he continued along, hoping that no one was thinking his staring was unusual- most in the village knew that was his tent, although it would be very easy for someone to get the wrong idea if they didn't.

As he approached the communal fire, he saw a few people sitting around, either talking, eating or cooking their meals, but no one paid much attention to him as he sat down across from the fire in a soft patch of snow; pulling the pelt from over his shoulder, he noticed that it must have been freshly cut, the flesh still smelling like raw meat, not rot having set in. He did acknowledged that due to the temperature at the South Pole, meat usually took longer to spoil, as the cold was a great method of preserving it. He pulled out his bone dagger, taking it to slice away the remaining flesh, before flicking it with the blade into the fire nearby; the move surprised some of the tribesmen nearby, who momentarily took attention to the burning bit of polar beat flesh.

Taking the blade down again, he continued to slice the flesh up and off of the pelt, flicking it into the fire every time he reached the top; he did take note of the slight smell of burning meat, which made him lick his lips. Sokka certainly hoped that he'd get a proper meat dish some time soon, knowing that if the men were killing polar bears, he might have a chance to enjoy a proper bit of meat, seeing how massive the creatures usually were; he did realise after a few moments of considering that thought that the pelt he had been slicing was rather small, indicating that it might have belonged to a juvenile bear rather than an adult, who might have bore the village a great deal of sustenance with its meat.

He was interrupted from his slicing of flesh by a shout which sounded above the other indiscriminate voices he could hear around the campfire, "A boat! A boat's here!" he heard one of the tribesmen declare, Sokka's brows raising with interest; he wondered who could be arriving at their village, seeing that a big fuss wouldn't be made if it was just some of the men returning from a fishing trip.

He stood up, rolling the pelt up and setting it down where he had been sitting, knowing that he could easily return to his task once he had checked out what was going on; it wasn't that he was in a procrastinating mood, but rather that his curiosity was getting the better of him- he liked knowing things, and thus he simply decided he would find out why a boat was showing up at their backwater village. He followed a few other intrigued villagers toward the wall that sat at the front of their village, distinguished by Sokka's 'watchtower', which was less of a watchtower and more of a large pile of ice and snow that he had built when his father and the other warriors had been away for a few years; it still stood tall above the ice wall, reminding him of that rather depressing time in his life. Not that he was sad at the time, but looking upon it in hindsight made him feel sad, knowing that he was left to defend his tribe, and clearly wasn't capable, at least at that time, of doing it. He realised that if the Southern Raiders had found out about Katara, they might have come back to attack them, when they had all been alone. He was just glad that wasn't the eventuality, and that their village was safe while the men went to fight in the Earth Kingdom.

When he arrived at the wall, he could make out the sail of a boat, but immediately could tell it wasn't Water Tribe; if anything, it reminded him of his own boat, or better phrased, the boat he and Azula had stolen in Yu Dao, which had been dragged ashore a few months prior, leaving it to be covered in snow. It wasn't his boat, obviously, and he quickly came to understand whose boat it was as he climbed up onto the wall. On the front of the boat he could see Bato, a man whose face he was elated to see; after leaving him in Ba Sing Se, he was unsure where the warrior had taken himself; Sokka guessed that he and the Freedom Fighters might have left the city together, but following that, he had no idea what might have led him to return to the Southern Water Tribe around eight months later.

"Bato!" he called out to him, his gaze immediately settling upon the Water Tribe boy, who quickly scaled down the other side of the wall before racing over to him, "I'm so glad you're okay!" he grinned at him.

"Sokka, it's good to see you, my boy." he smiled warmly at him, the other tribesmen gathering around, "It's good to see you all."

"You're finally back!" one of the other warriors exclaimed, "Where have you been all this time?"

"It's probably a long story." Sokka assumed of the tale that Bato might intend to tell them.

"It is." he admitted, before eyeing around, "Where's the Chief. I have something I need to talk to him about."

"If it concerns Dad, then it's probably important for me too." the Water Tribe teen raised a finger, the older warrior raising a brow at him sceptically.

"Taking charge, are we?" he asked, to which he made a curt nod.

"Yep. Can't you see how I've modelled my look after him?" he asked him, gesturing to his scraggly beard and long hair which had grown out from his older undercut, which he had forgotten to continue cutting when he joined Azula's group, giving him an appearance far closer to his father, although he was obviously far younger looking.

"I was about to say... you look a lot older. And it's only been a few months."

"I had a wild few months, let's just say that." he admitted, remembering with both fondness and regret his adventures with Azula; he didn't feel regret for the whole endeavour, but he truly wished some parts had gone differently, especially when it came to her Agni Kai with Zuko.

"Well, you'll have to tell me all about it, but right now, I really do need to speak with your father. There's something important we need to discuss."

"I'm guessing it has to do with fighting the Fire Nation." he suggested, Bato shaking his head before clasping his shoulder.

"Yes, but the situation has changed... a lot." he admitted, pointing up toward the village, while all the other tribesmen looked on in awe.

"Well then, let's find Dad, and then we can talk about all that."


Rather than having an ordinary morning, free of troubles, where she could simply eat her breakfast, do odd-jobs around the village, and then enjoy beating up her boyfriend, Azula found that she was going to spend it seething; Sokka had shown up with news, and not the kind that she was expecting, not for a while. Bato, the man he had met with the Captain while they were in Ba Sing Se, had returned home to the Southern Water Tribe and bore news, and from what he had already told her, there wasn't much good.

"Just repeat that for me, so I can make sure that I'm not going insane from sleep deprivation." she asked him, the Water Tribe teen gritting his teeth, edging back as he tried to stall repeating himself, already knowing that it would worsen her mood.

"You're believed to be dead." he restated what he had already told her, making her clench her fists tightly, so much so that she was digging her nails into her palms.

"For fucks sake... this better not be some propaganda made by Zuzu just so he can secure the throne." she voiced her rather straight-forward presumption, which made the most sense, given the context; her brother needed to secure his position as Fire Lord, after all, and making it out that the only known contender to the throne was dead made the most sense, as much as it infuriated her that he could even do such a thing.

"I don't think it was. Bato said he heard it in an Earth Kingdom port, that you and I both disappeared after fleeing Pohuai fortress; it was assumed that we had drowned in a storm or something like that, rather than the truth, which was that we were able to sail all the way to the South Pole." Sokka clarified, making her sigh, knowing that that truth wasn't much better than what she was assuming.

If everyone believed she was dead, then it would be a lot harder to convince people to support her as a possible Fire Lord; death was certainly the best way to fall into obscurity, which she had learnt from the case of her grandfather, Fire Lord Azulon, who bar the Great Gates which bear his name, was practically erased from the Fire Nation as an icon, after having ruled his nation for seventy five years.

"That isn't much better. If everyone thinks I'm dead, then how am I going to take the throne?" she asked him, his eyes widening and mouth opening ajar indicating that he didn't even believe that to be a possible outcome to her story.

"I- uh- can you even take the throne anymore? Your brother might just arrest you instead of accepting an Agni Kai." he suggested, the Princess chuckling at his words; she was far past Agni Kais- if she was ever to face off her brother, it would be in the field of battle.

"Oh, I can take the throne, by prying it off of his dead body. I'm still Crown Princess, assuming that he hasn't uprooted the line of succession to suit his own agenda." she explained her own idea, without any of the more complicated details such as actually gaining a force large enough to fight her brother, let alone defeating him, "Now... what else did he say about the state of affairs out of this ice-hole?"

"Uh... he talked to Dad about an offer made by some Earth Kingdom rebels. Supposedly they want to work together to expel the Fire Nation from their territory."

"I wouldn't suggest that." she immediately voiced her opinion, "As much as I myself want to face off my brother, a few rebels should avoid the ire of my brother, who I might remind you, is the Fire Lord, who commands the vast majority of the military forces of the Fire Nation."

"He explained that it wasn't against your brother's forces, who I might add, have supposedly withdrawn out of the Earth Kingdom excluding the colonies." he admitted, making her narrow her brow.

"Ah, so we'd be... oh... Sokka, you've given me a very good idea." she grinned at him, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"A good idea?" he raised a brow, making her purse her lips, smugly looking at him as she realised she had a perfect way to help both the Southern Water Tribe and herself.

"I'm the Crown Princess, remember. The Fire Nation renegades might be more inclined to support me, and if I could draw them away from the territory of these rebels and rather toward my brother, the rebels can gain a great victory, I accredit the Southern Water Tribe, and your people will accrue the benefits of being respected by these rebels."

"That's a very good idea, except for the fact that you can't be on both sides at once." he chided her, "That's wrong."

"There is no such thing as being wrong, Sokka, haven't you learned that. You can win and lose. What I propose, it's a win-win situation."

"No it isn't. The moment that either side finds out you've been dealing around, you'll be thrown in prison, or worse. What if the Fire Nation forces decide to ransom you off to Zuko? What are you going to do then?" he prodded her, which despite the valid argument he provided, the Princess snarled at him with anger, not wanting to believe her plan was flawed; she wanted a way back into power without wronging her new allies, and she would do whatever it took to achieve just that.

"Shut up!" she demanded of him, turning away as she reminded herself of what she desired, "I can still be Fire Lord."

"Not like that." he told her, as if he had any power over her; but seeing his eyes narrow at her, hearing his stern voice, she realised that he perhaps did have power, even if she wasn't willing to show that he did.

She sighed, lying herself back on her sleeping roll, "Fine then, how do you propose you get on the throne?"

"By making the people of the Fire Nation understand that you are a better Fire Lord. If you have the people behind you, then you can be sure that the rest will fall in place." he argued, making her flare her nostrils at him, not liking where he was taking the conversation.

"I'm not some paragon of virtue." she stated her opinion bluntly, "I'm competent and I want the best for my nation. If the people saw that, they would know that I am a better choice for the throne."

"The throne isn't everything, Azula." he tried to calm her, "Your life isn't going to be determined by who sits on a big chair."

"That's where you're wrong." she glared him down, rising up from her bed, "I'm either going to be stuck here, some bored and useless housewife who can't apply her real skills in any way." she declared, the Water Tribe teen's eyes widening, before his cheeks flushed red.

"Did you just say... uh- wife?" he asked her, the Princess rolling her eyes; she knew enough about his culture to know that if she was his girlfriend, then sooner or later she'd be his wife.

"Well, that's what I'd end up if I'm stuck here." she told him in a scolding tone; her expression lightened when she realised that she might have hurt his feelings, but suggesting that she didn't think their relationship would last, "I still... care for you, Sokka." she assured him with as calm a tone as she could muster, making his eyes brighten with hope.

"I know you do. You're angry, and you have a right to feel that way. You got your life taken away from you." he stated the obvious, but the fact that he was acknowledging her pain only made her feel all the more guilty; she was acting without consideration of his own feelings, such as what he wanted out of their relationship, or if he wanted her to stay with him in the Southern Water Tribe.

"I shouldn't my frustrations out on you. You didn't do any of this." she admitted, before her eyes glanced up to meet his own, "You understand me... more than I'd expect anyone else to, and I'm just..." she began to mumble, unsure if she wanted to say it; that she was sorry, knowing that those words felt like poison coming off her tongue.

Her father had always told her to never feel regret for her actions, because that would weaken her resolve; even if she wanted to believe he was right, she couldn't deny that she was feeling that very emotion: regret, sadness, and a sense of wastefulness, she was sorry.

"You're what?" Sokka asked her, making her realise she had been silent for far too long.

"I'm sorry." she just said it, the words escaping her tongue, making her feel relieved that she did; he deserved to hear it, because she had mistreated him, "I shouldn't get angry at you, not after all you've done for me. You saved me... from those bandits, from Long Feng, and even from my brother. You saved me all those times, and I haven't really repaid you for your actions." she acknowledged the fact of the matter, making him raise a finger.

"But you told me about Yon Rha-" he began, the Princess cutting him off.

"I told you that because I wanted to control you. I thought that if I gave you a drive, and showed you my knowledge, that you'd be loyal. I haven't given back to you in the way you've given to me." she declared the fact of the matter, making him tear up, raising a hand to her cheek; she usually might have flinched back, but she didn't want to, not when his emotions were shown to her raw.

"You don't need to do that. I don't help people because I want things, I just do what's right." he told her, the Princess sighing, wishing that she could hold the same resolve he did; ever since they had left Yu Dao, it was like she had lost her sense of purpose, and the only kind of drive she could find was to somehow return to the Fire Nation, and reclaim her position of glory, and even then, she didn't know how she could even achieve it.

"I wish I could be happy with my life. You've given me freedom, more than I've ever known, and even then, I never feel fulfilled." she admitted, the Water Tribe teen placing a hand on her shoulder.

"I understand what you mean." he admitted, his dropping down with sadness "To have that hole in your chest that you can't fulfil."

"Your..." she began, before stopping herself, knowing that discussing his mother was something that brought up a mixture of emotions in Sokka; anger, sadness and regret, all mixed together to create a kind of melancholy that she couldn't compare to, "How do you... how do you deal with it?"

"I don't try and fill it. That hole's going to stay there." he simply admitted, before his face brightened into a smile as he looked to her, "But there's other things you can have, things that make you forget the pain, or at least, outweigh it."

Her eyes widened, realising what he was trying to tell her; that she had helped him, their friendship, and then their love, it had allowed him to overcome his pain, not by confronting it directly, but by overlooking it, to see the other good things in his life, in the world as a whole.

"I love you, Sokka." she told him, knowing that it was the only thing she could say in response; she didn't say it lightly, knowing that love was something that was hard to come by, for her, "I should be happy, and your love, it makes me happy. It makes me happier than..." she began to mumble, realising there was something else she didn't want to discuss; her relationship with her father had always been one about respect, duty and power, but she was once conflated that with love- after her time with Sokka, she wasn't so sure that was what it was.

"I'm glad." he beamed at her, "I just don't know how I can make you happy. What can I do... what have I done wrong?" he asked her, the Princess sighing, simply kissing him on the lips to shut him up; if anything, she was the one in the wrong.

After a few moments of their lips touching, she leaned back, smiling at him as she rustled her fingers through his hair, "You've done nothing wrong." she assured him, tilting her head as she snickered, "If anything, I'm the one who's always screwing up."

"No you're not." he assured him, "I'm the idiot in this relationship, remember?" he asked her, making her snicker, remembering that she did like to mock his intelligence on a daily basis, but had refrained from doing so during their argument.

"Don't mock yourself, if there's one thing I want out of you it's confidence. I'm going to call you an idiot as much as I like because its funny."

"Is it funny because... I'm actually smarter than I think?" he asked her, making her roll her eyes; even if he was one of the most intelligent people she had ever met, she wasn't actually going to admit that, for the sake of her dignity.

"Don't get your hopes up." she glared him down, before she pursed her lips into a smirk, "Now, I think I know what can really make me happy." she admitted, the Water Tribe teen's eyes widening with intrigue.

"Oh, uh... what did you want to do?" he asked her, almost suggestively, which only made her more cocky when she sparked a small flame on her index finger.

"Beat the crap out of you." she declared, making him momentarily pout, before he smiled, still appreciating her idea.

"Well, I wouldn't mind going for a few rounds. Can we make it quick, though?" he asked her, the Princess raising a brow with interest.

"Why?" she asked him, "Did you want me to limit the number of times I pummel you in front of your village?" she added with a mocking grin, her boyfriend shaking his head.

"Uh, no. I didn't finish my chore that I was doing for Gran Gran." he explained, making Azula cringe, realising that she had completely forgotten about the work that she herself had told him to do.

"Of course." she agreed, "I don't want your grandmother getting angry at you. What if you don't get your dinner? You'll never let it down." she suggested, making him snicker, knowing that he would certainly be a bad mood if he didn't get his dinner, seeing that his entire life revolved around food.

"You're right. I wouldn't." he told her, his expression becoming almost unsettlingly serious, before he raised his head in the tent, gesturing toward the entrance, "Well, come on then. Am I going to chi-block you and drag you back here in, or what?" he asked her, making Azula grin, knowing that his prodding would only make her victory all the more sweeter.

"I'd like to see you try."


Seeing her brother lying in the snow, Katara snickered, realising that even if his fighting skills had improved greatly since he left to fight in the Earth Kingdom, he was still unable to beat the Princess of the Fire Nation; reminding herself of the fact that her brother's girlfriend was the heir of the last Fire Lord disturbed her greatly, knowing that even if she didn't have an army to lead or villages to destroy, she was still all the same as the rest of the Fire Nation- vicious, proud and arrogant. She didn't think that she could ever like Azula, even if she did mildly appreciate seeing her brother get his butt whooped; the Princess stood over him for a few moments, before offering a hand to help him up.

"Come on, savage, you really ought to get out of the snow. You've embarrassed yourself enough." she prodded him, making his sister's brow twitch at the mention of 'savage'; the fact that she had the audacity to call him a savage in their own home, even after all the time she had lived there, was telling of her character- she mistreated her brother, and he just went along with it.

"I embarrassed you more. You couldn't firebend for half that fight because you were chi-blocked." he commented on her own performance, reminding Katara of her brother's rather amazing skill that he had picked up on his journey; he had figured the ins and outs of disabling one's chi, which allowed him to temporarily paralyse and even prevent his enemies from bending.

"Hey, hey... are you asking for a second round?" she retorted, Sokka raising his hands defensively.

"No- uh- remember what I told you? Chores. Gran Gran's going to scold me... or worse, starve me, if I don't finish cleaning that pelt." he explained to her, excusing himself from any further fighting; it was at that moment that he turned around and took note of his sister standing there, having observed most if not all of his spar with Azula, "What are you doing standing there? Did you want to get in on the fun?" he prodded her, the Water Tribe girl shaking her head.

She didn't think she could face up to her brother, especially with his chi-blocking, let alone Azula, who she could already see was a masterful firebender; what intimidated her more than anything was her fire, which shone a bright blue, close enough to the colour of the snowy terrain itself that it was eerie.

"I don't want to fight either of you. But you've got the right idea, you should really be doing your chores." she suggested, her brother nodding with agreement.

"Yeah, I will." he confirmed, before he turned back to wave to his girlfriend, "I'll see you later."

What followed was the awkward silence that was left when her brother was taken out of the equation; just her and Azula, standing there, five feet apart, looking at each other, and both clearly uneasy in each other's presence. Katara certainly felt uneasy, and she didn't want to be around the Princess, but decided to spare her any chiding words about calling her brother a savage; she couldn't be bothered to argue with her, and instead decided that she would be better to take a conciliatory approach.

"Did you have anything to do... other than beating my brother up?" she queried, the Princess cocking her chin up, mulling over a response for a few seconds before she shrugged her soldiers.

"Not really. Did you have a chore that you needed... uh- assistance with?" she asked her, Katara raising a brow with confusion.

"Uh, do you mean you want to help me?" she asked Azula, who flared her nostrils as she turned her head away.

"No. I don't care for helping you personally. I mean for the sake of the village." she declared her intentions; whether she was trying to sound apathetic or altruistic was not within the Water Tribe teen's understanding, and she didn't really have any care for it.

She did care as to whether the Princess was lazing about and mooching off her tribe, so decided to offer her something to do, "I'm sewing a bigger parka for one of the children. You could help me with that."

She turned back to face Katara, remaining silent for a few moments, before she simply nodded, approaching her with haste, "I can do that. When do we start?" she asked her in the expected snappy tone, making her gesture behind her.

"Right now, just follow me." she told her, before turning her heels and beginning to walk to the place she needed to go; her family's igloo, where it was warmer, and thus a better place to work, as she didn't need to wear her parka in there.

She led the Princess along, who remained by her side, although she didn't look at her, her eyes remaining focused ahead of her; though she didn't really like her herself, for the simple reason that she wasn't a very nice person, overlaid by the fact that she couldn't trust her due to her background, she had no idea what she actually thought of her. She didn't intend to find out, as most of their interactions were short, involved some snarky comments from the Princess, or some other kind of observation that usually wasn't very kind.

When they arrived at the igloo, she opened the door, before walking right on in; at that time of day, there was no one inside, with her father about, either doing chiefly things, or attending to the kinds of work that were expected of him as an adult male in the tribe, that being hunting and fishing for food and supplies; they needed blubber for their fires, fur for their clothes and bones for their tools, all of which was found through long hard days out on the tundra. She remembered what she and Sokka had both had to do over the years when their father and the other men went out to fight the Fire Nation, and was personally quite glad those times were long gone, not having to wander off across the icy plains looking for the next meal to feed their village. She pulled her parka up by the shoulders, before pulling it over her head, realising that it wasn't necessary to wear inside, and would impede her work; taking note that she had done so, Azula did the same, both of them placing their parkas on a boat rack that sat by the doorway for that specific purpose.

She gestured over to the collection of furs that she had sitting by a mat, "That's what we have to work with."

"Hmph." the Princess scratched at her chin, "And what exactly will I have to do?"

"The different parts of the parka can be sewn together separately before being put together, like the sleeves and the hood." she explained, before sitting herself down, gesturing to the sewing kit, "You have everything you need there."

Azula simply nodded, sitting down across from her, taking what would become a sleeve and taking the constituent parts into her hands, before she leaned over, grasping a needle and thread; Katara did the same, taking another sleeve, as well as her own needle and thread. Taking the sinew thread through the edge of one half, she wound it through another, creating a tough bind between each of the pieces, ensuring that it would be suitable to wear.

She turned her head to the Princess, deciding that if they were going to be sitting by each other's side, she should at the very least try to make conversation, "So, did you hear about Bato coming back?" she asked the Princess, who tilted her chin up, the downward pursing of her lips suggesting that she wasn't very happy about that.

"I did." she confirmed, before her eyes narrowed with spite, "Despite being half-way across the world, my brother is still able to ruin my life."

She had heard much about her brother Zuko, although Sokka didn't have much to say about him, she understood well enough that the two royal siblings had a rivalry that ran deep; despite that, she was unsure how exactly he was able to affect her, and what that had to do with Bato's return.

"Uh... but he is half-way across the world." she stated the obvious as she continued to thread the two pieces of fur together, "How can he do anything?"

"By remaining Fire Lord." she clarified, before her eyes turned to face her own, staring Katara down, "Just like you, I'm not exactly pleased about me being here in your tribe."

"I didn't say that." she retorted, the Princess scoffing in response.

"Uh, you did. I remember quite clearly the day we first met." she recalled, making the Water Tribe girl cringe; she had said something along the lines of that, but she thought that she had good reason; she was under the presupposition that the Fire Nation military was going hunt her down and put her whole village in danger- of course, that never actually happened, so she didn't hold that argument against her any longer.

"Fine. You're right." she acknowledged her lie, the Princess raising her chin, her smug smile indicating her sense of victory, which only furthered her own spite toward her; Katara knew that Azula was doing a brilliant job at making herself hateable, so much so that she thought she might be doing it on purpose.

She continued to sew the sleeve together, now taking the opposite sides of the now bound piece, proceeding to thread the tube-like shape together; as she threaded down, the Princess decided to make her response, "As I was saying... I'm not here because I want to be, although I will say your people have been hospitable to me. The last place I was invited to I found myself nearly captured by a conspiracy led by a clique of earthbenders; this has been a great improvement." she admitted, harking back to her story; Katara remembered the part about the Dai Li quite well, and how they had barely prevented the Fire Nation government from being overthrown in Ba Sing Se, "But I can't go back home without an army, without support, and because I feel obliged to not dishonour your own people and their allegiances, I am finding it challenging to get any kind of support."

"You can't get much support for anything when you're down here." she suggested bluntly, not getting into the fact that she didn't really want the girl before her out warmongering in the Earth Kingdom to begin with.

The Princess sighed, shaking her head at her words, "No, I already know of people who would be of use to me. There's a group of Earth Kingdom rebels who are friendly with Bato, and they are one of the only ways I expect I could return to the Earth Kingdom safely."

"Can't become Fire Lord through the Earth Kingdom, can you?" she quipped, making Azula narrow her eyes at her spitefully.

She wasn't trying to rub it in that she was stuck in her situation, but rather simply acknowledging the fact that it would be impossible to achieve what she wanted with Bato's supposed allies; anybody in the Earth Kingdom couldn't stand a chance against her brother, who according to the Princess's own estimates which she had made, controlled the vast majority of the Fire Nation's forces.

"No, I can't." the Princess simply acknowledged, looking down to continue her sewing rather than staring at Katara; if there was anything she could compliment her on, it would be the fact that she always seemed to be focused on whatever task was at hand.

It only took a moment for her to realise that Azula was actually ahead of her in her sewing, already having finished one sleeve, making the Water Tribe girl feel threatened; she wasn't trying to be competitive, but it seemed that the Fire Nation girl might have her own idea on that matter. She continued to sew the two sides of the sleeve together, eventually reaching the bottom, where she would have to sew on a cuff.

"You need to sew a band of fur with the fur side facing outwards for the cuffs." she gestured to the strips of fur that lay nearby, Azula momentarily glancing at her before reaching over to grab one for herself, before returning to her work, without a word.

Katara took a strip for herself, coiling it around her own wrist to try and get an idea for the size what she was going to make, knowing that it ought to fit snugly around a child's wrist; she grabbed a bone dagger, before she sliced off a portion of the long strip of fur, which could be reused to make another cuff or some other piece of clothing. As she began to sew the two ends of the band together, which wasn't a very long strip, she glanced at Azula, who in turn narrowed her eyes at her suspiciously; she wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary, but rather just curious where she had gotten. As before, the Princess was a little further ahead that Katara, having already sewn her cuff together.

"I'll show you how they are sewn together with the sleeves in a bit." she clarified, to which she nodded, before leaning herself back, holding her hands above her head as she lay herself down on the mat.

She considered telling her that there was far more comfortable places to do just that, but relented, deciding that the Princess was smart enough to figure out that kind of stuff, and Katara certainly wasn't in the mood for doing her any favours. As she continued to sew the cuff together, she noticed that the Princess was playing with a small bit of flame in her hand; it was dainty and shimmered a light blue, and the Water Tribe girl might have even said it was pretty if she didn't have such a strong disdain for firebending as a whole. She knew that benders needed to bend; that was just the natural way of living, but she didn't like the fact that there was a firebender living in her village, it just didn't sit well with her gut. Although Sokka was the one who always said he lived by his instincts, in a way, Katara did too, but unlike her brother, her instincts were based in her well reasoned fears that she held. Firebending was dangerous, foreign royalty were worse, and the threat of whoever wanted said royalty in chains coming after her the scariest thing that she could consider.

"Why is your fire blue?" she asked the Princess; she had never thought to ask the question, but as it had never been mentioned specifically, she found herself curious enough to ask.

Taking up her conversation starter, Azula smirked confidently, the smugness on her face indicating that she felt quite proud of her ability, "Well, according to my father, I am the greatest firebending prodigy in a generation. I have always been better at firebending than others my age, and by the time I was twelve, I could bend fire that was blue instead of the ordinary orange."

"I'm not... too superstitious, but it almost sounds like the spirits gave you a weird blessing." she suggested, the Princess cocking her head up, sending a snide glare her way.

"I prefer the idea that I've trained my bending to the point at which it is more powerful than any other firebending." she argued, not approving of Katara's own idea, "My family is full of powerful firebenders, and my brother was the runt of the family."

She raised a brow, noticing how she spoke of her brother in the past tense, "Was the runt? Did he suddenly get a lot better?"

"Not suddenly." she clarified with a raised finger, "He was exiled for nearly five years before he came back to fight my father. My uncle was probably training him that entire time." she argued, almost defensively, which made the Water Tribe girl think back to the story of their Agni Kai, a duel where the Princess had almost died.

She remained silent after that, before she cleared her throat, gesturing to the cuff that the Princess was holding, "Oh, so the cuffs." she changed the topic of their conversation, before she pulled out her needle, getting her two pieces ready, "You've got to sew the cuff over the top so you can fold it back over to the inside, and then you have to sew over it again. That makes sure it is tightly bound; you don't want snow getting caught underneath."

"That's obvious enough." Azula commented briskly, before she readied her own needle, beginning to do as she had explained; as snarky as she was, at the very least, the Princess was actually heeding her advice.

Katara turned do her own sewing, pulling the cuff over the sleeve before she began to push her bone needle through, in and out along the length of the cuff; she glanced back over to the Fire Nation girl, noting that she was quickly moving along, which prodded her to increase her own pace. There was only so fast she could sew before it got sloppy, so she resigned herself to being the slower, steadier sewer. She chuckling, realised that Sokka had fought Azula with his fists and a boomerang, while she had done the same with a needle and thread; she approved of sewing clothes far more, seeing that it was a productive activity that resulted in a finished product, while her brother would only end up with a singed parka and a few bruises. The Princess certainly wasn't her friend, but she could be accepted quite eagerly as a rival; someone to compete with and perhaps, at times, someone to talk to, if she wasn't feeling in an annoying or snarky mood.


Grasping his spear from his tent, Sokka couldn't help but grin; he was excited to be going on a hunt, knowing that it was going to be good to hang around Bato and his father together; the three of them were back together, and now they could spend a good night or two pissing around in the wilderness, telling old stories while they looked for a good prize. His father had decided that it would be a good idea to go for a great hunt in celebration of his best friend's return to the village, something that seemed quite reasonable, seeing that they'd likely get a feast out of it if they were successful. If there was one thing Sokka loved more than anything, it was a massive feast, and since it had been a while since he had enjoyed one, he was certainly looking forward to it.

As he climbed out of his tent, he looked around, realising that he had to bid his girlfriend farewell; not only was it tradition, but he did certainly want to say goodbye, give her some warnings about how not to behave and all the usual. For the most part, he and Azula weren't ever much further apart than the span of the village, but from time to time, they did end up going their separate ways, he tried to make sure she was prepared to deal with his fellow tribesmen, who mightn't be as receptive to her as he was. Seeing that he didn't spot her immediately, he decided to go walk around the village to try and find her, knowing that she was probably in the middle of doing some work, or resting; no matter which, he'd gladly intervene and give her a kiss on the cheek, which she'd probably protest, not that he cared; well, he did care, in the sense that he didn't want her to set his hair on fire in response to his unwanted advances, but he still wanted to make his feelings known.

As weird as it had been to spend a few months in his village with her by his side, he had loved every minute of it; even her cringely learning step-by-step how to live at the South Pole, or understand Water Tribe culture, he had enjoyed it all, knowing that while she had gotten to know him and her people, he had been able to see another side of her. The sometimes serious, sometimes awkward Azula who was so distant from the girl that had beat his arse on her Royal Barge that it was honestly concerning to think that she could act so differently amongst friends compared to enemies.

As soon as he found her sitting by the communal campfire, he raced up to her, plopping himself down by her side, making her look at him with a concerned face, "Are you alright, Sokka?" she asked him, the Water tribe teen simply leaning in and kissing her on the cheek, as he told himself he would.

She turned her head away and cocked her chin up, as he guessed she would, but her blushed cheeks indicated that she had appreciated his small token of intimacy, "Did you really need to?"

"Yes, yes I did." he argued, making her roll her eyes as she made a clearly exaggerated sigh.

"Well then, I guess I just have to do this." she told him as she glared him down, Sokka raising a brow, unsure what she intended.

"Do what?" he asked her, expecting a fireball or perhaps a snowball, given their environment, to be flung into his face; he was pleasantly surprised to see that she had instead grappled his chin and kissed him square on the lips, pushing their faces together.

He enjoyed her moment of passion, although as he moved away, the smug look on her face indicated that there had been less romantic motivation for her actions, "I'm the one who kisses first here." she stressed, "And if you're going to embarrass me in public, I'll do the same for you." she crossed her arms, before she took note of the spear he held in his hand, "Are you going out hunting?"

"Yep. Since Bato's back, we want to go kill something big, for a feast." he told her, making her smile with an open mouth, comprehending why he was in such a good mood.

"I am once again reminded that your entire life revolves around food."

"What? Would you prefer if it revolved around you?" he quipped in return, making her grin at him suggestively, raising her hand up to her chin.

"Well, I would, actually." she admitted, before glancing over the campfire, his eyes following her own gaze, realising that Hakoda and Bato were standing across from them, both of them obviously talking about them, "Well, Bato's going to be making you talk about the intimacies of our relationship for a good day or two now, isn't he?" she asked him, warning him of what was to come.

She was right, of course, Sokka remembering what had happened when he had first returned to the Southern Water Tribe, when his father had constantly asked about his relationship with Azula, which had been awkward, to say the least.

"Yeah, you have a point." he mumbled under his breath, considering that that wouldn't be the most enjoyable experience on his behalf.

"I always have a point." the Princess quipped in return, making him roll his eyes; she didn't ever lose her smugness, despite all the hardships she had suffered.

"So, are you going to be alright here? Did Katara give you any grief when you were helping her?" he asked her, Azula grinning in response.

"Of course not. I made her jealous by proving that I could sew faster than her." she explained, the Water Tribe teen sighing with annoyance.

If there was one thing he hadn't wanted his girlfriend to do, bar fighting his sister one on one, it was making her feel inadequate; he had been forced to listen to her complain about not being trained as a bender for years, so he guessed that she would feel even worse if she was being made out as any lesser at something she was actually good at.

"Oh spirits, of all things, why'd you have to make her feel bad about sewing? She's going to start hating you for it."

Azula couldn't restrain her smug grin, "What, couldn't she have a bit of courtesy, or are all you snow savages that petty?"

He crossed his arms, annoyed that she had said what she had, knowing that it was a bad territory for her to cross into; his mind immediately moved to the possibility of her stopping her sewing.

"What if she stops doing it? Who's going to sew my pants then?" he asked her, trying to argue as to why it was a bad idea to compete with Katara over it.

"Not me, you sexist prick." she chided him, Sokka remaining silent for a moment, trying to think of a response, before sighing, realising that she was right; he was just being immature and sexist, just like she liked to mock him to be at times.

"Okay, you're right... again." he mumbled, less boisterous in his tone as he realised he should take a path of reconciliation rather than an argument.

When it came to the touchy topic of the role of women, which she had complained about more than once when in the Southern Water Tribe, he didn't want to start an argument; on previous occasions, he retorted that the Northern Tribe was refuted to be far worse, even compared to the Earth Kingdom, although she said that was no excuse for how a lot of his fellow tribesmen treated women.

"Yes, once you become Chief, I am sure we can work on that specific issue." she added, making him scoff, turning to face her with a perplexed look.

"Sorry, when I become Chief? I'm not even eighteen years old." he told her the obvious fact; his father became Chief at a far older age than seventeen, and beyond that, he didn't know when his father would step down from his position, if he intended to do so.

"Time will tell who the Southern Water Tribe sees as their leader. I'm not talking about this village, I'm talking about the whole deal." she argued, making his eyes widened; he had thought over it once or twice before, sure, a kind of childhood dream, but Sokka had never seriously considered the idea that he could become Chief of the Southern Water Tribe.

"That's... probably not going to happen anytime soon." he conceded, the Princess leaning closer, her eyes narrowed and serious, in contrast to her rather humoured expression a few moments earlier.

"Well, you're not going to let those Northern degenerates and their excuse of a civilisation lord over you, are you?" she prodded him, his eyes eyes turning down toward the snow in thought.

The Water Tribe warrior didn't know all there was to know about the history of the Water Tribes, but he knew that his people were independent and distinct in culture and tradition from those people that lived in the North Pole.

"I'm not letting that happen." he declared, deciding that even if he wasn't the one to rule his tribe, he certainly wouldn't stand for foreigners ruling over them; he considered his thoughts hypocritical for a moment, when he had previously made the opposite argument to consider why the Fire Nation colonies were better off under the rule of their horrible conquerors rather than the impoverished and divided Earth Kingdom.

"Now, are you going to head off, or are you still in the mood to embarrass yourself?" she asked him, the Water Tribe teen huffing with annoyance, before he glanced back at her; he felt the emotions of indignation and infatuation conflicting with each other, but the latter won over in the end, leaning in to kiss her on the cheek.

As confident and smug as she was acting, she didn't stop him from embarrassing her just the same; he guessed that she had begun telling herself that she could do whatever she pleased in front of his tribe, seeing that she was intending to rule the Fire Nation, not them. She pushed him away with a palm to his chest, before pointing toward his father.

"Now, go. You can please her highness as much as you like when you get back." she mocked him, making him look at her with slight discontent.

Their relationship was a little more complicated than him trying to please her, no matter how she liked to put it; she was still beset in her domineering and arrogant ways of a Fire Nation conqueror, after all. No matter how different she might have seemed from the Crown Princess who wiped the floor with the Dai Li, Azula was still that girl, and from time to time, she acted like she still was the ruler of half the known world, or at least what of it that counted.

"Yeah, yeah, I'll make sure to give you that foot massage that you're always croning on about." he assured her, making her blush; that was a random thing she had rambled about at one point, and he decided to throw it back at her- the looks she got from the other villagers made her hunch over eyeing him with a face of annoyance that mirrored his own a minute earlier.

"Did you have to say that?" she asked him, the Water Tribe warrior making an unabashed grin, pointing at her before turning away.

"Of course I did, your highness." he mocked her, knowing that it annoyed her more than pleased her when she called her such, seeing that it only reminded her of the fact she wasn't much of a Princess anymore.

He walked over to Hakoda and Bato, who immediately turned to him as they saw him approach, their faces both humoured after having witnessed his conversation with Azula from over the campfire.

His father cleared his throat before raising his hand, "Is all well with Azula?" he asked her, the Water Tribe teen shaking his hand, to assure him that there was nothing amiss; if his girlfriend wasn't trying to make a fool of him, then he'd be seriously concerned for her wellbeing.

"It's fine." he reassured him, before turning to Bato, "So, has Dad been telling you all about our relationship?"

He tensed up and chuckled, momentarily glancing toward the Princess, who was still sitting on the opposing side of the campfire, "Now I get what your father meant we he said you two had a complicated relationship'." he admitted, before he pursed his lips upward, "I'm just glad I was proven right in Ba Sing Se." he called back to when he had predicted their relationship, before he turned back to face his best friend, making a whisper that was clearly intended to be heard by Sokka, "He made the move."

"The move was him kissing her when she was paralysed from chi-blocking, if I recall correctly." his father scratched on his beard, making his cheeks flush red with embarrassment; he realised that he probably shouldn't have been as thorough as he had been with his story.

His intention to try and get Katara to like Azula failed, and instead he had let his family in on every secret he might have wanted to hold back from when had been away in the Earth Kingdom.

"Oh, that's actually kinda romantic." Bato mused, before clearing his throat, "If that was your intention of course, catching her when she's most vulnerable, literally in this case."

"I guess." he responded, in voice a little quieter than he intended, realising that he really hadn't been thinking through his actions back in that tent; he had acted in the moment, which was how he usually liked to act when he didn't have a plan, as he couldn't plan a relationship with another human being.

"So, are we going to go find something big to eat or what?" he changed the topic, his father smirking as he pulled his spear up.

"Of course. I wouldn't dare let Bato go without a feast for his return." he grinned, his friend laughing off his rather generous intention.

"Well, I do have to come along and help, don't I?" he retorted, his question proving a good point.

He was going to have to work to get the feast that was intended to be thrown in his honour; that was how it worked in the Southern Water Tribe, everyone working together for the benefit of the whole village, something that Sokka was quite proud of.

"That's the best part, anyway. You'll get to enjoy what we end up killing immediately. It's the best kind of reward." the teen argued, the two older men nodding along with rather impressed smiles.

"I can agree with that." his father acknowledged, before he raised his hand, "Now, who else was coming along for our hunt?!" he asked out to the village, a number of men standing up nearby, with their own spears, daggers and nets on the ready.

From what it looked like, the whole adult male population was ready to pitch in, and Sokka knew that the more of them that went out to hunt, the bigger the prey they could catch; just the thought of what they might find made his mouth water. He raised his own spear up, eagerly shouting as his father had just done.

"Who's ready for the biggest feast this season?!" he asked them all with a shout, earning a few eager chants as the rest of the hunters approached.

"Take care, we'll be back with a good meal for all to share." Hakoda waved to the remaining tribesmen, who waved back at him, even Azula perking up as she watched Sokka walk away; their eyes locked for a few moments, and the Water Tribe boy felt more confident than he had before.

"I have a good feeling about this."

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