The Return @tubendo
Chapter 7

Azula knew that Omashu was the last great stronghold of the Earth Kingdom, and seeing it before her brought with it a mixture of emotions; its conquest was a great triumph for her father, though it had been overshadowed by the conquest of Ba Sing Se a few months later during the passing of Sozin's Comet. She felt a sense of unease, knowing that the city that was now named for her father stood to remind her of her own failures, and the treachery of her father's supposed loyalists, like Ukano, Mai's father, who had folded to support Zuko, probably because he knew that he could have his daughter married to the most powerful man in the world. All for power, and with no respect for the struggles she had gone through personally for her nation; she had defeated the Dai Li, and she had made sure that her father's empire remained strong and unified, only for her brother to tear it apart. As she looked upon the city, perched atop a mountain, covered in factories, she was reminded of the power and influence of her nation; whether the city would prosper under Fire Nation rule was something she did not know nor care for. It was not her country, not what she wanted to rule; she desired to rule the people of her nation, not some random city that was little more than a vanity piece for the Fire Lord.

"There it is, the great... well, once great, Earth Kingdom city of Omashu." Aang murmured, before he sighed, "So much has changed."

"Yeah, no shit." Azula commented on the obviousness of his statement, earning a glare from Katara, who was sitting beside her.

It was as if she had said, 'seriously, Azula?' without even opening her mouth; that was how well she was getting to know her, and that itself made the Princess feel uncomfortable.

"Are we going to get any closer? Because I don't think that'd be a good idea." Katara acknowledged, "The Fire Nation might attack us."

"I know for a fact that this city is under the rule of my brother, so if they attack us, then that means Zuko might not be as friendly as you hoped." Azula suggested, Aang nodding with a nervous look on his face.

"We better play it safe." he acknowledged, before glancing around them, at the rough, mountainous terrain that surrounded the city on all sides, "But where are these rebels. Sokka, you said they'd be at Omashu."

"Well, they're not going to be in the city... unless they're underneath it. The Dai Li were doing that." he acknowledged, before gesturing to the hills around the city, "They won't be in sight of the city walls. That'd be way too dangerous- the Fire Nation would attack them."

"So behind the mountains?" Aang raised a brow, the Water Tribe warrior nodding.

"Pretty much." he confirmed, "Let's just fly around a bit before we camp out. I'm sure we might find something. It's not just going to be all rocks and dust."

"It is the Earth Kingdom." Azula joked, her boyfriend snickering, pointing a finger at her approvingly.

"Oh, that's a good one." he applauded her, before furrowing a brow, "You know, I don't know if they like rocks, but seeing that they built a city in the middle of the mountains, I'd say they do."

"Couldn't they make everything with earthbending?" Katara suggested, her brother raising a brow.

"Maybe... I don't see you making igloos, though." he reminded her, making the Water Tribe teen snarl at her brother.

"Seriously, Sokka? You already know I can't bend that well." she growled at him.

He raised his hands up, making an innocent smile, "I know, I know. I just like to annoy you."

"You're asking to get whacked in the head with a snowball." she told him with a frustrated voice, Sokka gesturing around the saddle.

"Where's the water you're gonna make that with, though?" he asked her, Katara glancing around, her expression faltering.

"Maybe the clouds... they're made of water, right?" she asked, Aang turning to face her with a grin.

"Do you want to find out?" he asked her, Azula raising her head.

"I'd prefer if you didn't make all of our things wet. We are about to camp out, Aang." she reminded the young Avatar, who pouted slightly.

"Aw... that might have been fun." he responded dejectedly, the Princess crossing her arms.

"I don't want Sokka to demand I dry all his clothes with my firebending." she added an argument, her boyfriend looking at her with a surprised face.

"But you could." he noted, "Are you really that lazy?" he quipped, making Azula raise a finger.

"Being lazy is your thing, not mine. That and oversleeping." she retorted, the Water Tribe raising a finger, as if he were about to argue against her point; he sighed, obviously unable to argue against her factual observation.

"Okay, you're not wrong... but if you could use your bending for basic things, there's nothing wrong with doing that." he argued, bringing up a point that she'd heard before; her bending wasn't something she used for menial tasks, not when she could use it for far greater things, like beating her enemies.

"Bending is an art form, Sokka, not just something you throw around just because you can."

"I mean, it kinda is." Aang argued against her point, before he flicked his hand up, using his airbending to throw her backward; she grunted as she slammed down onto the saddle, raising her head back up with a snarl.

"What was that for?!" she shouted at him, the young Avatar shrugging his shoulders with a smug look on his face.

"Oh, I dunno, practising my 'art form'." he used her argument against her, Sokka and Katara both cackling at his joke.

"You little..." she growled, pulling herself back up to a seated position, "Stop laughing!" she demanded, Sokka wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.

"I'm- ahaha- it's just so funny." he tried to defend his actions, before he cleared his throat, "Uh, I'm sorry." he tried to speak in a serious tone, his sister still grinning with amusement.

"Your apology isn't accepted." she growled, before glancing at Katara, "And you better stop snickering or I'm going to set your hair on fire." she demanded, the Water Tribe girl covering her mouth with her hand to try and muffle her vocalisations, which seemed to be involuntary.

Azula glanced over the side of Appa's saddle, looking down to the rough terrain below; it was scantily covered with vegetation, and the steep slopes of the mountains and valleys meant that it was hard for anyone to do any farming or anything of the sorts around the city, meaning that the whole area was quite desolate. That meant that any kind of rebel camp would be rather obvious to spot. To her annoyance, she couldn't see anything, and looked back toward Aang, realising that she ought to try and give him some directions.

"I can't see anything yet." she explained, "Aang, take us around these mountains. If there's a rebel base around here, we'll be able to see it."

"Unless it's underground, that is." her boyfriend added, making her sigh.

"I sure hope it isn't. That'll just make it harder for us to find them, and waste our time." she narrowed her eyes into a serious glare, looking down toward the ground below, knowing that if the rebels wouldn't make themselves apparent, they'd be forced to scour the countryside for them.

"We've already wasted a lot of time already. One night isn't that much." Katara acknowledged, the young Avatar cringing.

"Uh, sorry about that by the way. We really should... uh- remain on task." he tried to sound as serious as possible, but only came off as sounding uncertain.

"That's the idea." Azula agreed with him, "And remaining on task hopefully won't involve you making fun of me with your airbending." she narrowed her eyes at him, reminding him of what he had just done.

"Uh... yep." he made a clearly exaggerated smile, which made his words seem less genuine, "I'll avoid doing that."

"There's no 'avoiding'. Just don't do it." she growled at him, making Katara snicker once more.

"Is this a soft-spot? Do you not like getting embarrassed?"

"Nobody likes getting embarrassed, Katara." Sokka retorted his sister's rather stupid question; Azula didn't like getting embarrassed, because it was shameful to look foolish or inept in the eyes of anyone, even people that wouldn't judge her for it.

"I am not my brother. I'm not some inept moron." she growled as she crossed her arms, her boyfriend scooting his butt a little closer to her, trying to offer her some assurance with a hand around her shoulder.

"Hey, hey, don't worry. You're not stupid. You just got pranked, that's all." he reassured her, the Princess turning her head away as she raised her chin in defiance.

"Pranking is one step away from being tricked, and being tricked is how you get defeated." she declared, Aang raising a brow with thought.

"So, what you're saying is that we can trick the Fire Nation and beat them that way?" he asked her, Azula's eyes widening with surprise; she hadn't expected such an idea to come from the youngest member of their group.

"That's one way of taking my words." she conceded, "Trickery is a useful tool in making your enemies believe that all is well, or make real threats seem trivial."

"That's how I snuck into Pohuai Stronghold, along with a little deception." Sokka recalled, "Tricking people is really fun, actually."

"Wouldn't have that been really scary though? you have to act perfectly, and if you slip up, then you're done for." Katara asked her brother, who shrugged his shoulders with indifference.

"My plan in those situations is to not have a plan. If I'm always ready to change my plans, then I don't have to worry about slip-ups. I think a way around it." he explained, before furrowing a brow, "I guess we might need to do a little deception sooner or later... and by we I mean you." he turned to Azula, who sighed.

"Yes, yes, I know the rebels won't trust us if they know I'm working with the Avatar... but didn't you say the Freedom Fighters were in this group? That would mean they would recognise me- even if they never met me, they could put two and two together."

"Maybe you should avoid them. That might work." Aang suggested simply, the Princess nodding; as cowardly as it was, it was certainly the easiest way to avoid such an issue.

"Evasion, your favourite tactic." she quipped, the young Avatar shrugging at her with a smug grin.

"It hasn't failed me yet." he argued, Azula narrowing her eyes at him.

"Yet." she warned him, before glancing off to the side of the saddle once more, "Where are they hiding?" she mumbled to herself, Sokka leaning over beside her.

"Probably underground. Earthbenders love their dirt." he argued once more, the Princess shaking her head.

"That doesn't mean we can't find them. They'd have to have people scouting around, even if they go underground to get into their base. So... tracks." she concluded, Katara raising a brow at her skeptically.

"How exactly do we find tracks from all the way up here?"

"Huh... good point." she acknowledged his point, before she glanced over toward Aang, "Aang! Take us down, we need to check for tracks."

"On it." he nodded, pulling on Appa's reins to guide him lower in the sky, the sky-bison gliding to the outer side of the range they were flying over as he descended down toward the ground.

As they grew nearer to the side of the mountain, she, Katara, and Sokka all looked down off the side of the saddle, glancing down toward the ground, trying to make out tracks.

"I can't see anything." the Water Tribe girl mumbled, "Maybe they're not around here."

"They have to scout around somewhere. They don't want the Fire Nation finding their base... where ever it's hiding." Azula declared, before she clenched her hand on the edge of the saddle, "They have to be." her voice quietened, before she glanced back toward her boyfriend, who had a sympathetic look on his face.

"Don't worry, Azula. We'll find them, I'm sure of it." he assured her, the Princess's eyes turning back toward him, simply frustrated that they were being forced on a wild chase around the mountains in hope that they'd find the rebels.

"Oh, I'm sure we will." she sarcastically retorted, before laying herself back on Appa's saddle, "We'll need to set up camp soon. The sun's already low in the sky."

"She's got a good point, Aang." Katara backed her up, "We won't be able to see anything when it's dark, even if we want to."

"Well, you can firebend light for us, can't you?" the young Avatar asked of her, Azula grasping her nose bridge as she sighed.

"You do realise that'll make it far more likely that our 'allies' will attack us, presuming that we're Fire Nation soldiers." she argued, Aang's face tensing up before he gulped.

"Oh... yeah, that might happen." he mumbled, obviously thinking back to the reaction they had gotten at Kyoshi Island, the last place her bending had been revealed.

Though they had stopped in a few towns and villages along the way to Omashu, she hadn't found it necessary to defend herself with her fire, and thus, her identity remained a secret. The water tribe colours were a good way of disguising her true identity, though her pale skin and gold eyes were always telling of her heritage if anyone paid close enough attention.

"Plus, that means we can cook some food. We still have some leftover rice and vegetables from our last stop." Sokka suggested, before licking his lips, "I'm looking forward to enjoying it."

"Oh, so you're going to be cooking tonight?" Katara retorted, bringing up a relatively frequent topic of argument for their group; though Sokka and Azula were both capable of cooking food, they weren't very good at it, compared to the Water Tribe girl, and almost always delegated the task out to her, much to her frustration.

"Uh... no." Sokka admitted, "But I can set up everyone's tents if you want."

"Oh, thanks, Sokka!" Aang beamed at him, obviously glad he didn't have to do that chore.

"And what about you?" she turned toward the Princess, who shrugged her shoulders.

"A campfire." she nonchalantly responded, knowing that was the thing she could be useful in making, seeing that with her bending, she could create fire out of thin air.

The Water Tribe girl raised a brow at her with a skeptical look in her eye, "That's not much."

"And who said Aang was doing anything?" she gestured towards the young Avatar, who gave the rest of them a nervous smile.

"Okay... fair point. How about we all help out on the jobs, and that way nobody gets to be lazy?" she suggested, all of them nodding along with agreement; she didn't like getting bossed around by Katara, but with no desire to start a fight on top of a sky-bison, she decided that it would be smarter to not complain.

"But you're still cooking, right?" Sokka prodded her, obviously wanting assurance that he'd be getting something edible for dinner.

"Urgh..." she groaned, before forcing a nod, "Yes, Sokka. I'll make your dinner."

"You're the best sister, you know that." he grinned at his sister, not improving her mood one bit; she glanced back over to the side of the saddle, Azula looking at her boyfriend with a slightly frustrated look.

"There's times when compliments don't work, Sokka. And this is one of them." she warned him, making him snort, seemingly involuntarily, looking at her with a bemused grin.

"Says the person whose compliments are rarer than..." he began, before stopping himself, "My only comparison would be a little mean spirited to say out loud, honestly."

"They're as rare as dragons." she finished his sentence, the Water Tribe teen raising a brow.

"Ah, yeah, that works." he nodded, Aang glancing back her way with a concerned look on his face.

"Don't tell me what I think you're about to tell me..." he stared at her, his eyes showing the same pain that she had seen when he first arrived at the Southern Air Temple; she glanced at two Water Tribe teens for a moment, slightly confused by his words, as she didn't know exactly what he was referring to.

"About the dragons?" she asked him, the young Avatar nodding uneasily, "They're extinct. My Uncle Iroh killed the last one years ago." she explained, raising a hand up as she formed some flames in her palm, "My great-grandfather, Fire Lord Sozin, made it a tradition to hunt down dragons. It's a great honour for any firebender."

"That's disgusting." Aang looked at her with a face of displeasure, before turning away, Katara glancing at her with a slightly surprised look.

"Well, I thought it would have been smarter to keep them." she admitted, "That way, the Fire Nation could have conquered Ba Sing Se a whole lot more easily." she added, knowing that riding dragons over the walls would have been safer than trying to tear down the Outer Wall of Ba Sing Se.

"Of course you would." the Water Tribe girl's expression turned to a glare, before she faced away from her once more.

"I can't help it. I'm a strategist." she defended her thought process; even if she wasn't currently desiring to conquer cities, her father had instilled in her the teachings and mentalities to do just that.

"You're a pretty good one." Sokka commented, his words holding weight, given, unlike the other two present, he had actually witnessed her strategies in motion, and not just her ideas.

"Thanks." she mumbled, though quietly enough that the other two didn't pay much attention to her response; she glanced over to the side of the saddle once more, seeing the barren terrain before them, noticing the sun disappear behind the mountains as they continued to descend.

They reached the base of a valley, which had a small stream running through it, though there was still very little vegetation barring some wild-grasses than ran along the edges of said stream; Appa groaned loudly as he landed, Aang glancing around their new campsite with interest, before he jumped off of the edge of the saddle which he had been sitting upon. He landed on the ground beside them and ran his staff along the soil, sending some dust up into the air as he turned back to face them.

"So, I guess we'll camp here." he simply concluded, Azula yawning lightly as she grabbed one of the bags at the rear of the saddle, slinging it over her shoulder as she climbed over the edge of the saddle.

"Yes, we will." she voiced her own agreement, though she narrowed her eyes at the Air Nomad boy, "But we're getting up at first light to look for these rebels, got it?"

"Of course, you're the boss." Aang assured her, making the Princess cock a smirk, appreciating the quick deference that he had given her, even if it had been out of fear of reprisal.

"I am." she proudly declared, before she threw the bag on her shoulder down to the ground.

She could tell from the weight of it that it was one of their tent bags, and she quickly pulled out the canvas, poles and mats that she would need to set up such a contraption with. She rolled out the mat, shaking it for a few moments to get rid of any dust on it, before she lay it out flat; she turned around to go grab some poles, only to find that they were missing, though she immediately realised where they had gone. Glancing up from her kneeling position, she saw Sokka holding the poles in both his hands, taking one and jabbing it into the ground beside her.

"I did say I was going to set up the tents." he reminded her, Azula rolling her eyes at him.

"And we'll get it done quicker together. Go get that pole in the ground." she gestured to the other end of the mat, where he stepped over to, twisting the pole around as he tried to move into the hard soil beneath their feet.

Azula did the same, taking the pole he had already put in the ground and hammering her fist down on its top; she felt move deeper into the soil with each hit, before she knelt over once more to grab the next pole. She grasped it and raised it up to the level of the two pole-tops, Sokka eyeing it as she moved it into place.

"Good." he nodded, before gesturing to the bag, "Now we need the canvas."

She grabbed the canvas, which was curled up like a sleeping roll, shaking it to get rid of any dust, as she had done with the mat; then she pulled it out and over the top pole with a flick of her wrist, her boyfriend grabbing the other end to make sure it was put in place. She heard the sound of Aang grunting behind her, momentarily glancing to see him carrying a large bag in his hands, with some struggle, Katara giving him a reassuring look as he took it toward her. The Princess glanced back toward the canvas, now knowing the next step was to take the pegs and put them in place; as she grabbed the bag, Sokka stepped over beside her once more, dropping to a knee as he offered his hand out. She reached into the bag of pegs, taking two out and placing them in his open palm; he smiled at her momentarily, making her eyes dart away, not wanting to make eye-contact for too long. She had learnt over time that she tended to blush when that happened, and seeing that she didn't want to embarrass herself any further, avoiding eye-contact was her chosen tactic of the evening.

He took the two pegs and reoriented himself to sit by one side of the tent, and after picking out the other two pegs, she did the same; grasping at one corner of the canvas, she slung the peg through the small sinew loops before she raised her right foot, proceeding to hammer the peg into the ground with her heel. She then took the other peg and did the exact same, quickly leaving her with a mounted canvas that was ready to cover them from the elements. The last part of their tent was the tarp, which she pulled out from the bag, unfurling it as Sokka grabbed the other end. The two of them slung the large, square shaped covering made of animal pelts over the top of their tent, the Water Tribe teen wiping his hands as he looked upon their work.

"Well, that was pretty easy." he admitted, before glancing back toward the saddle, "Then there's our sleeping roll." he acknowledged, Azula gesturing toward Aang and Katara, who were both still working on setting up their tent.

"You go help them and I'll get the sleeping roll, and make sure the inside of our tent is nice and clean." she explained, as she wanted to make sure herself that they were sleeping in the best conditions, given the dusty environment around them.

"Good idea." he smiled at her for a moment, before turning his heels, walking over to assist the other two.

She turned her attention back toward Appa's saddle, taking note of Momo, who was looking around the bags, "Oh, trying to steal more food, are you?" she questioned the lemur, who raised his head, realising that he was being watched, "Yeah, you." she pointed at him, after which he made a few chitters, jumping off of the saddle and running toward the others; she didn't have an issue sharing their food with the small creature, as long as he only got his fair share, which given his size, was a lot less than what they ate.

Approaching the saddle, she began to hasten her pace, before making a leap, reaching up to grasp the edge of the saddle; she then used her upper-body strength to pull herself up, swinging her legs up above her torso, vaulting up onto the saddle. She was relieved that she was still so capable of acrobatic feats, despite no longer having much use for them outside of climbing onto a sky-bison; down in the South Pole, given the attire she had been wearing, and the terrain, it was rather hard to do any kind of acrobatics outside of sparring.

She picked up her and Sokka's sleeping roll, before she turned around to glance off toward her friends, taking note of their efforts putting up the other tent, which was pretty much complete by that point. The Princess vaulted over the edge of the saddle once more, kicking up some dust as she landed, before she quickly approached the tent; pulling the canvas opening apart, she tossed the sleeping roll inside, glancing in to see that her tent was rather dim from the shadow cast by the mountains between them and the falling sun. She lit a small flame on her finger tip, glancing around to check for dust, extinguishing it when she saw that the tent was pretty much clean. She pulled out the sleeping roll, making sure it wasn't curled up at any of the edges, before she lay down on it, sighing as she thought about what would follow next.

They'd have dinner, and then maybe there'd be a tense argument between either her and Sokka or Katara, or the other way around; they would sleep, and then she would force her boyfriend out of bed the next morning, and if luck was willing to give them a break, then they'd find the rebels, and be able to figure out how they could assist each other. Azula just hoped that she could get through meeting their potential allies with no fuss, remembering the important fact that the Freedom Fighters were among them; even if they hadn't met Azula, if they saw a Fire Nation looking girl with Sokka, then they'd immediately figure out her identity. That could compromise any hopes they had of forging an alliance; the alliance they would need if she wanted to eventually move toward becoming Fire Lord.

"What are you pondering about now, your majesty?" Sokka asked her, catching her attention; she raised her head to notice that he was peering his head through the canvas partings.

"Oh, the usual. How I'm going to avoid ruining our chances with these rebels." she admitted the honest truth, the Water Tribe warrior raising a brow at her with interest.

"That's pretty easy. Don't show your bending... and, well, maybe if people don't see your face that much it'll avoid suspicion. Gold eyes and all." he suggested as he made his way into the tent, sitting down beside her; she nodded along to his words, agreeing with his points, though she could immediately think of something that he missed.

"And, I need to avoid Jet and his gang. If they're in this group, then if they see us together, they might rat out my identity. I'm not assuming everyone in this group will want to attack me on the spot, but some certainly will." she admitted, her boyfriend's eyes shimmering in thought.

"Yeah, you said that before. I'm sure if you avoid them, you'll be fine." he admitted, before raising a finger to his chin, "If you really want a disguise, we could lather your face with dust, and make you swarthier, so you look a little less Fire Nation."

"That sounds like something someone would do in an acting troupe to poorly portray another culture." she simply observed, "It'd probably be hard to make that look like anything more than dirt."

"Yeah, it was a kinda stupid idea." he mumbled, his voice sounding a whole lot less upbeat than it had before.

"It wasn't that dumb." she retorted, "It just won't work very well. I don't know how to create make-up, and I don't expect any of you to know how to make it either."

"Uh, true." he made a small, amused smile, before he lay down beside her, despite the fact that she was sitting up, "So, you ready to enjoy whatever dinner Katara makes?"

"Enjoy is an overstatement." she narrowed her eyes at him.

It was not out of any spite toward his sister, rather from the honest truth that the food she would make might fill her stomach, but she wouldn't find it pleasing to consume.

"Hey, it won't be that bad." he prodded her, Azula shrugging her shoulders.

"I didn't say it would be bad." she clarified, "I just said I won't enjoy it."

"I always enjoy food, even if it isn't the best." he gave his own opinion, despite that fact she hadn't asked.

"Yeah, I know that. That's what defines you as a person- a love of food." she stated blankly, though she said the last part with upturned lips, knowing that there were better things to live by.

"And of you." he added on the end, making her twitch slightly.

She hadn't been expecting those words, and she tried to hold back a smile upon hearing it; she hadn't asked for his reassurance, but even then, she received it, and Azula couldn't make any argument to say that annoyed her. Sokka could sure be annoying at times, but he could never annoy her by telling her what she needed to hear, whether it made her happy or not.

Sokka tilted his head slightly, before looking at her with concerned eyes, "Are you okay?" he asked her, the Princess still having tried to retain a blank, uncaring expression on her face, though it faltered when she sighed.

"I'm fine." she simply told him, before leaning forward and kissing him on the cheek, "Thanks." she whispered into his ear, before leaning back, flicking her bangs away from her face as she glanced back toward him.

"You confuse me sometimes." he acknowledged, before smiling at her brightly, "But that's okay, I like a little mystery."

"Okay, so that's how you're going to spin it?" she prodded her boyfriend, who chuckled to himself.

"What, it's true, though." he tried to reassure her, "Anyway, are we going to go outside? Katara might think we're getting the oogies on."

"Could you not call it that? We're not eight." she sighed with annoyance, remembering Sokka's childish term for romantic gestures.

Sometimes his immaturity was truly grating, though she didn't honestly care; she would have actually preferred 'the oogies' over Katara's cooking, though she didn't want to say that to her boyfriend's face, lest he accidentally tell his sister that and start another fight between the two girls.

"Okay, okay, Katara might think we're doing inappropriate things." he rephrased himself, making her roll her eyes.

"Let's just go outside, Sokka." she gestured back toward the opening in the canvas; he followed after her as she climbed out of the tent, glancing back over toward where she had last seen Aang and Katara, spotting the two of them mixing ingredients in a pot.

The couple approached them, the other two looking at them with interest, "Oh, so are you going to help with dinner?" the Water Tribe girl asked them, Azula shrugging her shoulders.

"No. I was thinking when it was going to be made." she retorted, making the other girl's brow twitch.

"When I've mixed all the ingredients." she clarified, before gesturing to the pot, "Then you can cook it."

"You mean hold my hands over a pot for spirits know how long?" she asked her, actually offended that she wanted her to use her bending to do something so trivial, "You do realise we can just find some kindling around here to make an actual fire, right?"

"Oh, that's a better idea." Aang agreed with her, before he glanced around their makeshift campsite, "But where is the kindling? I don't see any bushes around here."

"There's grass along this stream. Somewhere, there has to be some dead plants, ripe to burn." she gestured in the direction of the stream, before glancing back toward Katara, "Also, unless you can purify it with your waterbending, you'd best leave the pot to put some of that stream water in."

"What do you know about water purification?" she asked her with a skeptical voice.

"Not much. I know it's used in the Fire Nation to make sure diseases don't spread in cities, but seeing that I lived in a palace my whole life, I don't know how to do it."

"Melting snow is a lot safer than stream water." Sokka admitted, before raising a finger, "But boiling it should do the trick..." before he looked at her, remembering their first proper conversation all those months ago, "we didn't get sick then, did we?"

"No. The only thing I was worrying about was a twisted ankle."

"Aha! So you were worried!" he pointed at her accusingly, the Princess rolling her eyes; she had tried to ignore her foot at the time, and told Sokka just that, but that didn't mean that it wasn't in the back of her mind.

"I was concerned as much as I ought to be... my desire to escape that damn forest greatly outweighed my desire to see my foot heal." she clarified, the Water Tribe boy continuing to hold a smug look on his face.

"I believe you." he told her with a sarcastic voice, which she tried to ignore, as she tried to argue against throwing a fireball at him just because he was being smug, as much as part of her thought that was a brilliant idea.

"So, are you going to get the kindling?" Katara prodded her, the Princess rolling her eyes.

"Seeing that you're making the actual food, I don't see an issue with that." she observed the allocation of tasks, which she would admit was a little haphazard as of late.

Azula turned around, pacing past Appa, looking at the small stream that flowed down the valley, which was quite shallow, meaning that the stream was more of a line of puddles in the mud rather than an actual coherent flow of water. She approached the edge of it, looking at the grasses growing around the edge of the mud; the Princess ran her eyes along the length of the river, trying to spot out any bushes or dead grass that could serve as kindling. To her frustration, all the plants she could see were green, though she thought that might have had something to with dead plants being the same colour as the yellow soil that covered the base of the valley.

She heard Sokka's voice behind her, "Hey, wait up." he requested, the Princess coming to a halt as she glanced back his way.

"I can help carry whatever we find. That means we can have a bigger fire." he explained, Azula agreeing with his idea.

"More fuel makes fires last longer." she stated a common known fact about natural fires, before she began to pace along the edge of the stream.

"Can we burn the grass?" he asked her, gesturing to the tuffs of grreen along the edge of the mud.

"It wouldn't be as efficient. I don't want to be the one powering the fire, even if I'm capable of it. I need to save my strength." she explained herself, making him look a t her with a concerned expression.

"Uh... when you say that, it sounds like you're preparing for a fight." he observed, Azula's eyes darting down to her palm, in which she created a small blue flame.

"Wise leaders are ready for a fight, but avoid them when they're unnecessary." she recited a proverb she once heard, making him snicker at her.

"And you're our leader?" he challenged her claim, making the Princess raise a brow at him; she raised her flame covered palm up, the fireball growing larger as she willed it to, lighting Sokka's face a blue hue.

"I wouldn't try contesting that claim, for your own good."

The tent might have been dark, but beside the girl he loved, Sokka was always warm; he was amused that it was true both figuratively and literally, seeing that she was a crazy powerful firebender. He enjoyed her company, even if they were mocking each other, or kissing each other, or even trying to punch each other in the face, which seemed to happen more often than not. stretched his arms out, yawning as he tried to get comfortable in his and Azula's sleeping roll; she grunted with frustration as he accidentally whacked his arm into her head, her eyes narrowing at him with annoyance.

"Uh... sorry?" he apologised to his girlfriend, who simply sighed, rolling around to turn away from him.

He felt bad about having knocked her, so instead of staying quiet, he reached out with his right hand, grasping her shoulder; she shuddered from his touch, though she calmed down immediately after. He was concerned that she tended to twitch whenever he laid a hand on her, but he could understand that she simply just didn't like people touching her, rather than it being a personal dislike.

"I thought you'd be in a better mood." he admitted, the Princess remaining unresponsive, the only noticeable movement being that she tried to push her head further into the thin pillow they had at the end of their sleeping roll.

"Maybe don't be so clumsy, next time." she simply suggested with a snide voice, before she raised her hand up, underneath the sleeping roll, which he noticed by the change in weight above him; her hand, instead of trying to push his own off over her shoulder, simply grasped his, pulling it, and by extension, Sokka's whole body, closer to her.

"Oh, so you want to spoon." he chuckled, the Princess turning her head slightly.

"I never said that. I'd want you to hold me." she clarified; Azula always wanted to make her actions seem less awkward or cute than they actually were- she was the tough Princess, after all.

"Okay, holding you, coming right up." he jokingly commentated on his future actions, reaching his arm around her torso to hold her, nuzzling his face momentarily on her neck, which made her shiver slightly, before he let his head rest down on the pillow, "You smell nice."

"I smell like you." she retorted bluntly, "You can guess why."

He knew exactly why, because they had been enjoying themselves ever since they got back to the tent after dinner; a good way to burn off the food, she had offhandedly remarked, which he found to be both insightful, and amusing, given the context.

"I smell nice." he joked, making her give out a fake, obnoxious sounding laugh.

"Ha, ha, ha, wow, you sure do, Sokka." she sarcastically remarked, making him scrunch up his lips, now feeling self-conscious about his odour.

"Do I actually smell bad?" he whispered, the Princess snorting with amusement.

"If you don't wash, you do." she stressed, "We don't have much water around, so I doubt you'll get a chance anytime soon."

"Unless Katara splashes me with her waterbending after we have an argument." he suggested, making his girlfriend giggle.

"Enticing someone into anger so they can unintentionally clean you." she observed his idea, "That's the kind of plan I want to be hearing more often from you."

"What, do you want me to prod people into doing things I want them to?" has asked her, unsure if she was specifically referring to his idea or was just complimenting his wit.

"Like making an enemy firebender burn down the house they're in by making fun of them." she suggested, confirming the former suspicion he had.

"I'll keep that in mind." he mumbled, before leaning his face closer to her nape once more, putting his face in her tresses, "But right now, Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe needs to sleep." he explained his actions in the most amusing way he could.

She snickered slightly, before he snuggled in closer to her, letting himself relax as he felt her warmth; she was always so warm, but he was able to discern, with some practice and intuition, her mood, just from her temperature. When Azula was warmer than usual, it was because she was either angry, openly or otherwise, genuinely happy, or rather simply 'in the mood'; when she was colder than usual, that meant she was usually feeling sad, conflicted or perhaps just bored. As he was drifting off to sleep, he felt a sudden shaking in the ground beneath him; he thought for a moment there was an earthquake, but his thoughts quickly turned to the more likely answer- somebody was going to attack them. Azula's head moved up from their pillow, and she growled with annoyance, obviously coming to the same conclusion as he did. The shaking intensified, though it was obviously not right underneath them; Sokka tended to get nervous with threats that others might dismiss as trivial, so with something so blatantly wrong, he was beginning to panic. He heard Appa growling just after, which was never a good sign. The Princess rose up to her feet, grabbing him by the shoulder as she did so, prodding him into doing the same, though he didn't need much enticement. As he did, he grabbed his boomerang, which was in its sheath, from behind where their heads were resting, and readied it in his hand.

"Who's there?!" Azula called out into the darkness, though after a few seconds of awkward silence, it seemed like no one intended to respond.

She grumbled with annoyance, flames sparking around her hands, which momentarily lit up their tent; he could see the anger in her eyes, and more than that, the determination to protect them from whatever threat lay outside. They both strode forward, crouching as they pushed the canvas flaps out of the way, looking around outside of their tent. Sokka took note that they had been surrounded by walls of earth, all the way around Appa and their two tents; the sky-bison obviously wasn't happy about what had just happened, and proceeded to whack his tail into the rocks, making them shake, though it didn't seem to do much damage.

"What's going on?!" Aang called out, stepping out of his tent with his staff in hand; Sokka could only see him because the embers of their campfire were still burning hot, which dimly lit the campsite a reddish hue.

"Stop right now, unless you want to be buried!" he heard a man's voice call out, the group tensing up, Azula clenching her fists shut, stopping any more flames from forming, which seemed to have been an involuntary reaction on her behalf.

"We're not here to hurt anybody!" Aang called out with as reassuring a voice he could make.

"Why should we trust you?" the same voice accusingly questioned them, from behind the wall, Sokka glanced around, examining his boomerang for a moment.

"I can hear where he is. Should I thr-" he began to ask his girlfriend, before he was cut off by the sound of another voice.

"Drop the weapon!" he heard a girl's voice this time, and from her pitch, she sounded to be young; probably younger than them, which seemed rather confusing to Sokka.

He had no idea why an adolescent girl would be attacking them, nor how she could see his boomerang, seeing that there was a wall of rocks surrounding them; the Water Tribe teen glanced around, checking to see if there was a girl standing on the walls, but saw nobody.

"Sokka! Do as she says!" Aang demanded with grit teeth and a tense voice, the Water Tribe teen sighing as he dropped his boomerang on the ground beside him, not knowing what they had gotten themselves into.

"Urgh..." he groaned, unsure who they were facing; they were obviously earthbenders, though whether they were associated with the rebels, or just some random bandits who found their camp was yet to be seen, "I have a feeling we should have just kept flying, Appa." he spoke to the sky-bison, who growled, obviously agitated after the walls popped out of nowhere.

"Please, there's no need to fight. You see... I'm the Avatar." Aang gave away his identity, which was either a dumbass or genius move on his behalf, depending on what happened next.

"The Avatar?" the same man questioned out again, before chuckling, "Are you hearing this kid? The Avatar?" he spoke off to whom Sokka assumed were his comrades.

"I can prove it!" he assured them, the earthbenders responding by making the ground shake once more, dragging their feet into the ground, making them unable to move; Aang had jumped up into the air just in time, using his glider to fly right above the campsite, gliding around, ready to attack their opponents if need be.

"Are you seeing this?!" another voice called out, "He's flying!"

"He wasn't lying." he heard the same girl speak out once more, in an annoyed tone; it was as if she thought the others were stupid for doubting Aang, which intrigued him- he guessed she had seen his tattoos.

"Oh, okay, Miss Lie Detector, then go ahead, ask the 'Avatar' a question." one of the earthbenders suggested, Sokka glancing around, still unable to see their attackers, not helped by his feet being encased in stone; Azula was looking rather frustrated as well, pointing her left finger down and conjuring a small flame.

"I can break your binds." she told him with a whisper, "Do we want to try and resist?" she asked him almost rhetorically, suggesting that she was ready to start fighting if given the call.

"I think these are the people we're looking for." he argued, making her sigh with frustration, the flame disappearing.

"Okay, fine then." the same girl growled with a now annoyed voice, "What's your name?" she called up into the air, Aang gliding down past her, calling out as he flew by.


"I need you to get on the ground so I can check if you're telling the truth!" she shouted out with a similar boisterous tone, as if to mock him.

"Oh, okay!" he called back out, before he landed down on the other side of the wall.

"What is he doing?" Sokka heard his sister ask out, stuck with her own feet in the ground right by the entrance of her tent.

The girl addressed him once more, "Wow, you're a lot more gullible than I thought."

"Hey! My feet!" he called out, before he groaned, "I flew right into that one."

"You sure did, Mister Avatar." she quipped, before suddenly, the ground shook once more, the rock walls that had been obscuring their view disappearing.

Sokka gasped as he realised their campsite was surrounded by men dressed in the garb of Earth Kingdom soldiers, or at least what he assumed Earth Kingdom soldiers looked like; he hadn't actually encountered any prior to that point, barring the deserters he and Azula fought in the forest. He spotted the girl, who had ensnared Aang's feet with her earthbending; she was noticeably short, though not much more than the Air Nomad in front of her, wearing a drab, beige tunic with a green shirt and pants underneath, her hair covering her face in a messy fringe.

"Now, now, I'd like to hear the facts. Seeing that I can tell if you're lying, you better not lie." she suggested, the young Avatar nodding with a sigh.

"Uh, yeah, I can do that, I guess." he mumbled, before she raised her hand up, earthbending a chair out of the dirt, which she forced him to sit on, "Huh, a chair. Thanks!" he smiled at her, making Sokka face-palm; he was being a little too cooperative for comfort.

"Your name is Aang?" she asked him, taking what he had said before, the boy nodding.

"Yep." he told her with an enthused voice, "What's your name?"

"Not a relevant question." she raised a finger, before putting her hand on her hip, "Now, if you're the Avatar, which I'm guessing you are, because they just said you were flying... and only airbenders fly." she began, the Air Nomad nodding along, "Then why are you here?"

"Uh... well, it's a long story. You see-" he began, the Water Tribe boy shouting out, deciding that he could cut their 'interrogation' short with less words.

"Do you know Bato?!" he asked out, the girl tilting her head slightly.

"Oh, the other one's doing the questions now." she observed, "What's he to you?"

"Uh, well, he's my Dad's best friend, for one. And he came from a group of Earth Kingdom rebels back to our village a few weeks ago. He was saying that he thought we could join forces, and... well, here we are!" he explained, the girl stepping forward, resting her arm on the chair she had made for Aang.

"Huh... that's an odd story. So why is the Avatar in the Water Tribe?" she glanced toward Aang, who cleared his throat.

"Uh, well you see, I was frozen for a hundred years." he explained, making her snort.

"That better be a joke." she scoffed, Azula clearing her throat.

"A hundred and two years." she clarified, Sokka remembering that he had been frozen before Sozin's Comet, which occurred two years before present.

"Oh shit..." the girl mumbled, "He wasn't joking."

"I don't joke about serious things like that." Aang stressed, "These are my friends, they broke me out of the iceberg I was in." he gestured to them.

She narrowed her eyes at them, "Well, this has got to be the weirdest scouting mission ever." she noted, before she dropped her hands, freeing all of them from their bounds, Aang ungracefully falling onto his back as his chair disappeared into the ground.

"Yung, are we taking them in?" she called out to another one of the earthbenders; a man strode through the village, glancing at them all with an intrigued look on his face.

"We will. I'm pretty sure his majesty would like to see them. Especially the Avatar."

"His majesty?" Azula raised a brow with interest, "You have a king?"

"Well, he's not everyone's king, but he does lead our group. The King of Omashu." Yung clarified, making Sokka raise a brow; there still was some remnant of the Earth Kingdom government, even if it was from outside of Ba Sing Se, which was heartening, given the state of affairs that he guessed the rest of the country was experiencing.

"And who are you guys?" the girl stepped forward, approaching Sokka with an odd glare; she was staring off between the group rather than actually toward any single person.

"Uh, I'm Sokka." he clarified, before gesturing towards his sister, who had gotten up after being stuck in the ground, "That's my sister Katara," before he turned toward Azula, planning to use her pseudonym, even if the girl before him could supposedly see if he was lying, "and this is my girlfriend, Saila."

She tilted her chin up, pointing toward him, "One of those things was a lie."

"For fuck's sake Sokka." his girlfriend face-palmed, acknowledging his screw-up; if the earthbender could see when he was lying, then she could obviously figure out that her name wasn't Saila.

She glanced back toward the girl, looking rather tensely at her, "What's your name, or are we going to be stuck calling you Lie Detector Girl?"

"That's not my stage name." she seemingly joked, her lips widening to a grin, which confused the pair more than anything.

"Stage name?" Sokka raised a brow, unsure what such a phrase even meant.

"Like the name an actor uses." Azula clarified, before narrowing her eyes at the girl, "You're not actually an actor, are you?"

"No, I'm a wrestler... or I was one, before I came here." she clarified, interrupted by Aang approaching from behind.

"A wrestler. That's pretty cool." he admitted with an intrigued look on his face.

"Don't change the topic- your name." Azula pointed at the girl, who whacked her hand away, physically, rather than with her earthbending, as Sokka expected her to.

"Toph." she simply told her, "But most people call me the Blind Bandit."

"Okay, that is a cool 'stage name'." Sokka admitted, before crossing his arms, "I'm kinda disappointed we didn't meet you when you were a wrestler."

"Blind Bandit... do you mean that literally?" she asked the earthbender, who chuckled at her suggestive question.

"Well, yes and kinda." she admitted, "I don't steal from anyone other than the Fire Nation, and I am blind."

"Huh." Sokka mumbled, "That's even cooler. Earthbending when she can't even see."

"Oh, I know it is, but it's pretty normal. Earthbending is how I see."

"What?!" Aang piped up with an amazed voice, "That has to be the coolest ability I've ever heard of!"

"Okay, that's 'cool' and all, but are we going to go meet this King of Omashu?" Katara spoke up, Toph raising a brow for a moment, before she nodded in confirmation.

"Yep." she simply responded, before gesturing toward the mountains to the west of them, "Our hideout's that way."

"Leave your things here, you can come collect them after you've met with the King." the man Sokka knew to be called Yung ordered them, making him pout with disappointment.

"Uh... so much for getting a good night's sleep." he mumbled, his girlfriend patting him on the shoulder.

"Oh, don't pout too much, Sokka. At least we actually got found by the rebels instead of spending a whole day looking around for them." she told him, making him raise a brow.

"Uh... Appa, you stay here. Keep our things safe." Aang spoke to his sky-bison, who grunted, before turning to their flying-lemur, who was sitting nearby, "Momo... uh... you can come if you like."

"Yeah, we've got to keep our food safe somehow." Sokka joked, though his words were intended to cover the feeling of fear that he had at that moment.

Azula was being the positive one for once, and that concerned him; he thought she'd be more nervous, given the fact Toph knew that Saila wasn't her name, "How far away is it?" she asked the stout earthbender, who scratched at her chin in thought.

"Oh... not too far." she clarified, before cocking a smirk, "Luckily for me, I don't need to worry about the dark obscuring our path."

"Huh." Sokka narrowed his eyes, thinking perhaps that she had some kind of earthbending vision or something like that; how else could she see without a light source, "This earthbending sight sounds like it'd be really useful."

"It is." Toph grinned at him, before she strode away, not bothering to tell them to follow; she was quickly joined by the other rebel soldiers, who followed in line after Yung, out into the darkness.

"That sounds like quite the technique." Azula raised a finger to her chin in thought, before glancing toward Aang, "You'll have to learn earthbending one day. That sounds like something you should figure out." she suggested, the young Air Nomad grinning at her.

"That's a good idea, A- Saila." he corrected himself, nearly using her real name; luckily, Toph didn't seem to notice him lying, and he continued along as the group followed after the rebels, "I just have to master waterbending first."

"Once we find a master, it won't be that hard, Aang." Katara tried to reassure him, Azula turning away from her boyfriend to face her.

"Okay, since when was learning bending... easy?" she questioned her; given that she was undoubtedly a master firebender, she was an authority on the matter of mastering one's element- Aang was a master too, but unlike her, he was the Avatar, and thus mastery was probably something that came more naturally than anything.

"I'm a prodigy and it still took me eight years of solid training to get to the point at which I could bend, let alone master all my forms." she furthered, the other girl smirking at her confidently, though her face was pretty hard to see, as they had already moved away from the embers of their campfire.

"You don't really need the forms though, do you?" she retorted, Azula sighing; he guessed that she was rolling her eyes, but he couldn't tell because of the darkness.

"No, you're right. But to learn how to fight effectively, one needs to master forms. Forms are a guideline for any bender." she explained herself, "If I didn't have my understanding of them... sure, I'd be a powerful bender, but I'd have no control."

"She has a point, Katara." Aang admitted, the Water Tribe girl making a surprised gasp; it wasn't common that Aang was agreeing with the Princess on something over her, "Without my training, from Monk Gyatso and the scrolls I read, I couldn't have become a master when I was twelve."

"Is anyone else going to comment on the fact we can't see a thing?" Sokka noted, his girlfriend chuckling at him.

"Oh, Sokka, how I'd love to help you with that, but alas I have my own safety to think of." she told him with a mocking tone, obviously insinuating that he was an idiot for asking what he did.

He remained silent for a moment, before he simply nodded, knowing that she was right to not assist with her bending, "Fair enough."

"Just walk straight ahead, you'll be fine." one of the rebels told them, not making him feel any better; they were slowly walking up the valley, which had quite a shallow slope, making him think it'd be a while until they actually reached the rebel hideout.

"Turn left!" he heard Yung call out, ordering the men, and by extension, their group to turn; Sokka could hear the breathing of the rebels in front of them, sounding quite exasperated, which he guessed they would be if they had been scouting around a lot that day.

That breath was easier for him to follow that any direction he was given, and he felt his feet splash in water; they had crossed the stream, and then soon after, the slope began to grow steeper. He heard the sound of earthbending in front of him, and suddenly, light appeared into view, though when his eyes adjusted to it, he realised it was quite dim, coming from a tunnel that sat in front of them; the earthbenders had moved whatever plug had been in place out of the way, and led them into the tunnel, a few remaining by the entrance while the Avatar and his friends walked inside. The tunnel was ever so slightly nauseating to walk through, as it felt quite confining when the entrance was closed off, leaving them in the dim light of the tunnel, which was lit by a torch some way away, up a slight incline. He glanced back toward his girlfriend, grimacing as he thought what might await her; he didn't know whether anyone would recognise her, and he hoped surely that the Freedom Fighters weren't waiting for them.

"Are we going to be alright?" he asked her, the Princess leaning closer to him, with a determined glare on her face, coloured a dim yellow by the distant torchlight.

"I will do what I need to." she told him, before leaning even closer, whispering into his ear.

"We have the most important hostage in the world."

Aang was amazed by what he was seeing; when he thought of a rebel hideout, he might have expected a cave with a few tents and some gruff looking men, like the warriors of the Southern Water Tribe he had met before he left the South Pole. He was so wrong that he would have laughed if it weren't for the awe he felt. The whole 'cave', if he could even call it that, formed a massive sprawling town of sorts, all meticulously carved out with earthbending; it was structured as a single building, somewhat like his home, the Southern Air Temple. He guessed that it must have been new, given the fact that Omashu had supposedly only fallen around three years prior, but that didn't make it any less impressive. He glanced around, taking note of the numerous and hallways that crossed around; he didn't know how many people lived in it, but given that Bato had supposedly travelled all the way from Ba Sing Se to just find them, he knew that it must have been the biggest Earth Kingdom redoubt in the region. It made him smile, knowing that even if Omashu was ruled by the Fire Nation, that didn't mean that the city had disappeared; it had been transformed in a way, and this new city, though very different to the one he knew, was still quite lively; there was market stalls around main hallway they were walking through, though most were closed, given how late it was. Passersby looked at them with awe and surprise, probably not used to foreigners appearing in their secret city; he glanced over to Katara, feeling confident that the Earth Kingdom hadn't truly been defeated, not at least as he had known it before he was frozen.

"This place is amazing, don't you think? It's like what Omashu used to be... though Omashu was on a mountain, not underground." he admitted, shrugging off the triviality of the matter, "That's not important though. Just look at it!" he grinned.

The Water Tribe girl looked at him warmly, "I'm glad you're so happy, Aang." before her eyes narrowed, her face becoming more uneasy, "But are you ready to face this king. You're the Avatar, so you've go to... do your Avatar duties."

"I know that." he nodded intently, "I will. Tomorrow. After we sleep. I hope they have a quicker way out, because that tunnel took a while to walk through."

"Yeah, sure did." Sokka groaned, "I really hope this king has some cushions for us to sit on, because I might... just doze off."

Azula whacked him over the back of the head for his words, "Sokka! Don't act like this is something trivial. We need to meet this King and have a serious conversation."

"Oww..." he grumbled, rubbing the back of his head, "I know. That doesn't mean I'm not ready to face-plant on the dirt right here."

"Me too!" he heard Toph boisterously proclaim ahead of them, making Sokka look at her skeptically.

"Really?" he raised a brow at her, the earthbender's lips forming a grin.

"Well, yeah, I love dirt." she assured him, the Water Tribe teen making a grimace, his girlfriend going even further, sticking her tongue out as if she were to belch.

Aang turned his eyes ahead, focusing on the sent of doors that sat at the end of the long hallway, where two guards stood, wearing more ornate armour than the rebels who had found them, who he was starting to more think of as soldiers; the seeming level of independence and calmness he felt in the underground city made it seem more like a place independent of the Fire Nation, and thus, not exactly rebelling from its rule, even if they wanted to reclaim the former Earth Kingdom city that sat in the valley nearby. The guards looked at them with confused expressions, stepping closer with their pikes in hand, Aang and his friends coming to a halt.

"Hi, I'm Aang. I'm here to see the King of Omashu." he explained, both of them looking at him with surprise; after a few moments of silence, Toph obnoxiously cleared her throat, catching their attention.

"He's the Avatar, dimwits!" she gestured to him with a shout, before motioning her right hand toward them, "Let him see the king."

"Uh, seriously?" one of them dared to question, Yung stepping forward with a more calm demeanour than his comrade.

"She's not trying to trick you. It's the truth. We all saw him airbending." he clarified, "And remember, she can tell if he was lying."

"I thought that was just a rumour." the other guard mumbled with surprise, Toph pointing toward him with a smirk.

"Oh, it isn't a rumour. Do you want me to interrogate you to prove it?" she questioned the two men shaking their heads; it seemed obvious that the guards were afraid of her, and after seeing only a glimpse of her bending, Aang could understand why.

"That won't be necessary, Blind Bandit." one of the guards conceded, the pair stepping back before they pushed the doors open for them.

He looked inside, seeing a rather modest throne room; the room was covered with green fabrics, indicative of them being in the Earth Kingdom, including a large draped banner behind said throne, which had the traditional Earth Kingdom symbol, a golden circle with a square hole in its centre. To his disappointment, there was no king sitting on the throne, and the room was completely empty.

"Where's the king?" Sokka asked with an annoyed voice, "That's who we were here to meet."

"He'll be here soon enough." one of the guards told them, before stepping back; Toph and Yung both looked toward him, though the former quite idly.

"Good luck." she simply told him, "I'm sure he'll be eager to see you."

"Eager?" he raised a brow, Yung grimacing slightly.

"That might be the wrong choice of words on her behalf." he admitted, before he followed her out of the throne room.

Aang glanced back toward the door, watching as it was closed behind them, Sokka and Azula both walking up to stand alongside him with Katara, all of them having somewhat unnerved expressions, though by nature, the Fire Nation Princess was the best at hiding her emotions.

"You think this king's going to be happy you're here?" the Water Tribe boy asked him, sounding a little nervous, though his tone was slow and drawn out, showing how tired he was.

"I don't know." he admitted honestly, before remembering back to the reaction he had gotten on Kyoshi Island, "The Kyoshi Islanders were happy to have me... but they hadn't been attacked by the Fire Nation, not until we came there."

"Yeah, but it was the Fire Nation who conquered Omashu. They probably would have done that whether or not you were here to stop it." Azula added, the young Avatar tensing up.

"What if I hadn't gotten frozen?" he simply asked in return, Katara's expression paling, and her brother making a similar face of unease.

"Then Fire Lord Sozin would have found you and killed you. He would have stopped at nothing." she simply told him, the young Avatar glancing down; he didn't want to think that he had been saved by the iceberg, but at the same time, he didn't want to be ridden with guilt over his unintentional disappearance.

"Don't worry about what could have been. Think about what you could do now." Katara added to the Princess's assurances, earning a surprised look from the girl herself.

"Uh... yes." she nodded, "That's what I meant." he conceded, indirectly acknowledging that her blunt and sometimes morbid way of phrasing things wasn't the best way to describe things to him; Aang might have been twelve-years-old, but that didn't mean that he couldn't understand the horrible things that must have happened to his people, and then to the Earth Kingdom and the Southern Water Tribe.

Suddenly he felt a shaking in the room, taking note of a doorway being opened up by earthbending; he glanced at the dust settling, and then a few moments later, a man walked into view. The first thing he noticed about the man was his stature, standing far taller than any of them, though he was slouching slightly; he was wearing a loose robe over his torso, though Aang guessed that given his stature and the breadth of his shoulders, he probably had muscles to show underneath it. The most odd thing was that the man he saw before him was ancient; he had to be the oldest person Aang had ever seen. He had a twitching left eye, and white tufts of hair on both sides of his head, along with a bushy goatee. He looked at them with surprise, scratching at his goatee as he approached.

"So you must be the Avatar." he simply observed, before he made a small tilt of his head, the closest a monarch could get to bowing, "I welcome you to my city, Omashu Two." he explained, making Sokka raise a brow, stepping forward between him and Aang.

"Wait, did you seriously call it that?" he asked him skeptically; the room remained silent for a good few seconds, Aang starting to become worried that his friend had offended the king, who broke the silence by snorting, amused by his question.

"Ah, of course not!" the elderly king assured him, chuckling at his joke, "It's New Omashu."

"Ah... that makes more sense." the Water Tribe teen acknowledged, before sighing, "Aw man, I'm so tired I can't even find good jokes funny."

The king gestured down to Aang's feet, making him realise that Momo was sitting right there, licking his paws, "Who's your little friend?"

"Momo." he smiled at the lemur, offering him his arm, which he quickly scaled up, perching himself on his shoulder, "I found him at the Southern Air Temple a few weeks ago, all alone."

"Ah..." the king looked him in the eyes, before he narrowed his own slightly, into a more serious expression, "You know that you are the last airbender."

"I guess I am." he pouted slightly, remembering the fact of the matter, "But I'm here now. I'm ready to help the Earth Kingdom... and the rest of the world."

"I'm glad you're here." the King of Omashu acknowledged, before he chuckled, a small smirk forming on his face, "So, do you know how you might be able to help me, young Avatar?"

"Uh... I want to make sure the Fire Nation doesn't give you any trouble. Those nasty guys who still think conquering the Earth Kingdom is okay." he explained himself, the now serious monarch nodding, his eyes sternly focused on the Avatar for a few seconds, before he began to pace backwards toward his throne; Aang momentarily looked at his friends, who were just as in the unknown as he was, so he simply decided to follow, keeping up his pace in line with the old king.

"I know you would like to help... but you see, the Fire Nation here shouldn't be giving us much trouble." he admitted, "The Fire Lord has withdrawn his forces to his 'colonies', which includes my city, though I am unsure how long he will hold it for."

"Do you plan to retake it?" Sokka jumped a question, the King of Omashu raising a finger.

"I don't plan to do anything. Until the right opportunity arises, I will wait. It would be a shame to waste our strengths on a fight we cannot win."

"That's a pretty good strategy, actually." Sokka raised a finger to his chin, glancing over to his girlfriend, "Don't you think so?"

"It's fine... but I don't prescribe to the idea of sitting on my butt when I could be doing something otherwise." Azula narrowed her eyes at her boyfriend, before she glanced at the Avatar, "We're not idling about, Aang. You're going to learn waterbending."

"I know that." he assured her, before he turned back to the king with as conciliatory a smile he could muster, "But, I do think I could help. I'm the Avatar, and making peace is my goal. If I can help that, then I will."

"That's very noble of you." the king acknowledged the merit of his point of view, "But peace is something that takes time. The Fire Nation forces who still control a large portion of my country are loyal to no Fire Lord, and they only seek to destroy. That destruction isn't something I expect even you to stop, not quickly, anyway." he told him with a calm voice, before chuckling, "You're only twelve, aren't you?"

Aang raised a brow at his guess of his age, "Uh, yeah, I am." he nodded, before narrowing his eyes, "There must be something I can do."

"Actually." Katara spoke up, "There's something we might be able to help you with, your highness."

The king gestured toward her with an intrigued, though not necessarily happy expression, "Go on, young lady."

"Our tribe has suffered for a long time because of the Fire Nation, but you probably met Bato. He's the one who told us about your rebels... though he didn't mention this city."

"Our friends are sworn to secrecy, even from their own people." the king clarified, before clearing his throat, "And you were saying?"

"Yes, well, I believe that our tribe... well, not just me, my father too, Chief Hakoda. He wants to help your group, but he wants a fair arrangement."

"I see." the king raised a finger to his goatee, looking off idly into the distance, "Well, you have brought me the Avatar, and for that, you have my thanks." he admitted, glancing toward Aang, "If I can trust you to guide him on his journey, then I can trust your tribe. I will see what can be done to help them. I know that they have quite a number of ships."

"Yeah, the best ships." Sokka piped up, his girlfriend shooting him a glare, obviously thinking his words were a little ignorant.

Even if they made him feel nervous, even Aang agreed that the Fire Nation built far better and faster ships than the Water Tribes; he had only seen Water Tribe ships from afar, and that had been one hundred years prior, so he was unsure if they were still the same.

"Well, our ships could help you, your highness." Katara suggested, "We could help your rebels move around to different parts of the Earth Kingdom. Spread your cause and hopefully, free your country."

"That is quite the proposition. What did you want in return?" he simply asked, the Water Tribe girl glancing at her brother for a moment before she turned her eyes back to the King of Omashu.

"The resources to rebuild our tribe, and to destroy our enemies." she admitted, "The Southern Raiders are a scourge on our nation, and we want to wipe them away, and bring peace to the Southern Seas."

"How can I help you with that?" he asked her, the Water Tribe girl clearing her throat.

"They must operate out of ports in the Earth Kingdom. If your rebels attacked them, then the Southern Raiders could be crippled."

"I would have to speak with my best skirmishers, but I am sure they are up for the task. That would be a fair price for us to pay." he conceded, before pulling a smirk, "But I would like to know something from you all."

"Uh... what was it?" Aang asked him, feeling unnerved by such an open-ended question.

"Why are you travelling with the Crown Princess of the Fire Nation?" he asked them, making Aang's eyes widen with utter shock; how had he seen through Azula's Water Tribe garbs that easily?

"Oh fuck." Sokka mumbled, "And all I wanted to do was get some nice sleep!" he groaned with frustration; the young Avatar turned his focus back to the Princess, who looked shocked, though that expression subsided, quickly replaced by one of anger.

"There's only two ways you've recognised me." she declared, "You either saw my wanted posters, and my brother hired some excellent artists, in which case, I'd like to see said posters." she began, making Aang raise a brow at her almost joking way of talking about such a serious matter, "Or you've been warned about me by somebody else... not Toph, because she couldn't tell who I am."

The king chuckled at her words, raising a finger to contest her, "Well, the first part is half right. They did make some quite life-like posters." he conceded, before narrowing his eyes, "The second part, is also right. I have friends who knew about the events at Yu Dao, so I was prepared that you might eventually appear in my city... though I never expected it like this."

"Friends who..." she mumbled, before she suddenly drew flames into her hands, "Oh you're fucking kidding me!" she screamed out, shocking Aang and Katara with her sudden outburst, though her boyfriend was not surprised at all.

"You're in the Order of the White Lotus too, aren't you?" Sokka accused him, the King nodding.

"Indeed, I am." he admitted, before gesturing to her, "I recommend you calm her down. I don't mean to brag, but fighting in here would not end well for her."

"Oh... you've dragged me into this damn prison of a city. That was very smart of you." she conceded, before narrowing her eyes at him, her voice now calming down, though only slightly, "But you didn't know I'd be with the Avatar."

"That is true." he agreed, "You are quite the deductor."

"I figure things out on the fly, your highness." she told him, though her words were not of deference, but of spite, "Aang, I don't feel comfortable making bed with my Uncle's pals, so, if you don't mind, I'm going back to my bed and dream this conversation never happened." she told him with an a matter of fact, nonchalant tone, before turning her heels.

"You didn't answer my question." the king spoke up, catching all of their attention once more, "Why is she with you?"

"She found him, that's why!" Sokka gestured to Aang, who nodded, remembering that morning as clearly as he did the day he was told he was the Avatar.

"She broke me out of the iceberg, and she did it, despite whatever things she did before." he explained, not wanting to get into the details of Azula's prior deeds; she hadn't been the kindest person, but it wasn't as if she were evil incarnate.

"That's... surprising, to say the least." he admitted, "She's a descendant of the man who wiped out your people."

"I know. She was upfront about that too. I didn't believe her at first... but I saw what had happened to the Southern Water Tribe, and then my home, and now here... Omashu's fallen."

"She's not going to do anything brash." Sokka assured him, the king raising his chin up, looking at them all with an aloof look.

"I don't believe you're lying. I could have the Blind Bandit check, but I don't think I'll need to." he admitted, before turning his eyes to Aang, "You already have a firebending master, it seems."

"Yeah, that's the idea." he grinned at him, happy that he didn't even need to worry about such an issue, knowing the Princess was more than capable of training him in firebending; if she could help Katara with waterbending, despite knowing next to nothing about the element, then she could definitely teach him how to firebend when the time came.

"But, no waterbending master... unless, one of these two is." he gestured to Sokka and Katara.

"I'm a non-bender." the Water Tribe boy raised his voice, "And my sister, well, she's not a master."

"Yet." she clarified his words; the young Avatar smiled at that mention, knowing that with the right training, she could become just that.

"And no earthbending master." he furrowed a brow, before grinning, "But I do have quite the assortment of masters for you to choose from. Many of my finest followers are master benders."

"Like Toph?" Aang raised a brow, the king nodding with a giddy look on his face.

"She's special that one. Blind, yet she is able to use her bending to replicate the sense she lacks." he explained, "I'd say she's a master, but she hasn't fought me yet."

"You?" Sokka raised a brow at him skeptically, "You realise you're like a hundred years old or whatever, right?"

His sister shot him a glare, "Sokka!" she grit her teeth at him, the king shaking a hand at them.

"Oh no, you're right, I'm old. A hundred and fourteen to be exact." he clarified, before smirking, "But that doesn't mean I'm any less great a bender then when I was twenty!" he declared, standing up flicking his hand up and suddenly shifting the ground around them, creating a table out of stone.

"Wow!" Katara gasped with amazement, "You just did that like it was nothing."

"It was. I carved the tunnels of this new city myself." he explained with a cocky smirk on his face.

Aang looked at him with awe, before he remembered one thing that he had mentioned- he said he was a hundred and fourteen, which according to Azula's estimations was how old he was as well. The king's giddy grin made him realise exactly who he was, without any doubt.

"Wait a second! You're Bumi!" he exclaimed, the king snorting as he slapped his thigh.

"Oh, you finally figured it out!" he grinned at him, "You know, I thought you were smarter than that, Aang."

"Wait, you know this guy?" Sokka looked at him with confusion.

"Yeah, he was my friend, before I was frozen. We're the same age... technically." he clarified, making the Water Tribe teen's eyes widen with surprise.

"Wow, that's an... odd coincidence." he furrowed a brow, before stepping closer with a suspicious look on his face, "So, if you're in the Order of the White Lotus... why don't you ask Iroh for your city back?"

"Because the situation in the Fire Nation is less than ideal." he simply explained, Azula raising a brow with interest.

"Oh, so my brother really is incompetent." she spoke up, catching all of their attention.

"No, it's because it is now common knowledge that your father, the former Fire Lord Ozai, is alive." he corrected her, making the Princess gulp with an uneasy look.

"So, the rebels want to reinstall my father, is that it?" she asked Bumi, who nodded.

"Indeed, that's exactly what's happened. If Fire Lord Zuko gave me back my city, it's just as likely all of the goons in the city that don't agree with that decision will just kick out the Governor and rule it like a bunch of hog monkeys." he explained his thoughts on the matter, Aang nodding along with interest.

"So that's why you haven't done anything yet." he deduced, "But... what if you just surrounded the city. Couldn't they just surrender?"

"It's not that I doubt the intentions of Fire Lord Zuko to make peace, but I doubt that his soldiers will think the same if we did so." he explained, before he sighed, "Aang, I know you are only twelve, but you have to be the Avatar."

"You want me to confront the Fire Nation?"

"No." he shook his head, "I need you to master the elements. The world needs you to master the elements. If you don't, then the Fire Nation rebels will continue to fight with us, and perhaps even be bold enough to try and overthrow the Fire Lord. That would not end well for anyone."

"Yes, it wouldn't." Azula grit her teeth, her expression forming a snarl, "Now, King Bumi, could we actually go back to our camp and sleep?" she requested of him, the king raising his hand, which suddenly caused the doors to open behind them.

"Toph will escort you back to your camp, and you may rest. After that, we can discuss what comes next for you, Aang." he turned to his friend, who walked up to him with a bittersweet expression; his friend was so old, and he had lived through his entire life, probably thinking he was dead.

As his friends walked back toward the door, leaving them with a small bit of privacy, Aang decided to let his feelings be known, "I'm sorry, Bumi." he simply told him, the old king looking down at him with a sympathetic smile.

"There's nothing to be sorry about, Aang. You're back in the world of the living." before he furrowed a brow, "Though being frozen for a hundred years... that'd make anyone a little crazy." he joked, the young Avatar shaking his head.

"I'm not crazy." he assured him, "It was like no time passed at all." he clarified the fact of the matter, "All I feel is regret. I should have been here. We should have been the ones to fight together, against the Fire Nation, before they could have conquered the world." he admitted, his friend looking at him with a slightly solemn face.

"I would have liked that, Aang." he admitted, the terseness in his voice telling him that he was being truthful, "But, even now, you can still be a great Avatar." he assured him, before he glanced over toward the door, "I'm still shocked by seeing Princess Azula with you. That's... a bit of a turn around, from what I've heard of her."

"Yeah, I felt the same when I found out what she used to do." he admitted, before smiling at his friend, "But I think she's not that bad. I'm sure she won't do anything too crazy."

"You best beware the Fire Nation, whether they like you or not, because those loyal to her brother, they will take the bounty on her head without a second thought." he warned him, the young Avatar grimacing.

"Really? Maybe we should try and avoid the Fire Nation colonies then." he admitted, the old king pulling at his beard.

"Yes, that would be the best idea." he agreed, before placing a hand on his shoulder, "You have to help your friends, and they'll help you back."

"Just like you would have?" he asked Bumi, who smiled at him warmly, the two of them hugging as he remembered the last time they had seen each other, which to Aang didn't seem that far in the past, but for his friend, was a lifetime ago.

"Yes, just I would have."

Wiping the sleep from her eyes, Katara glanced around the streets of the city of New Omashu, taking note of all the people inside; she was still carrying her things to their temporary accommodation, having had to take their things off of Appa's saddle into the small apartment they had been offered by Bumi, who was more than willing to give them some place to stay for a few days while they restocked and relaxed for a little bit. They had been travelling for more than a week straight after they left Kyoshi Island, and she was exhausted from it; she was also sleep-deprived, although she planned to solve that issue by napping that afternoon, but first, she intended to go see what the city had to offer, and perhaps befriend some people. The only person they had met other than the king himself was Toph, a snarky earthbending girl who had trapped them in their camp when they were trying to sleep; she seemed funny and likable enough to hang around, but Katara had the issue of not knowing where she was. Aang was helping her with the bags, and he sped up from behind her with a grin on his face.

"Come on, Katara, let's go!" he prodded her, the Water Tribe girl trying to speed up her pace to no avail.

"I can't run." she simply told him, the Air Nomad pouting slightly as he looked back at her.

"Oh, okay." he mumbled, "Are you still tired?"

"Uh, yeah." she nodded, following after him as he approached the front door of their apartment; he pushed the wooden door open, revealing the dimly lit interior, which consisted of a few beds, as well as a table for them to sit at.

"I think I'm going to go out and do some training once we're done here."

"Ooooh..." he raised a brow, "Okay, I was going to go talk with Bumi again. There's a lot for me to catch up on." he explained his own intentions, the Water Tribe girl smiling at him.

"I'm happy that you've found an old friend." she admitted, before she placed her bag down, "But I'm going to try and make some new ones."

"Toph?" he asked her, Katara shrugging her shoulders; that was her intention, though whether she could actually find said girl was the real question.

"If I can find her. She might be training right now for all I know. I don't really know what 'Earth Kingdom rebels' do, honestly." she admitted, making the young Avatar snicker.

"Rebel from the Fire Nation?" he guessed, to which she raised a brow.

"I mean, Bumi did say that they were trying to avoid fighting them."

"That doesn't mean they can't rebel. Spread the word, get people to see there's hope." he argued, making Katara's eyes widen, realising that he had a pretty good point, "That's my whole idea, actually. Fighting the Fire Nation is going to be tough, but if I can make people believe that the war can end, then maybe they'll stop."

"That's a good idea, Aang." she agreed with him, before turning back toward the door, "A better idea is getting the rest of our bags."

"True." he snickered, before he strode out the door after her, "I wonder what Sokka and Azula are doing right now." he mumbled, making her ponder that issue; she knew her brother was grumpy about losing sleep, but after he woke up, both he and Azula said they would go do some training- where though, she didn't know, as they had disappeared soon after they had gotten back into New Omashu.

"Probably just beating each other up. That's nothing new." she conceded, the young Avatar furrowing a brow.

"They have a... weird relationship." he observed, the Water Tribe girl snickering.

"Oh, weird is an understatement." she joked, making him chuckle slightly, though he seemed rather unsure whether to do so; her words were a little mean, and even she knew that, but that didn't mean that she couldn't make a joke about it.

"Do you think they actually do normal couple things? Like go on a date or something?" he asked, the Water Tribe girl tilting her head to the side as she thought back to what her brother had said on such matters.

"Sokka likes to call them 'activities', though I don't know if they've actually done anything together like that. There wasn't much opportunity to do so in our village, other than fishing or hunting together." she admitted, before narrowing her eyes, "Are you saying we should make them go on an actual date?"

"Uh... I guess." he mumbled, sounding uncertain in himself, "But, I don't want to force them to do anything. Sparring's fine as long as they don't hurt each other."

As they approached Appa once more, who was sitting out in one the larger tunnels of the city, where he could fit comfortably, unlike inside of their apartment.

The sky-bison groaned slightly, Aang looking at him sympathetically, "Don't worry, buddy. I'll take you outside later today. I know caves aren't you thing." he assured him, patting his sky-bison on the neck, before he jumped up onto the saddle, picking out the last bag.

"This is the last one." he simply noted, Katara gesturing to him, indicating for him to bring it over.

"I'll take it back to the apartment. You should just go and enjoy your time with Bumi. We'll have to leave in a few days, so you might as well enjoy it." she suggested, making him beam at her brightly.

"Thanks, Katara!" he grinned, jumping down and handing the bag over into her hands, "You're great." he complimented her, before he darted off down the hallway, "Good luck!" he waved to her, Katara using her free hand to wave back, before she turned her eyes to Appa.

"At least he's in a good mood." she told him, patting the sky-bison on the neck, "You stay safe, Appa."

The sky-bison nuzzled her slightly, before he licked her arm, which disgusted her slightly, but she tolerated it, knowing that it was an act of affection from the giant fluffy beast. She then began to pace back toward their apartment, noticing that the pedestrian were rather surprised by Appa sitting in the middle of their tunnel, which made sense, given the fact it was challenging to even get him into there in the first place. She got back to the apartment quickly, given that the bag she was carrying only contained some spare clothes, which took up little space and didn't weigh much either. Opening the door, she glanced back inside, just checking if Sokka and Azula hadn't just shown up while she and Aang were retrieving the last bag. They hadn't, and she wasn't surprised at all by that; they were probably out fighting, or maybe even doing inappropriate things she didn't want to think about. All she knew is that they would be avoiding others, and were probably off outside somewhere, though obviously not too far from the underground city, given the danger the Fire Nation posed to Azula's safety. She placed the bag down by the others they had taken into the room, Katara knowing that they'd all have to unpack before they went to bed that night; even though she was underground, she still had a decent estimation of what time of day it was, given that they had woken up shortly after sunrise, and soon after, taken their things on top of Appa, and into the underground city.

She sighed, before turning her heels, deciding she was going to go the training area of the city, where ever that happened to be; she guessed with all the rebels in the city, they'd have to have a big area for them to all hone their fighting skills, given they'd want to do that if they expected to fight the Fire Nation. She made her way down the tunnel she had just taken, leading her back to where Appa was still sitting around, now drinking some water from a trough that he had been given; he didn't mind her as she walked by, glancing down the larger tunnel to try and figure out exactly where to go. She knew down to her left would lead her to Bumi's throne room, and to her right would take her toward the entrance that they had taken to get into the city the night prior. She decided to head in the direction of the throne room, knowing that it was around what she assumed was the centre of New Omashu. Seeing that nobody had provided her with much directions in the first place, she realised that she would have some trouble finding anything in the city without spotting it with her own two eyes.

She made her way down the large tunnel, taking note of a few market stalls that were propped up alongside it; she knew that she ought to go buy some food before they left the city, but kept that thought out of mind for that moment. Bumi was to be throwing them a feast in recognising the Avatar's return that evening; that meant she didn't need to go out and buy food, which she would usually need to make dinner for the group, seeing that she was the most skilled in doing so. She reached a crossroads in the tunnels, seeing two paths to her left and right, and noted that each of them led down for quite some distance; she didn't know which path to take, and decided to take her luck with taking a left turn. The tunnel went on for some distance, and it was lined with more apartments and even a few workshops, where she guessed they would make and repair weapons that the rebels used to fight, as well as more mundane things like furnishings and cooking equipment.

When she reached the end of the large tunnel, or rather the bend in it, she was forced to turn to her right, where she could see what she had been looking for; a large cavern that was lit up with numerous torches and full of men and women training, some of them with earthbending and others with weapons. She walked into the large cave, taking note of a large group of earthbenders attacking one figure, although they were obscured from view by their attackers movements, creating pillars out of the ground and throwing stones all toward the centre of their circle. This didn't seem to do them much good when they were all flung back smaller pillars, each striking the earthbenders off of their feet and onto their backs. She watched in awe as when the dust cleared, seeing that the victor of the fight she had just witnessed was Toph, the girl who had captured them the night prior. She understood why it was lucky they hadn't started fighting her as she walked away from her beaten opponents.

"Better luck next time!" she mocked them, before she came to a halt, obviously noticing that Katara had approached with her earthbending senses, "Ah... Kakara, was it?"

"Katara." she clarified her name, stressing it with a slightly frustrated tone, "I saw you kick some serious butt right there."

"Wasn't it great? I just flung 'em back. They're really predictable, you know? That's probably why the Earth Kingdom never kicked the Fire Nation back to their islands- they probably memorised all their forms." she went on a short tirade, before Katara raised a brow.

"What forms were you using?" she asked, just curious to see another benders opinion on such techniques, seeing that she and her friends had had a somewhat heated argument about them the day prior.

"Forms?" she raised a brow before laughing, "I don't need forms! I learnt earthbending from the original earthbenders!"

"The original earthbenders?" she raised a brow with curiosity.

"Yeah, the badgermoles. They're blind like me. They taught me how to become the greatest earthbender in the world." she proclaimed; even Azula wasn't as blatantly prideful of her abilities as Toph seemed to be, much to her surprise.

"Huh, the greatest?" she asked her, the skeptical nature of her question not missing the earthbender, who cocked a brow at her with slight annoyance.

"Oh, is that a challenge?"

"No- no it isn't!" she raised her hands, knowing that there was no way she had any chance of beating Toph; the only way she'd have any advantage against her is if they were in South Pole, surrounded by ice and water, or in the middle of the sea, where there was no earth for her to bend, "I can barely waterbend as it is."

"Sounds like you need a master." she raised a brow with interest, Katara nodding tensely, still afraid that the other girl might actually try to fight her.

"I do. That's why we're going to the Northern Water Tribe. To find Aang and I a master... but supposedly they don't teach girls combat waterbending there." she reminded herself of what her grandmother had told her.

"They don't sound very nice." she crossed her arms, "I'd very much like to show whoever came up with that rule a piece of my mind."

"Yeah, I don't know who did, but I agree, it's pretty stupid." she nodded, before glancing around, "But... uh... seeing that you are the greatest earthbender, could you give me some tips on how to be a better bender?"

"Hmph..." she raised a finger to her chin, glancing idly off into the distance, "I mean, I like earth, and being around it helps me attune my bending. Maybe I should toss you in a lake." she pursed her lips into a devious smirk, Katara rolling her eyes.

"Where are you going to find a lake?" she retorted, finding her suggestion to be rather unhelpful.

"You have that big flying creature, don't you? Can't it take you to a lake?"

"How did you know Appa can fly?"

"I've heard of flying bison before, but I thought they were extinct." she clarified, raising a brow, "I'm not as uneducated as might look, Kakara." she chided her, the intentional mispronunciation of her name angering her.

"Urgh..." she rolled her eyes, "You're almost as bad as A- Saila." she clarified, the earthbending girl raising her chin, her expression becoming slightly tense.

"You guys keep lying about her. Is there a reason for that?" she asked her, obviously curious as to what their secret was; she wasn't going to reveal it to her, not when Azula's identity was still a tightly held secret, even if Bumi had recognised her.

"Not one I'm going to tell you." she retorted, crossing her arms.

"Is her real name embarrassing or something?" she prodded, Katara sighing as she tried to figure out a way to respond that wouldn't end up with another question coming from Toph.

"Something like that." she told her the truth, which was that her guess was somewhat accurate; she couldn't mutter 'Azula' without causing a whole lot of strife, and she didn't intend to.

"That wasn't a lie. Huh, so what is it then?" she added another question, the Water Tribe girl rolling her eyes.

"Urgh... I'm not actually going to say it. No matter how many times you ask." she assured her, before turning her heels, "Do you actually have some advice for bending, or do you really want to annoy me?"

"No and yes." she grinned at her, "You're getting all flustered over nothing."

"It's not nothing." she snarled, "I'm keeping my lips sealed." she declared, before she began to walk away, finding herself being looked at by some rather odd looking people.

They were teenagers, some of them about her age, though one of them looked to be older, or just really big, and another looked to be younger than Aang. The odd thing about them was their attire; unlike Toph, and the other rebel fighters, who all seemed to be wearing some variation on the drab green and beige clothes that were common to the Earth Kingdom, they wore make-shift armour of dark colours, a mixture of blues, reds, greens and browns.

"Are you Sokka's sister?" one of them asked her, a girl with an unusual amount of eyeliner and short cut hair.

"Uh... yeah." she nodded, "Who's asking?"

"We're the Freedom Fighters." one of them stepped forward, a teenage boy with medium length messy brown hair and lightly tanned skin, whose piercing eyes made her feel a little uncomfortable to be in his gaze, "We met him in Ba Sing Se, and we came here with Bato."

"Ah, Sokka mentioned you guys." she nodded, remembering the stories all too well, "You saved him in Ba Sing Se. Well... not you." she acknowledged, before pointing to the girl who had spoken before, who she guessed, from her brother's own descriptions, was Smellerbee, and the boy beside her was Longshot, who wore blue robes and a conical straw hat, "You two."

"That'd be correct." Smellerbee nodded with a smirk, "I bet you've heard about us from whatever story your brother's been telling."

"The one where he got drunk and nearly kidnapped by the Dai Li. Yeah, it's one of them." she acknowledged, hearing a laugh behind her, coming from Toph.

"That sounds like a funny story. I think I'd like to get it out of your brother." she admitted, the Water Tribe girl shaking her head.

"You won't need to. I can tell you about it. He's told me about his journey so many times in so many different ways that it was almost like I was there." she explained, the leading Freedom Fighter stepping forward.

"I'm Jet, by the way." he told her with the cock of a smirk, making her narrow her eyes at him, remembering him from the story.

"The one who gave my brother death threats?" she asked him, making him clear his throat, his eyes darting away with embarrassment.

"Uh... yeah, that was me." he conceded, before Toph stepped over to stand beside her.

"So are you going to tell me the story?" she asked, the Water Tribe girl's eyes darting around, remembering the fact she had to keep Azula's identity secure.

"Uh... yeah, I guess." she conceded, "Uh... I guess you guys could jump in if you like, seeing that you were there and all."

The earthbending girl created a wall out of the ground, and leaned back on it, "So, tell me... how'd your brother get nearly captured by the Dai Li?"

"Well, he was in the city because he had been shipwrecked, and needed to... uh... do some work to buy his way home." she explained, the Freedom Fighters nodding along; it seems that they were told the same thing, though Smellerbee stepped forward with a suspicious eye.

"Working for the Fire Nation, that was." she clarified, making Toph raise a brow with confusion.

"For the Fire Nation?" she looked at Katara with surprise, "But aren't you all friends with the Avatar. That makes no sense?"

"Uh... I think at the time he was just desperate." she admitted, not wanting to go too deep into his reasoning, as she knew she'd inadvertently reveal that Azula and Saila were one and the same.

"So, he was staying in the Governor's Palace, which i think is where the Earth King used to live."

"The Royal Palace." Toph clarified, Katara nodding in confirmation.

"Well, yeah, the former Royal Palace." she agreed, "He got beat up in training pretty bad." she clarified, before glancing over to the earthbenders that the girl beside her had just beaten, "Like you just did to those guys."

"Ah, okay." she pursed her lips upward, before her expression changed to one of confusion, "This wasn't against an earthbender, was it?"

"No, a firebender." she corrected, "And to fix his pain, he decided to go out and get drunk. A brilliant decision, if you ask me." she sarcastically added, the Freedom Fighters nodding along, Smellerbee trying to hold back laughing, "So he did that, but he drank so much that he needed to go to the bathroom."

"Oh, I can see where this is going." the earthbender grinned, while Smellerbee stepped closer, trying not to break down laughing.

"W-wait, you're saying he got captured when he was peeing?" she asked him, nodding tersely, making her bellow out laughing, patting Jet on the shoulder.

"The luckiest man in Ba Sing Se!" she proclaimed, Katara nodding, trying to hold back her own amusement.

"So, he got beaten up and captured by a Dai Li agent when he went to pee." she continued, "And then, Smellerbee and Longshot saved him. I think Longshot knocked the agent out with his bow." she tried to recall, knowing that her brother's description was a little hazy.

"Wow, that is pretty lucky." Toph conceded, "So, then I guess you guys took care of him." she gestured to the Freedom Fighters, who nodded along.

"Yeah, pretty much." Jet confirmed before Katara raised a brow at him, wanting to reiterate the fact he ignored.

"And then you threatened to kill him." she added, making the Freedom Fighter twitch with frustration.

"It's not like I did it without reason!" he tried to defend himself, which amused Toph, "He was working for the Fire Nation Princess."

"The Fire Nation Princess?" the earthbending girl raised a brow, "The dead one?"

"Well, her being dead is just a rumour." the Freedom Fighter clarified, "Did they end up getting to Yu Dao?" he asked Katara, who cleared her throat, remembering that specific part of the story.

"Oh, yeah he did." she confirmed before shaking her head, remembering why he would actually be concerned about that, "Oh! Sneers! That's what you're asking about. Yeah, well, last time Sokka saw him, he was safe, and he had a girlfriend."

"Sneers got a girlfriend?" Smellerbee scoffed, "I still find things to this day that surprise me."

"Wait, so how did Sokka get back to your tribe? That's where I'm guessing he went, seeing that you're all together." Jet asked her, the Water Tribe girl grimacing slightly, not wanting to reveal that Azula was with them.

"Uh, he took a boat, and sailed home. Not that complicated, actually." she explained, before glancing back toward Toph, "Have you seen my brother today?"

"I haven't seen anyone ever." she retorted, making her grimace slightly; she hadn't meant it in that way, but she realised she ought to be more careful and avoid offending the blind earthbender, "I'm just joking." she assured her, "I think I sensed him coming by here a little earlier, but he left pretty quickly."

"He said he was going to train. I don't know where, though." she admitted, before Jet stepped closer to her.

"Is that why you're here? To train?" he queried, Katara scrunching her lips up for a moment in thought, before she smiled.

"Yep." she confirmed, "I'm a waterbender, but I'm not very good at it yet."

"Do you know how to use weapons?" he asked her, the Water Tribe girl tilting her head slightly; she could use them, but then again, she hadn't ever trained for actual fighting, unlike her brother.

"Kind of." she conceded, "If using spears for hunting and fishing counts, then yes."

"That's good enough." he admitted, before gesturing toward a weapon rack that sat by the edge of the large training area, "You wanna train with us?"

"I guess I could." she smiled, glad that there was somebody willing to train her, even if it wasn't in her bending.

"I'll go back to beating up other benders." Toph voiced her own intentions, "I don't really care about fighting non-benders."

"Oh, you haven't fought my brother yet, Toph." she smirked, knowing that if anyone could lower the cockiness of the girl before her, it was her brother, who ironically, was as cocky as her a few years prior, when he could barely fight himself, even if at present he was one of the best fighters she knew.

"I doubt he'd stand a chance against me." she crossed her arms with a smug grin, the Water Tribe girl placing her hands on her hips.

"Ever heard of chi-blocking?"

"Uh... heard of it, yes. Fought someone who uses it, no." she explained herself, "But chi-blockers attack with their fingers right, so I just would drop him into the ground before he had a chance to touch me." she declared, Katara shaking her finger at her.

"I really hate saying this... but boomerang beats bending." she admitted the truth she honestly hated to consider, but understood it nonetheless.

"Boomerang?" Toph raised a brow at her with slight amusement, "What's a boomerang?"

"You'd have to be hit by it to see what I mean." she explained, the earthbender nodding before she raised her hand, removing the wall she had been leaning on.

"Okay, well you enjoy being beat up by the teenagers with weird fashion choices." she simply farewelled her, earning the ire of Smellerbee.

"How can you even say that? You can't see!" she exclaimed with annoyance, making Toph look back at her with a cocky grin.

"I don't need to be able to see you know that." she declared, striding away with a shit-eating grin still plastered on her face.

"That girl has some nerve." the Freedom Fighter snarled, before she turned to Jet, "So, we're going to train uh... Sokka's sister?"

"Katara." she clarified her name, realising that she hadn't actually mentioned it.

"Of course." Jet smirked, before waving for her to follow, "Come with me, and we'll see what you've got."

She followed on behind him, the other Freedom Fighters following along, before she glanced at them, realising she hadn't gotten their names, like they hadn't hers.

"Uh, so what's everybody's names?" she asked, the smallest of the group, a boy wearing a helmet that was probably a little too big for his head, gesturing to his chest with his big thumb.

"I'm The Duke." he told her, before gesturing to his large friend beside him, "And this is Pipsqueak." he explained, the Water Tribe girl nodding.

"I'm guessing you guys chose your names?"

"Uh, yep." The Duke nodded, making Katara raise a brow; if she had had the opportunity to give herself her own name, she had no idea what she would choose- she had only ever thought of herself as 'Katara'.

Jet approached the rack of weapons, pulling off a spear, before tossing it over at her, Katara grasping it with her two hands before planting the blunt end into the ground, "Thanks." she simply noted his actions, before he and his Freedom Fighters glanced around at each other.

"Which of us is best suited to train Katara?" Jet asked his group, Smellerbee raising her hand to volunteer.

"I fight with a one-handed weapon, so it's got to be me. You'd just chop the spear into pieces, Jet." she explained, Katara glancing toward the leader of the group with interest.

"Why'd that be?"

"Dual hook swords." she explained, drawing out his weapons and swinging them around, showing her that they were indeed swords with hooks on the ends.

"That is... cool." she conceded, before glancing toward Smellerbee, "And what do you fight with?"

"A shortsword." she explained, pulling her blade out, "Kinda like a really big knife." she noted, Katara examining the weapon intently as she drew it out.

"Kinda like Sokka's machete." she acknowledged, the Freedom Fighter nodding.

"Well, you should be familiar with how this works." she noted, before she raised her arm up, moving into a fighting form, "Show me what you've got, Katara."

Sokka rubbed his head, feeling where he was probably going to get a bruise; he knew that fighting Azula would help her keep her mind off of things, but he hadn't expected it to hurt as much as it did. Then again, he hadn't expected to get slammed into the ground by a fireball to the head. He glanced over toward his boomerang, taking note that it was too far away for him to reach; Azula stepped closer to him with a smug look on her face, her right palm covered with blue flames.

"Now, now, Sokka. This is the part where you give up." she declared, the Water Tribe warrior sighing; she had a point, as he likely wouldn't be able to beat her without trying his luck with his club or chi-blocking, which wouldn't end well if she could send a fireball into his head, again.

"I've still got... one trick up my sleeve." he suggested, raising his right hand with a single finger up.

"Oh, enlighten me, savage." she moved her arms out to act as if she was still open for an attack; he cocked a smirk, grasping the dirt beneath his left hand and throwing it at her, forcing her to close her eyes.

She sent her right-fist toward him, propelling a stream of blue flames right toward his head; Sokka was able to roll out of the way, kicking his left leg at her own. When she fell down to one knee, he realised that he might have a small chance at victory. He pulled his club off of his back, ready to swing it at her side to knock her to the ground; as quick as he was to rise to his feet, Azula was just as swift, reflexively sending another attack toward him, even if with her eyes shut. The fireball struck his club, which blocked it from burning his tunic; that didn't stop the force from throwing him back off his feet, making the Water Tribe teen fall flat on his behind.

"Ouch." he grunted, before he reached to grasp the boomerang that was laying slightly closer to him; when he grabbed it, he readied his arm, but found himself stopped by another attack, a fireball striking him right in the palm, throwing the boomerang out of his hand.

"Come on!" he cried out with frustration, "Just let me have this!" he demanded, the Princess looking down at him smugly as she wiped the dirt from her eyes.

"I'm not giving you a chance." she declared, before she filled her palm with blue flames; he sighed, glancing around to try and think of something on the spot.

As she drew nearer to him, the cockiness growing on her face, Sokka's eyes dart down to his feet, which were right by her own. With a single pivot of his leg, he was able to send her careening down on top of him, the Water Tribe teen grasping her wrist to stop her from burning his face. She grunted as she found herself lying on top of him, her left hand barely holding her from face-planting on his chest.

"Sorry, what was that?" he asked her sarcastically, "You beat me?"

"Urgh..." she growled, her pouty eyes looking back at him spitefully, "Fu-" she began to insult him, not able to get the curse word out of her mouth as he locked lips with her; the Princess was silenced, and for a few moments he enjoyed the touch of their lips.

She was able to push herself free, before she narrowed her eyes at him, "Oh, you're a little too smart for your own good, aren't you?"

"That's me, Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe." he proudly declared, before she rolled over lying down in the dirt beside him.

"I'll concede that was a pretty smart move on your behalf... though I think my judgement is clouded by the fact you kissed me right after." she argued, making him chuckle raising himself up slightly as he looked her in the eyes.

"Oh, but I thought that was the best part." he suggested, "That's how we first kissed, remember?"

"I remember being chi-blocked and unable to resist." she argued, making him feel a little uneasy; the way she phrased it made it sound like he had forced himself upon her.

"Uh... I'm sorry?" he mumbled, the Princess rolling her eyes.

"That was a joke, Sokka." she corrected him, "I was the one seducing you anyway." she declared proudly, the Water Tribe teen snorting.

"Oh, okay." he simply noted her words, before he furrowed a brow, "I thought you were more focused on the whole 'I need to fight Zuko' thing."

"Hey, you were a good distraction." she clarified, before she pursed her lips lasciviously, "A steamy distraction."

"I'm not a firebender. I'm pretty sure I should have that checked by a healer." he joked, the Princess chuckling, before she leaned in closer, kissing him on the lips herself; he didn't resist her, letting her grasp him by the nape as she tugged him closer.

"A stupid, steamy distraction." he corrected herself while her lips were barely away from his own, making him grin at the insult; it felt a lot more playful than the ones she usually gave him, the Water Tribe teen cocking a grin.

"Oh, I can do stupid." he suggested, making her clear her throat, breaking what he would have called 'the mood'.

"We can't exactly do anything here, on the side of a mountain, in the dirt." she warned him, to which Sokka pouted, disappointed that they weren't going to take their spar to its rather natural conclusion.

"Oh, well... wanna go back to the room then?" he suggested, the Princess looking back at him with haughty confidence.

"Well, that's if you can get there." she suggested, the Water Tribe teen raising a brow with confusion.

"If I can-" he began to ask before he saw her hand fill with flames once again; he realised that she wanted to continue their spar, which he would admit, wasn't surprising, though it just made his goal all the more challenging.

"Argh!" he cried out as he rolled out of the way of the fireball she threw his way, before he rose up to a crouched position, reaching for his club.

He realised that he wouldn't have enough time to grasp it, and instead turned his right hand forward, jabbing Azula in her forearm with his fingers, right before she would have used said part of her body to punch him in the chest. Her arm slumped down, and the flames she had conjured dissipated; her expression immediately changed to one of annoyance as she kicked her foot upward, hoping to knock him in the abdomen. He rolled out of the way of her attack, before he jabbed her again, striking her in the right thigh, which she couldn't block, given her right arm had been chi-blocked. She fell down to her knee, conjuring a blade of fire in her right hand, which flickered an odd colour, not as pure a blue as usual; when it came for him, he let the blade go right into his shoulder, hoping that she was bluffing. He guessed correctly, but that didn't mean her fist wouldn't connect with his shoulder, hammering him back to the ground; Sokka looked up at her as she glared him down with determination- she was intent on winning, though he was unsure exactly what that would lead to. He then dodged a ring of fire that she sent out from her right wrist, before he jabbed her once more, getting her shoulder, which made her left arm slump down as she tried to conjure one last attack. She grit her teeth, and then proceeded to take a deep breath; he had sparred with her enough times to know that meant she was about to breathe fire right at his face, so he decided to cut her short by kissing her again; quite an effective tool in his eyes. She groaned with annoyance, but fell into the embrace nonetheless, and as she did, he grasped her by the waist, pulling her into his arms. When their lips parted, he furrowed a brow at her, wondering if she had goaded him into using his chi-blocking to incapacitate her.

"Did you want me to chi-block so you didn't have to walk back?" he asked her, the Princess cocking a smirk.

"Why would I do that?" she feigned innocence, speaking in such a way that it was obvious she was lying; seeing that she was a very good liar, he knew that she wanted him to know the truth.

"You're too smart for your own good." he conceded, before glancing around, taking note of all his weapons that lay on the ground, "Can I just pick up my weapons first? Then we can go back to our apartment."

"Permission is granted." she responded, as if he was actually asking.

He rolled his eyes, sitting her down on the ground softly, before he looked back to see his boomerang and club, both lying a short distance away; he walked over and scooped both of them up, putting his boomerang back into its leather sleeve, before he slung the club over his shoulder into the band which held it tightly to his back. The Water Tribe teen approached his girlfriend, kneeling down beside her, grasping her by the waist with his right hand and by the underside of her legs with his left.

"Now, her majesty desires to be taken to her chambers, at once." she requested, Sokka knowing her words were in jest, though if she had actually been Fire Lord, she would have been completely serious in what she had just said.

"Of course." he assured her, before rising back up his feet, glancing back toward the path they had taken; the entrance was some distance away, but he remembered the path they had taken, so he had no issue going back along the side of the mountain.

They had been training on the side of the mountain opposing Omashu, making sure that nobody noticed blue spurts of fire on the mountainside, which despite the distance, would have been clearly visible, given the potency of Azula's flames. He carried her along, her eyes moving up to meet his own; they were locked in a staring competition, and he could only wonder if he was going to kiss him or mock him. She did neither simply looking into his blue eyes as he looked into her gold; he could usually tell how she was feeling, but at that moment, he couldn't discern the exact emotion that she felt. The Princess was a complicated person, but more than that, she was his complicated person; he was unsure what to say, so he tried to think of a joke to make.

"You know, I distinctly remember you telling me that you hated me carrying you." he noted, making her roll her eyes.

"I did." she noted, the Water Tribe warrior narrowing his eyes at her.

"And what changed?" he tried to prod an answer out of her, only getting a light, humoured scoff in return.

"Not much." she simply told him, "I can simply tolerate you needless actions for what they are."

"Love?" he asked her, genuinely curious if that was what she thought of his small deeds.

"I guess you could call it that." she conceded, before her eyes locked with his once more, "A burning desire that only I can fill." she pursed her lips upward, licking them lavisciously.

"Okay, Miss Fancy Words, we'll call it that from now on." he joked, before clearing his throat, "Oh, I feel a burning desire for you, Princess Azula!" he called loudly out to no one other than her, making her raise her hand up to his lips, hushing him.

"Not so loud, idiot." she growled, before her eyes darted around, "We don't want anyone else finding out."

"I'm sure Bumi will remain quiet. He knows you're not going to destroy his city or anything." he stressed, the Princess's eyes narrowing into a far more serious glare than she had held prior to that.

"But you're not." she told him the straight truth, "I know you'd like to tell everyone how much you adore me, but it's really not going to help anyone if you do."

"Oh, I see how it is." he feigned offence, "I need to think of a more heartful way to express my burning desire for you."

She raised her chin up slightly, her glare becoming a little softer, "You make my words sound less poetic every time you repeat them."

"Did you forget? I like annoying you as much as you like annoying me!" he declared triumphantly with a grin, the Princess rolling her eyes.

"I seriously doubt that." she dismissed his claim, making him snicker.

"Yeah, you're right. You do like it a lot more than I do." he conceded honestly, before he smirked at her, "But that doesn't mean I can't get a kick out of it."

"Oh... two can play that game." she warned him, the Water Tribe teen shaking his head.

"We can't argue right not. That won't set the mood." he retorted, making her laugh at him.

"And what will, you being all defeatist and defensive?" she retorted, making him raise a brow.

"Do you want me to drop you?" he asked her, the Princess kicking her legs up, revealing that she could move them properly once more.

"I can walk again, idiot." she revealed, before stretching her arms out, "But that doesn't mean I won't take advantage of your kindness for as long as I like."

"Okay then." he tersely replied, before narrowing his eyes, "So what will set the mood?"

"I'll let you figure that out yourself, genius." she mocked him, Sokka's glare darting upward to the sky as he considered what he ought to say.

"Well, I could start by explaining what I'm going to do." he decided, making her raise a brow.

"Oh." she simply mumbled, letting the Water Tribe teen continue without a snarky comment.

"I'll take you down to our apartment, and provided that Aang and Katara aren't there, I'll sit you down on our bed." he begun, making her smirk slightly; she was obviously enjoying herself, so he decided he would continue, "And then, I'd get some candles out, light them myself, of course, and then I'd ask you... where'd you like to be kissed first."

"On the l-" she began to respond, before she gave her what she wanted; their following embrace was warm, intense, and a little sloppy, Sokka being forced to lean forward and continue to hold her up.

She smirked at his kiss, and leaned upward to let them continue, grasping at his nape, pulling at his grown out undercut; she then opened her eyes, staring him down with her golden eyes, as if she were staring into his very soul.

"I see, you'd like your practice first." she observed, "You continue to surprise me, Sokka."

"Only the best for you." he joked, the Princess rolling her eyes.

"I'm the only one getting anything... which is how I like it." she declared with a smug look on her face, "I think you'd be better off doing things without asking though."

"You'd rather be surprised?" he asked her, Azula simply nodding as she leaned in closer, whispering into his ear.

"What would you like to do, Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe?"

He chuckled, before kissing her on the cheek, "Oh, I'd rather keep it a surprise."

"Other than the candles and banishing Aang and Katara?" she questioned him, the Water Tribe teen grinning.

"Of course. I'm not going to say everything. What'd be the fun in that?" he prodded her, before he turned his eyes forward, taking note of the entrance to the city, which, to anyone who wasn't aware, would seem like an ordinary rockface.

"We're back!" he called out, the ground rumbling around them for a few moments before the rockface broke away, revealing a guard, who looked at them suspiciously.

"What were you two even doing out there?" he asked them, taking note of Sokka carrying his girlfriend in his arms.

"Sparring." he simply responded, before he stode inside, "I'm just being a dutiful boyfriend and carrying my girlfriend back." he told the guard with a smug voice.

"Uh... good luck with that." he mumbled awkwardly, looking away from him as he carried his girlfriend into the tunnel in his arms.

"You think he noticed the singe marks on your clothes?" Azula asked him with a whisper, the Water Tribesman shaking his head as he continued to walk deeper into the dimly lit tunnel, which was taking him on a shallow downward path toward the sprawling underground city.

"I doubt it." he assured her, "Most people only notice things like that if they're looking out for it."

"I must be the most observant person on earth." she mused, making him snicker, thinking that she was quite right to think that.

"You sure are, Azula." he told her with a small smile, which of all things, surprised her.

"Is that a lack of sarcasm I hear in your voice?" she raised her brow at him, the Water Tribesman grinning.

"What? I can acknowledge that you're the smartest person I know." he stated the matter of fact.

"How humble of you." she noted, "I thought you would be a little less eager to dish out compliments."

"Hey, I can dish out insults just the same." he declared, "I think Fire Nation clothes look stupid because of the needless points and angles. What are you going to, stab people with the tips of your shoes?"

"Aesthetics, Sokka." she simply responded, "We actually have some sense of taste, rather than wearing furs all day."

"Oh, but it's shit taste." he grinned at her, the Princess raising her chin up haughtily.

"You should be glad I'm not a stereotypical noblewoman who would have belted you in the head for insulting my clothing." she crossed her arms, before raising a brow, "Or maybe you just really like me wearing blues. I mean, it does match my fire." she admitted, snapping her fingers to light up the tunnel with a flame on her finger; he felt tense, knowing that she really ought to avoid bending, but was still a little confused, seeing that her bending wasn't actually as blue as it usually was.

"I think they suit you, but red suits you better." he conceded, knowing his idealised image of her was wearing a rather loose fitting red tunic, the kind she would when they sparred each other on her ship.

"How true." she cocked a smirk, Sokka grasping her palm to try and gesture her to dissipate her flames; instead of that, the flames grew brighter and became progressively more yellowish in their colour, until they were a bright gold.

"Uh... is that normal?" he mumbled, having remembered Azula saying something about her bending being stuck blue; she didn't answer his question, moving closer to kiss him on the lips, her flames disappearing as she did so.

Her lips were warm, and it felt like she was about to breathe fire down his throat; she didn't, of course, but the warmth he felt reminded him of the first time they had kissed. For some reason, she was in a good mood, and he was intrigued to find out why; he considered maybe it was because they had been sparring, and fighting was her way of letting her emotions out, but he couldn't be certain. All he knew is that she was enjoying herself, and he was glad to let her do that.

When their lips broke, he couldn't help but glance up and down the length of the tunnel, self-consciously hoping that nobody had spotted them, "Am I going to be stuck with you in my arms forever?" he joked, the Princess cocking a smirk.

"Would you prefer I stop kissing you, savage?" she quipped, Sokka shaking his head.

"Oh, certainly not... though I'd prefer you didn't do it near Aang and Katara. They'd never let it go." he noted, making her sigh.

"I certainly don't want your sister harping on about love to me." she conceded, gruffly raising her nostrils up, as if she were looking at Katara at that very moment.

"Yeah, only I can do that." he quipped, making her snort, breaking down laughing.

She patted his sternum with a giddy look on her face, "That's right, Sokka. You're the only one with permission. Anyone else, I'd set their hair on fire."

"You still do that, though." he reminded her, the Princess making an indifferent shrug.

"For different reasons." she stressed, the Water Tribe teen rolling his eyes.

"Oh yeah, it's always the thought that counts." he sarcastically quipped, the Princess sparking a flame on her finger, which was still gold.

"Are you insulting my wit, Sokka?" she questioned, the Water Tribe teen shaking his head.

"I'd never insult your intelligence, simply your decisions." he argued, the Princess raising her chin with an intrigued eye, the flame on her finger dissipating.

"That is fair. You are my best critic." she conceded, the Water Tribe teen smugly looking at her, thinking that she was certainly right; though he wouldn't accredit all of the Princess's victories to himself while they were together, he would certainly claim that nobody was killed or suffered needlessly under his watch.

"I agree." he told her, "The only reason Ba Sing Se didn't become a complete shit hole is because I suggested otherwise."

"I think your actions might have only stalled that fate, Sokka." she suggested, the Water Tribe teen grimacing.

"That city is practically doomed, isn't it?"

"Through no fault of our own. Centuries of systemic inequality, corruption and a police state will do that to any place." she explained, making him raise a brow.

Her description seemed in line of what he understood the Fire Nation was becoming; that was because of the continued extreme interpretation of her great-grandfather's 'ideals', if one could skew their world-view enough to consider anything about his vision for the world as being ideal.

"Then what of your nation? Isn't that where it is headed?" he asked her, the Princess narrowing her eyes in thought.

"Well, it is, Sokka. I do intend to fix that once I become Fire Lord. Your people have given me much inspiration on how my country ought to be run." she acknowledged, the Water Tribe teen narrowing his eyes with confusion.

Azula taking inspiration from the Southern Water Tribe, though reasonable, given her time there, seemed so absurd coming from a woman who regularly called him a barbarian and savage, despite the fact they were a couple.

"That's got to be the craziest thing I've heard you say yet. You actually are inspired by the Southern Water Tribe?" he made an exaggerated tone of surprise, the Princess raising a hand up to stress her point.

"The Fire Nation has become too narrow-minded with its style of governance. More free-thought, or better phrased, more opportunity for people like yourself to have a say in government would ultimately make my nation stronger than it currently is."

"A country run by smart people... it's like the idea of a Council of Elders, but a little less discriminatory by age." he concluded; he had never actually seen such a council, as it was quite rare for the villages of the Southern Water Tribe to convene a collective assembly.

"Yes, that'd be about right... but consider that on a far larger scale. The nobility and military are the ones with power at the moment, and civil servants, though useful and in some cases intelligent, generally fall in line with what the Fire Lord has to say." she admitted, before shrugging her shoulders, "I can't exactly say it'd work in practice yet, but seeing how your tribe is able to function as it does, I'd say it should work."

"So, you want a bunch of people who don't agree with you to give you advice. A bunch of Sokkas."

"Essentially, yes." she conceded, making him snicker, thinking about Azula sitting in a room with a bunch of duplicates of himself, all wearing different clothes and shouting at each other about who is the best to serve her.

"Are you going to get it on with all these other Sokkas?" he quipped, the Princess rolling her eyes.

"Of course not. I have standards, savage." she growled at him, though her anger was obviously veiling her actual feelings, which he guessed were that of desire; they hadn't gotten back to their apartment yet, but when they did, he had no idea what she would do.

"I'm pleased to hear that your sexual fantasy isn't doing it with a bunch of me." he conceded, the Princess trying her best to hold back a laugh.

"Trust me, it is not. Though, I wouldn't mind an army of a thousand Sokkas to fight my brother." she noted, making him snort.

"Hey, you have the second-best thing, the Southern Water Tribe itself." he suggested, Azula's eyes darting around, as if she were mulling over his words.

"I don't believe they'll blindly follow me to fight my brother." she conceded, Sokka nodding; she was right, his tribe wouldn't blindly join her, obviously knowing how fighting opponents for the sake of it had turned out the last time they tried it.

"No, no, I think they'd do it believing you would help us in return, which you intend to do." he stressed the fact that she had already assured him of.

"I will." she clenched her fist, her eyes filled with determination, "We'll rebuild your tribe together, and our nations will be stronger because of it."

"Azula, you're going to do great things." he simply told her, before chuckling, "You've already done some great things... but you'll do a lot more."

She twitched for a moment, her eyes moving down as she snarled slightly; he didn't know why his words would agitate her, but for some reason she seemed to look concerned. He couldn't tell about what, and he didn't dare to ask, letting her say what she pleased.

"If my father's alive... then I'll have to confront him." she admitted, making him gulp with fear; he was under no presupposition that Azula could simply fight her father.

She was not only loyal to him to the point at which she was willing to kill Zuko without question for his supposed kinslaying, but believed in his teachings to a fault; of course, she had questioned them time and time again since they had met, but that didn't mean that she was going to become a simple and calm pacifist like Aang just because she could.

"I know." he simply mumbled to her, glancing forward as he tried to think of the best thing to say, "You don't have to worry about that."

"I can't just ignore it." she simply told him, the Water Tribe teen raising his left hand from her waist up to her head.

"You're not going to have to fight him." he assured her, "He's not running around trying to destroy the Earth Kingdom or anything like that. He's in prison."

"If my father's alive, Sokka, I don't think he'll be restrained there for long." she warned him, the Water Tribe teen scoffing at her words.

"Oh, and what will Zuko..."" he began, before pursuing his lips, thinking of a better way to phrase his question, "Sorry, Zuzu, do if he breaks out?" he asked her rhetorically, guessing the answer she would give him; she tried to restrain her amusement from him using her mocking nickname for the current Fire Lord, making as straight a face as she could.

"He'll kill my father." she guessed, before narrowing her eyes, "And if I'm too much of a nuisance, he might try and kill me too." she mumbled, Sokka leaning forward and kissing her on the forward.

"Nobody's going to kill you, Azula." he assured her, "Not even your arsehole of a brother. You really think your uncle would let him do that?"

"Good point." she mumbled, "He's got a leash on as long as Uncle's by his side."

"You made that sound a lot weirder than it actually is." he grimaced in disgust, actually imagining Zuko with a leash around his neck.

"Oh, it is disgusting." she agreed with him, "My brother can't even be his own man. He's just pretending to be the Fire Lord while my uncle pulls the strings."

"How can you even know that?" he asked her, slightly concerned by her assumptions; she was making out Iroh to be a lot more sinister than he actually was.

"Because I know my brother. He's driven by rage and angst, and honestly, my uncle is probably the only thing that's keeping him together." she explained her thoughts on the matter, making Sokka tremble slightly, feeling a disturbing parallel with their own relationship.

"Are you... are you okay, Azula?" he asked her, the Princess staring into his eyes for a moment; he couldn't see any spite, or hatred, only a sense of longing- fear, perhaps.

"Of course I am." she assured him, pursing her lips upward, "As long as I'm by your side... or in your arms, I'll be ready to take on anyone and anything."

"Well, maybe you should get a leash for me, so I don't wander off." he joked, making Azula snort with humour, covering her face with her hand, trying to mask her flushed cheeks.

"You just had to make it weird, didn't you?"

Anonymous reviews have been disabled. Login to review. 1. Chapter 1 16140 0 0 2. Chapter 2 21194 0 0 3. Chapter 3 20745 0 0 4. Chapter 4 22686 0 0 5. Chapter 5 20674 0 0 6. Chapter 6 22968 0 0 7. Chapter 7 24061 0 0 8. Chapter 8 28112 0 0 9. Chapter 9 27732 0 0 10. Chapter 10 31083 0 0 11. Chapter 11 30328 0 0 12. Chapter 12 31833 0 0 13. Chapter 13 24513 0 0 14. Chapter 14 27635 0 0 15. Chapter 15 30402 0 0 16. Chapter 16 28118 0 0 17. Chapter 17 32306 0 0 18. Chapter 18 29632 0 0 19. Chapter 19 32955 0 0 20. Chapter 20 29074 0 0 21. Chapter 21 33480 0 0 22. Chapter 22 33317 0 0 23. Chapter 23 36245 0 0 24. Chapter 24 35327 0 0 25. Chapter 25 33024 0 0 26. Chapter 26 33642 0 0 27. Chapter 27 30996 0 0 28. Chapter 28 32939 0 0