Actions

Work Header

The forbidden Princess

Chapter Text

Aang should be sleeping by now. He really should. But somehow his much needed rest simply refused to find its way to him. Every time he closed his burning eyes, his tiredness seems to wash off. It drove him nuts. Nowhere near rested, he decided that, maybe, it could be a good idea if he'd just went to meditate for a while. He would at least be doing something, besides meditation is really relaxing. It's not sleep though and Aang wondered at which point he is eventually going to break down due to excessive sleep deprivation. He got up from his bed and silently made his way out of his room in Zukos beach house on Ember Island, as he headed to the balcony. Tiptoeing past Tophs room, he could hear the blind girl loudly snoring. The last thing he had the nerve for was a discussion with the stubborn earthbender. He reached the balcony everyone shared and was surprised to find Sokka there, dead asleep near the handrail. His head was hanging over it, and his closed eyes must have been gazing into the stars. Aang knew what his best friend had been doing. Full moon nights have always been the hardest for Sokka, since the passing of Yue. Since then he would spend hours of hours just looking at the moon. He must have fallen asleep while doing exactly that. Aang sighted silently and pulled a blanket over his best friend, before he took off to the forest edge.

The woods were surprisingly quiet, the soft moonlight was submerging everything around Aang in a magnificent silver shimmer. He enjoyed nighttime especially at times of full moon. Something inside Aang was set to peace and inner balance and he could not help but wonder if that was Yues doing. He followed his well known path through the woods to the pond a few minutes of walking away from the summerhouse a part of team Avatar was staying at. It was a secluded little lake within a tiny clearing in the otherwise so dense jungle. Aang settled down on a strip of very soft, even in the silver moonlight wonderfully green grass. He took a brief moment to appreciate the peaceful environment he was in. The moon was reflecting in the perfectly still water and nearby, at the ponds shore, a few butterflies where performing their beautiful dance of love.

He inhaled deeply and rid his mind from everything that was bothering him at the time. The moment he was closing his eyes, a rather alarming sound urged to his alerted ears. It was nothing he would have ever dared to call a scream. It was not screaming, no. Screaming would require the screamer to actually have some strength left inside of them. What Aang heard was a nerve-wrecking, chilling sound of someone slowly dying, but putting up a hell of a fight. For a short moment he noticed himself getting pissed off at the interruption, but he felt guilty for it immediately. Someone clearly needed help. Thankfully the moon was shining rather bright.

At once Aang was at his feet, trying strained to make out the direction the abysmal sound was coming from. For a brief moment he feared that, maybe, someone from his friends could be in trouble. But the closer he listened, the more it got apparent, that the noise was not coming from the mansion. Instead it was quite the opposite. Not hesitating at all, he launched off to where the scream was probably originating. Aang was able to locate things using his earthbending. Toph taught him the basics, but the ground was loose, typical forest-earth, and his abilities where just barely working on solid ground. Aang was only feeling pink noise, so he had to rely on his hearing, which luckily was rather decent.

A few moments later he must have been nearby. He could hear muffled panting somewhere very near around him. The gasping and little bits of hushed words definitely belonged to a woman and for a second there Aang could have sworn he knew the voice. But he was not able to put his finger on it. He was looking around, now cursing the formerly appreciated moonlight. It may have been wonderful and totally enough for a nightly stroll in the dense woods, but hell. For actually searching something, or better someone, it was just way to dark. He couldn't see shit. How he wished for the ability to properly firebend now, at least he could make his own light. He took a few steps to his left, thinking the breathing he was hearing could come from that direction, and as he did this, the distinct sound of air being sucked in and let loose again was suddenly gone.

Aang pondered for a second whether he should call out or not. He decided on the former course of action, as he silently whispered: "Hello? Someone here? Do you need any help?" he did not want to draw any possibly unwanted attention to him, so he kept his voice down as much as possible. The sound of startled movement filled the quiet forest. Aang spoke up again. "I won't do you any harm, I am here to help, if you want to, just tell me where you are." nothing. The Avatar was about to add just who he is, as suddenly a female voice clanged through the night air almost directly where he was standing. "Here" she said weakly and faint. Aang spun around as he finally saw what could only be the outline of a female human body, huddled to a tree. He knelt down beside her as he asked "Are you hurt? Do you need help?"

"Yes" was the only Answer he got, and it was getting almost inaudible. It really gave him the creeps.

"Where are you hurt?" he pressed urgently.

She made a sound that probably was a failed attempt at laughter "Where am I not?" she whispered and yet again Aang could swear that he knew her voice. Some bell was ringing inside of him, but he did not remember who the voice could have belonged to. A lot of faces flashed through his mind but none seemed to really fit. He scrapped the whole question for now, and reminded himself to concentrate on helping the nameless woman.

"Alright, I am going to carry you to that lake over there." he stated as he picked the girl up bridal style. "Does it hurt?" he asked, as he shifted her in his Arms until a secure position was found.

" 's ok" she breathed weakly, as he carried her through the undergrowth towards the small lake. Luckily it was not far.

Laying her down on the same stretch of green soft grass he was originally going to meditate on, he got the first chance to closer examine the damage done. Her clothes where practically ripped into shreds. It was a fire nation garment, that he was sure of, but the blood still glistered in the moonlight despite the obviously red parts of fabric. She was holding on to her right arm as if to make sure it was still there and the left leg was terribly twisted. She lacked any kind of shoes, or pants for that matter and there were cuts on nearly every part of skin he was able to see. Working his way up from her legs over her arms to her head he tried to make a list as of what to heal first, sorting from severe to less severe injuries. He knelt beside her to take a closer look, as she turned her head away unnoticed. Yep, her left leg was definitely broken a few times and the right one has seen better times as well. She would not let go of her arm, so Aang could not tell what the damage there was, but the skin was shattered and she had bruises basically everywhere. It ripped something inside him apart to see a human body was able to sustain such severe amount of damage. The girl must have been a really tough fighter, or she would not be alive by now. Aang suppressed the urge to just ask who did those cruelties to her. Never would he wish her fate to anybody, not even his worst enemies. She must have been to hell and back a few times.

The moment he knelt down beside her, she averted her face, not willing to look at him, even as she spoke. "What are you doing?" she whispered.

"I can heal you" he stated "Though I know somebody who is way better at this than me."

"No! no one else. Just do it. please" her voice filled with terror, and Aang silently agreed.

"I am going to start on your legs" he said, as he bended water out of the lake to the heavier damaged one.

She heard the water splash and suddenly there was a cool feeling on her broken leg. "Are you a Waterbender?" she inquired weakly and was unable to hide the sound of fear and panic in her voice. Why anyone would be scared of a waterbender eluded Aang, but maybe the poor girl was just generally scared out of her mind. Which would not really be surprising.

Aang sighted. He should probably tell her. It would put her at ease, even though she was obviously firenation. At least she would know, he was not going to hurt her further. Well, if he patches her up, she most likely wouldn't run to tell the firelord. Hopefully. And even if, so be it. They would be long gone before anyone could catch up. "Not only" he said calmly. "My name is Aang. Please don't freak out, ok? But I am the Avatar. I will help you, don't be scared. Everything is going to be fine, I promise. You can trust me" he whispered.

Her head practically spun around the moment his name has left his lips. Her eyes locked with his, she didn't even flinch as the broken bone painfully clicked back into place under the bended water. And that shit hurts like hell, Aang knew from firsthand experience. She was way too distracted staring at the Avatar.

It took Aang a moment longer than he was comfortable with to realize. She looked him dead in the eyes, and suddenly the silver moonlight was not able to hide the golden shimmer of her iris anymore. His look darted upwards into her hair, which, though messed up completely, still bore the golden crown of one certain princess.

"Azula" he stated in shock, the focus on healing her leg completely lost by this revelation. The water just smacked to the ground, as he darted backwards a good distance. How could that happen? What was she doing in these woods half dead? Aang was confused. What Azula said next did not help either.

"Just kill me, Avatar" she panted in severe pain. It took some time for the words to sink into the Avatars mind. And a bit more to be processed.

"what!?" Aang gasped. Azula would never say that. She would never. This was a trap. It had to be. A voice in Aang was practically screaming danger. But it made no sense whatsoever. What twisted kind of plan would that be anyway? Get yourself nearly killed on the off chance the Avatar could maybe have trouble sleeping, so he may or may not come to meditate near a lake, where he may or may not hear you fight for your life and decide to help. Sure, that's just retarded. On the other hand, what the fuck was Azula doing almost dead in those woods? How did she even get here, especially in her condition? You can't really run with broken legs now, can you?

"You heard me" she whispered weakly. "Don't keep me alive to question me. I won't answer. I am of no use to you. Kill me. Please. Put an end to this, if you have the slightest hint of respect" the ever so arrogant princess was basically panicking, yet her voice lacked any sort of force. Aang could not believe his own ears, not only was she asking to be killed, she almost begged for it. Azula didn't even use the word 'please' as far as Aang was concerned, yet alone anything close to begging. He was confused, nothing was fitting together. She was evil, so many times his friends and himself where only barely able to escape her grasp. He should hate her. He hated her. And yet somehow, at this very moment, he just could not bring himself to do what she asked of him. She was hurting, severely injured and obviously in panic. On the other hand, she caused endless pain to him, to his friends and to an indefinite amount of people he did not know. Hell, she killed him once, shot him down with lightning deep under the city of Ba Sing Se. He made a decision.

"I will" he said. Azula sighted and closed her eyes. Finally, it would be over soon. For a second she was curious how she would go. If he would suffocate her, or maybe drown her. Maybe he would crush her with a rock, which would be fast and painless. For a moment she feared that maybe she would be left to die alone, which would possibly not take an awful lot of time either. But at the sound of Water being bended again, she knew that Princess Azula would drown. Ah well, she thought absent minded I didn't suppose he would make it quick. Killing a firebender with water, what an irony.

Chapter Text

Her eyes shot open again at the feel of water once again cooling her broken leg. "What do you think you are doing?" she asked muffled and confused.

"I am putting an end to this." he stated. "To your pain. Not to your life. I refuse to do such a thing" there was the hint of a smile on his lips and at that, Azula was sure she began hallucinating. It had to be.

"Why would you do that?" she clenched her teeth together as another bone snapped painfully back into place, somehow this one was way more painful than the first. The Avatar moved to the other leg.

"I am not a murderer" his answer was simple and yet told Azula everything about the young Avatar. She knew, if the roles where to be inverted, she would not have hesitated and killed him right then, right there. She probably wouldn't even have bothered picking him up in the first place, yet alone waited for him to ask to be killed. And somehow that made her realize something. But she got no time to let the thought take shape, as the Avatar moved the water to the arm, she was protecting so determined. There was a gentle tug at her good arm, as pain rushed not only through her arm but her ribcage and multiple organs. She lost her consciousness moments later.

-/-

When Azula gained consciousness again, she felt weightless. Her whole body was floating and she almost could not feel her body. She was not cold, it was more of a rather comfortable coolness which softly brushed over her skin. At the beginning the sensation was really weird, but soon felt very comfortable. Confusion clouded her mind, she was not sure where she was or what was happening, but then her brain provided her with the needed, yet not necessarily wanted memories.

She did not see them coming, which chicken uses a poisoned dart to knock someone out? Stupid cowards. Why did she send Mai and Ty Lee away anyway? There were a bunch of stupid actions performed, she swore to herself would never be repeated again. Her memory drifted to the scenes after she awoke in custody chained to a moldy wall in some creepy dungeon somewhere, still weak from the sedative. A wave of horrible pictures and almost unbearable pain washed over her, so she pressed the images aside and instead opened her eyes.

It was already dawn and the clearing in the forest was touched in a dark shade of red and yellow light from the still not risen morning sun. It was not daytime yet so the light was barely noticeable but the nights silver shimmer was gone. Azula blinked a few times so her blurry vision would finally sharpen up. She noticed herself floating in bright glowing blue water as she looked to her right. Aang was standing beside her, his hands spread out over her body, left over her chest just under her throat, the other over her tummy, his eyes closed. It took her a moment to realize the Avatar was waist deep in water and she was just floating there, almost under water. Her face was the only part of her body which was still over the surface. It took Azula everything she got to not start panicking, she was not overly fond of being in possible deep water. But she seemed to not sink, and Aang was able to stand without a problem, she was going to be fine. At least that's what she told herself.

After the Princess lost her consciousness Aang moved her into the lake. Her injuries where much to severe to threat individually. So he got her limb body into the lake and was healing her wholly. To be honest, she should have been dead. The excessive amount of damage done to her body should not be survivable. But apparently there was a different set of rules only for this brat of a Princess. Why was he even bothering? There was a brief moment he asked himself that question, but left it unanswered.

Aang was concentrating hard. Healing was something that exhausted him immensely, and he had been at it for hours. Luckily he was almost done, when he felt a slight shift of the body under his hands. He was not touching her, but over the past hours his mind has touched every inch of damaged body, gently bending it back to the supposed form, washing the hurt, bruises and injuries away into the water. After some time of healing he could see her even with eyes closed. It was a vision of her energy and very essence in the water which was now sifting. He knew the princess had woken up, without opening his eyes.

"Hold still" he said calmly "Almost done"

Azula did not reply, but complied. She was feeling really awkward. This was the Avatar. The one person she wanted dead before anything else. And he knew that. She knew, that he knew, because she tried to kill him more than once and she did not keep her mouth shut about her intentions towards him either. And yet here they where, the one floating in water being healed by the other standing beside her healing. It should not be that way. He should have left her do die alone at least, and not tend to her wounds. She took a moment to look at him. Interestingly she never really got the chance to do that. Normally he would always be in movement, dodging her attacks. But now the Avatar was standing perfectly still beside her, shirtless and in the water. Azula could not help but notice the fine structure of his body. He was in top condition, his muscles showed their defined forms through his slightly sun-browned skin. His broad back was forming into muscular arms which stretched out over her body. She followed the light blue tattoos which ran along his body. The closer she looked, the more details she was finding. There where countless scars and badly healed injuries along with the occasional burn. Suddenly Azula realized how many of those marks where her doing and she smirked internally at just how often she got the edge over him.

"Like what you see?" his soft voice asked. Quickly the princess took her eyes off him as she realized, he was gazing in hers.

"And you?" she hissed. Azula was no fool, she knew exactly how torn her cloth were. It took little fantasy to imagine how much Aang could see of her. Interestingly this made her not nearly as furious as she thought it would. Maybe she was still not fully herself.

"I closed my eyes" he simply stated and suddenly Azula could feel herself sink into the water, in the same moment, the brightly glowing water returned to normal. In shock at her sudden sinking, she paddled with her arms and felt the ground of the lake touching her bare feet. She tried to stand, but her feet gave in and she almost fell back into the water, had not Aang caught her quickly. He wrapped his strong arms around her and she could feel the warmth of his body against her. She liked it way too much, so she sneered.

"What, you don't find a princess worthy of your look?" Her golden eyes pierced his in an almost hurting cool manner. "And I can stand on my own, thank you" she added matter-of-factly. Aang rolled his eyes and slowly let go of her, testing just how much of Azulas own weight her feet could really carry. He was surprised she really was able to stand on her own again. She did notice what he was doing but said nothing. Some part of her thought it was a terribly sweet gesture. She also could not help but notice that his eyes not once drifted below her face. Not once. Azula smirked her ever so slight devilish smirk.

"No." he stated, before he corrected her "I do not find my look worthy to be laid upon an unconscious girl dressed in nothing but a ripped jacket. No matter of her heritage" he answered dryly but completely truthfully. He looked not once. Well at least not with his eyes. He had to look with his mind but what he was seeing was far from embarrassing. Different clouds of color representing different energies and different flows of chi can hardly be considered intimate.

Azula rose an eyebrow "Such a gentleman" she said and meant it, but still sounded mocking. Aang just turned around and left the water, Azula followed on his heels. She took a moment to look down on her body. Her right hand, which was totally destroyed just some hours ago was now as perfect as always. Breathing was painless and gave her enough oxygen to not feel like passing out any moment. Except for her Jacket, there was absolutely no evidence on her body as to what had happened. Maybe she should have taken a moment longer to examine her clothing more thoroughly, but she didn't. Her skin was as pristine and pale as it used to be. Every move, while still being a bit too unsecure for her taste, at least did not hurt anymore.

She realized that she owed the Avatar big time, but didn't like it one bit. Her being royalty didn't make it better in the slightest. There was a certain code of honor after all. Which unfortunately was rather specific towards people saving someone's life. And as much as Azula would have loved to deny it, that was exactly what the Avatar did. He saved her life. She internally cursed the person who made that code of honor up. Also, why the hell did this stupid codex just have to get more and more binding the higher one ranked in society? The thought about this left the princess wanting to kill someone. Azula was the princess of the firenation, she was as high as they come in society, apart from her father, of course, and technically uncle Iroh. But he never bothered anyway, so he's out of the equation. She snapped back to reality at a fast movement of the Avatar.

A piece of fabric was tossed towards her and she caught it with precision. Azula examined what it was the Avatar gave her. It turned out to be a simple black and red shirt. She shot him an asking glare. He cleared his throat obviously very uncomfortable "So you... uhm.. can cover up a bit" he said and turned away. It did not hit her immediately. But when she looked down on her again, this time not focused on her now absent injuries but on the state of her jacket, she blushed the deepest shade of red possible for one stoic princess Azula. She sincerely wished she'd checked sooner and would not have just assumed, because now she definitely felt like the fool she thought she wasn't. Maybe she didn't know how torn her cloth really were, after all. One could see almost everything. And she had not realized that up until this very moment. Well she did realize that one could probably see something of her, but never in her wildest dreams would she have thought it was that much. The buttons where long lost, so the jacket hung open widely, revealing much more than a hint of her perfectly sized breasts as well as everything of her delicate belly. The sleeves where ripped off around the shoulders and what was left of her pants now was nothing more than an embarrassingly narrow strip. Azula was never so ashamed in her life. Never has someone ever seen as much of her, as the Avatar probably did this day. Why didn't she check, before she followed the Avatar out of the water? But he said, he did not look, didn't he? Well maybe it was not as bad as she thought. Checking if Aang really was looking away, she discarded the jacket and quickly pulled over Aangs shirt. It was a world too big for her, but in that moment she was eternally thankful for that.

"Give me that jacket of yours when you are done" Aang said without turning around. He was amazed by just how collected Azula was. Would he not know she was made from flesh, she could just as well have been made from ice. There was that royal superiority in her voice even when complete helplessly floating in water being healed from what was done to her. She snapped when she liked to, was not short of witty comments and just radiated a feeling off her, indicating her presence was an eternal honor to everyone nearby. It was not as strong as it used to be, admittedly she did not say much, but it was there nonetheless and it was still very icy.

Azula appeared beside him, holding her wet jacket in her arms. He took it from her without saying a word, before he bended the water out of the fabric and blowing it dry for good measure. After that he handed it back and the princess slipped into it. It was not stylish in any sense, but at least she was covered. "Thank you, Avatar" she said calmly and bowed ever so slight. Aang returned the gesture. "You are welcome" he said. Unsure of what to do next, he decided to just leave. It was done, she was alive, he even gave her his shirt. He was happy that she did not attack him the instant she realized she was able to stand again. So he turned to make his exit.

"Avatar?" her voice was almost demanding. For a split second Aang contemplated just ignoring her, but decided otherwise. Slowly he turned around again and looked at Azula. She was staring at him and he could see that she really did not want to do what was coming next. Had he known by the time, he might have ignored her. He looked at her, indicating that he was indeed listening to whatever it was she had to say.

"You saved my life." Azula stated.

"I suppose I did." Aang answered with a soft smile "Don't worry. I don't expect you to spare me the next time we see each other."

She shook her head firmly but with all the grace in the world. "What do you want?" she asked

Aang was puzzled. What did he want? What question was that? Was she offering him a favor? He must have looked confused as hell, because there was Azulas one sided smirk of doom again. It was almost scary how everything about her was predominant. Her posture, her facial expression, everything. And that with nothing but a way to large shirt and a ripped jacket as clothing, she didn't even have any shoes.

"You get to wish for something. If it can be done, it will be done" she stated. Aangs brain was working hard, after what was said got processed.

"Wait, because I saved you?" he asked unsure. Azula rolled her eyes.

"No, because I feel generous today. Of course because you saved me, stupid" she hissed. Aang paused for a second. Was she serious? He had to know. So he asked. An equally firm and graceful nod was all he got as an answer. He thought for a moment. He could actually think about something, but Azula would never do that. On the other hand, maybe it would be worth a shot.

"Ok" he said. "You are one of the best firebenders there are as of now, am I right?" he eyed her carefully, but nothing in Azulas unreadable face changed. Her golden eyes were still impaling him with her stare.

"So they say." she answered coolly, curious where he was going with that. Because she did not like his smile one bit.

"Teach me" he requested.

There was a long pause with very uncomfortable silence. Azula blinked. The silence continued for a moment.

"Are you out of your mind?" she spat as her vicious eyes lit up. Aang kept his cool and replied calmly "No, I am not. You offered me a wish, something you can make happen. You can make that happen" he said.

Azula took a few steps toward him "We are mortal enemies, Avatar. Why the hell would I teach you? So you can kill me with my own weapon?" she was being extremely frightening right now, but Aang kept it together. "I did not kill you today, did I?" he asked, and noticed suddenly that he was implying way more than he wanted.

Azula looked almost confused. Well at least as confused as Azula could possibly look. "Though I have no idea why" she said more to herself than to Aang.

"Listen, it was you, who suggested this. It was you, who said it was a serious offer. There is not an awful lot you could give me, that I actually need or want." he also closed some distance between him and the princess "There are only two things actually. And since I obviously would never ask you to go and get rid of your father for me, that leaves us with only one thing I need. And that's a decent firebending-teacher." He stood beside her, but facing the opposite direction. "Now. If you are serious, this is what I need. If not, no offense taken. I did not expect to be repaid for this, so don't get all worked up over you honor." and with that his grey eyes were holding her furious stare.

She grid her teeth "Very well. Tomorrow at sunrise you will be here again. And do be punctual. If I am here and you are not, the deal is off" she said angrily, before she turned on her heels and walked off.

"Princess?" Aang called out and caused her to pause, but she did not face him. "Who did that to you? What happened?"

"I will never talk about that" she stated and sounded terrifying, before she walked away and was soon gone.

Aang let out a breath he did not realize he was holding, as he noticed just how tired he really was. He turned around to head for the house.

-/-

"Hey, where have you been at, Twinkletoes?" Toph asked, sitting on a rock, her legs tangling down. Aang sighted, he did not have the strength left in him to put up with the young earthbender.

"Couldn't sleep" he said truthfully. The fact that Toph would have known when he lied was at this moment infuriating.

"Yeah, I can see that" Toph replied before she hopped off her rock and made her way to the Avatar who was about to enter the beach house. "But what have you been doing all those long hours?" Against better knowledge Aang tried anyway:

"Meditating" he said.

"Don't you dare lie to me, Twinkletoes!" she said and nudged him into his shoulder, as they made their way up into the first floor and into the hallway where Aangs room was.

"Good night, Toph" he answered tired, before he slamming the door to his room shut behind him. The master earthbender was left alone outside. That was very suspicious. Normally Aang never lied, and when he did he never just dismissed her like that. Something was not right at all. He also was clearly exhausted from something really tiring. Toph scratched her head.

Chapter Text

When Aang finally got out of his bed around midday, he did not much to clarify the questions Toph was burning to ask. He behaved strange. Really strange. It was not until after he ate his lunch that he finally said something. Team Avatar, with the exception of Zuko and Suki, was seated around the dining table

"Listen, we need to change some plans" he simply stated. Sokka was at it a second later "What? Why? We got it lined out so perfectly!" he exclaimed.

"I know" Aang replied. "But I think it is best, if you would deliver the message to the northern water tribe. I will stay here." Katara gave him a worried look, as she scooted over to him. "Aang, what's wrong?" He shook his head slightly

"Nothing, Katara. It is just, you know I have trouble sleeping lately. And there is that little lake in the forest where it is really easy to meditate, you know. There is a strong connection to the spirit world at that place and it would do me good to stay here for a few weeks on my own. You don't need me for delivering this message anyway and I could use some time alone." He did not want to hurt anyone's feelings, and he knew his friends would understand his spiritual side enough to leave him to it. They always did, as from time to time Aang really needed time for himself. This time however it was complete and utter bullshit.

Surprisingly enough Toph chose to stay quiet about his brazen lie, which left him wondering. He had prepared to distract her, so she would not ruin his plans. For a split second during the day he considered just telling the truth, but it would never work. He needed a firebending teacher, and he needed one now. Zuko tried his best, but his own bending was somehow gone. So after a few month with the group he left to find it again. Aang understood, he stayed long enough to teach the theoretical basics, but the Avatar was sure, that somewhere deep inside Zuko, something was missing. He needed his bendig back, so he left. Katara did not take that too well, during the time Zuko was with them, they got rather close.

Katara frowned. She didn't like this one bit. "I don't feel well, leaving you here all alone. After all we are still on Ember Island" she said. "Don't worry, sugar queen" Toph said "I will be staying here as well" she crushed a nut and stuffed it into her mouth. "I am not too keen on ice anyway. You know, I won't see jack shit and my feet will freeze. So no, sorry, I will pass on this one." she snipped another nut into her mouth. "I will see Twinkletoes here save, while he wanders through his fantasy world and you two play mailman" Aang sighted silently. He knew Toph was up to something when she didn't call out his lie. "Besides, no one found Zukos little beach house until now, so why would someone in the next weeks?"

Katara sighted and gave her brother an asking look. He just shrugged. "Well, if you are sure" she said hesitatingly.

Aang flashed his best supportive smile "I am. It's ok, Katara. But thanks"

-/-

It did not take Toph long to find Aang after the two water tribe members of team Avatar left. He was at the beach bending water in beautiful forms, well at least Toph would have found them to be beautiful, if she could only see them.

"So, Twinkletoes" she said, before she let herself fall down to the beach. "What's going on? And cut the meditating bullshit, we both know, that's not the reason" the earthbender was positively pondering what it could possibly be the Avatar was doing, that required to be alone. "Why did you try to send everyone away? I want to know!"

Aang was pushing and pulling water in complex forms around his body as he was standing waist deep inside the ocean. It reminded him of the day before. He was unsure why he wanted to remember, but it gave him a warm feeling. After he got back to the house he fell into his bed and to his absolute surprise found long and deep sleep. He was dreaming, images of someone he had, up until this night, nothing but terrible nightmares about. This night was very different. Where she normally was bringing pain and suffering, tonight she brought peace and rest. Her images floated through his mind as he dreamt about her flawless pale skin and the peaceful look on her face when she was unconscious. The sound of her voice when she obviously was unsure, unguarded and vulnerable. The short moments when Aang realized she had another side in her, not only the hard-hearted devil she showed everyone. He realized it would take a lot of time, effort and trust to get her to show this side, but somehow he suspected all Azula needed, was someone who just would be there for her unconditionally. Someone who was not scared of her. He had seen things inside her mind, horrible things which worried him. She may not have looked like it, but Azula was very, very fragile. There was something inside her, something different to what she showed everyone. She was wearing a perfect mask, a facade and Aang was curious to find out who Aula was beneath it. In his dreams she was... perfect.

Not only did he dream about her, she would not leave his mind alone when he was awake either. And it was driving him nuts. It was the moment when he finally got rid of a very stubborn image of her slight smirk, when Toph showed up.

"It's nothing" he said.

"Ohhhuuu" she exclaimed loudly "Twinkletoes, just stop it right there, because whatever it is you are doing, it is definitely not nothing. I could feel that a mile away"

Aang bended the beautifully sophisticated form back into the ocean, but hesitated to turn around. Suddenly he imagined Azula floating in front of him, and it made his heart jump.

"See, right there!" Toph shouted "That was not nothing! What's going on, Aang?"

"Toph, do you trust me?" he asked without turning towards her. She rose a suspicious eyebrow

"Why of course, Twinkletoes. Why would I not?" she answered, and had to admit, that she was suddenly not sure if she really wanted to know anymore. Aang has never asked about trust before. No one, not once. Not even in the darkest hours of the deepest nights.

"Good." he said and turned towards Toph, leaving the ocean and coming closer to her. "Then please trust me on this. I cannot tell you, not yet. I cannot tell anybody yet, but I promise, you will know before anybody else does."

"What? No, Aang, what the hell? Are you starting to keep secrets?" Toph jumped up and followed the Avatar back to the summer-mansion.

"Toph, please. No, I am not having secrets, ok?" he sighted and pressed his fingers over the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes firmly. How was he going to get out of that?

"Then why can't you tell, Mr. No-secrets?" she asked stubbornly

"There is this one thing I ask you as a friend to keep your nose out until I, as the only one it concerns, decide I feel confident enough to share with the others, ok?" Aang stopped and held a hand out to stop Toph as well. He wanted to make is words clear. "Can you please just accept my request?"

At that Toph somehow suspected it had to have to do with a girl. Aangs request had private secret possibly embarrassing romance written all over the place. She wondered who it could be, but decided that she would leave Aang to it. "Ok, Twinkletoes. If it is so important to you. But if you want, or feel the need to talk, I am here. You know where to find me"

"Thanks Toph" Aang smiled genuinely.

-/-

Azulas mood could politely be described as edgy. She was snarling at people way more than usual and she did send half of the Dai-Lee agents away on a killshot-mission. Which was very unusual for Azula. Not because of the killing but because of sending someone to do it. Usually Azula took all the pleasure there was in the world in killing people. Hell, her second name basically was 'death'. Ty Lee was worried out of her mind about her friend. She behaved really strange today and had not touched her supper at all.

"What's wrong, Azula?" Ty Lee asked in her ever so annoying singsong. She was blinking at Azula with large doll-eyes. The princess frowned heavily while she poked her dinner as if checking if it really was dead.

"For the thousandth time, Ty Lee. I am fine." she hissed angrily, before pushing her dinner away, untouched. The circus-artist made a sad face. She would love to help, but her friend refused to tell anything. She was suspecting it had to have to do something with the last couple of days. Ever since Mai and herself returned from the Earthkingdom after having successfully secured someone of interest, Azula was different. Ty Lee wondered what could have happened, but Azula looked no different than usual. It was only her behavior that was off by miles.

"You need to get laid" Mai said in her ever so gloomy mood. At that Azula at least showed some emotion. Yet it was no positive one. Suddenly half of the table was burning bright blue.

"You need to shut that pretty mouth of yours Mai. A princess won't simply get laid as you put it. It would taint her honor." she barked loudly. Mai didn't even flinch at her outburst. Seriously something was wrong with the otherwise ever so cool and collected princess. Something was way off.

"Wow, no reason to blow up like that. Gosh, relax a bit." she said blandly, while Ty Lee was putting the flames out using a bowl of tee.

Azula was clenching her teeth together hard, as she sizzled through them: "I am going to bed now" before she left the dining room in the house she was staying with her friends. Tomorrow she would be heading back to Ember Island and she really did not look forward to it. What on earth did get the better of her when she offered the Avatar a favor? Why did she do that? He was not firenation. He would have never realized that Azula withheld something from him. He would never have known about her dishonorable behavior.

She fell into her bed, not bothering to strip out of her clothes. She was positively wasted for today and did not want anything but sleep. Apart from her unconsciousness she had not slept in days. She had barely laid her head on the pillow when she already was deep asleep.

The night brought her horrible dreams. Blurry memories, warped images of what was done to her. She found herself in that dungeon, chained to the wall. There was that man who spent the last days probing her for information. She had not slept in all that time, he made sure of that. And he did seem to run out of patience, his methods got more cruel by the minute. His face was so close to hers, Azula even remembered his moldy stink, as he tightened something like a thumbscrew but only for the whole hand a little more. The horrible pain rushed through her mutilated body, Azula wanted to scream all she could, but she did not allow herself. She must not show weakness. The torturer turned to a table, and Azula remembered what would come next. She wanted to scream, but could not. She wanted to wake up, but was not able to. She wanted avert her gaze from what would happen, but her body would not comply. She was caught in her own dream, unable to escape her own hell.

Just as the torturer was about to turn around, the door was blown out of its hinges. This was no part of what actually happened, but Azula was grateful for that. Never could she live trough the moments that really followed ever again. Luckily she did not have to. Suddenly there was Aang standing in the door. And with a wave of the Avatars hand, the torturer was turning to ash, falling apart like dust in the wind. The Avatar crossed the dungeon room to the place Azula was chained up, on his way he forcefully stepped into the pile of ash, as if he made sure it was no more. A moment later he was right in front of her, his warmth filling her body with new life. His strong arms wrapped around her and suddenly the pain was gone. She felt save and out of danger. Before she knew it, the princess found herself in the lake, floating on the surface next to the Avatar. He looked at her in all his seriousness, before he leaned down to her and whispered: "I am the Avatar. I will help you, don't be scared. Everything is going to be fine, I promise. You can trust me." and with that gently whispered reassurance the whole setting swirled up into white smoke and Azula shot up in her bed desperately gasping for air, her heart racing. She was covered in sweat, the sheets clung to her form trough her soaked clothes. On the nightstand beside her she started grabbing at something, until she felt Aangs shirt in her hands. She hugged it to her as tight as possible, deeply inhaling the Avatars scent on it. It calmed her down immediately. It's ok, only a dream, nothing to be worried about. He was there, he got me, everything is fine Azula repeated in her head until she found herself back in reality again.

Putting Aangs shirt back on the nightstand, she got up and looked out of the window. Sunrise would not be anytime soon, but she decided to be on her way anyway. Well at least after she changed, took a shower, and would leave a note for Mai and Ty Lee. Not that the princess was the note-leaving-type, but she did not want to have her two friends looking for her. Or better, she didn't want to take the risk of them actually finding her. That would be a sight for the two. Azula, princess of the firenation, teaching firebending to the Avatar, the public enemy number one. She sighted to herself at the thought as she headed to the bathroom "How about no?" she whispered. She didn't even bother imagining what her father would do to her, because she was reasonable sure, she wouldn't live to tell the tale anyway.

After a extensive and admittedly very refreshing shower, it did not take her long to get ready and be on her way down to the front door.

"I knew you where up to something" a voice said out of the shadows. Azula groaned. Why did she have to be bothered with that?

"Mai, you should sleep at this hour" the princess said in an alerting tone.

"Well, so should you, and yet here we are" Mai stepped out of the shadows holding the parchment-roll Azula placed on the table just a moment ago. "You mind sharing what that is?"

"Why don't you open it and read it for yourself?" Azula asked turning to her friend. Mai shrug her shoulders and tossed the roll back on the table.

"You know, Ty Lee is all worked up over you. She really worries. You should have heard her after you stormed off to bed." Mai tried a different approach and Azula could not help but smirk.

"There is nothing to be worried about. Trust me. I just need to take care of some loose ends on my own." Azula answered. "Tell Ty Lee I am fine. There is nothing to worry about. I left some instructions in the scroll" when Mai failed to reply anything more, Azula left the house and was on her way to Ember Island, long before it would have been time.

-/-

A lot of things Azula expected. The Avatar sitting next to the pond in the moonlight way before sunrise, peacefully meditating, was surely not one of them. He was sitting there eyes closed, but his arrow-tattoos where glowing brightly. She was indecisive of her next steps, so she just sat down next to him cross legged, just as the Avatar. It felt oddly peaceful. She took a brief moment to look at his glowing marks, before they returned back to normal.

"You are early" he said calmly, slowly exhaling.

"So are you" Azula replied. "You know I could have easily taken you out like that?" she asked with her devilish grin.

"I am aware of that" he answered as he looked at her. "But a student should trust the master, should he not?" with a flowing move the Avatar got up and bowed to her "shall we begin?"

Azula was caught off guard completely. The next thing she absolutely did not expect. Her day was beginning to start really great. Usually one unexpected event per week was enough to upset her, and here was the second one in no more than ten minutes. She did not expect the Avatar to go all student-master on her. She did not expect to sit here, being respected. She prepared for a difficult time of mistrust and doubtful scrutinizing, not a humble bow and the request to begin. Maybe this would not be so bad at all. Maybe she could get to know her enemy better. Maybe this would work out in her favor after all.

She shook her head no and got up in an equally fluent move as the Avatar. "Not yet. We will wait for sunrise. A firebender draws his power from the sun. It will be easier for you to begin" she said, and bowed to her new student. No reason to discourage respect. And respect flows both ways.

He simply nodded and sat back down, Azula following a moment later. "So, what where you meditating about?" she asked, becoming annoyed by the silence. Aang grinned and shook his head

"Nothing. Meditation is about freeing the mind, about cleaning the head from anything that is bothering you. It's about letting go of your emotions and gaining complete balance" he explained. That got the princess keen-eared. The question that rose inside her was none she would ask a lot of people. Most of them left no doubt about their approach on bending fire. But Aang did.

"There is something important we need to get out of the way, before we start with this" Azula began. "It has to do with everything I am going to teach you. It will define the very way you may one day bend. And it is possibly the most serious question I am ever going to ask you during training, so consider it carefully." Azula advised. Her tone lacked nothing about her royal heritage, she was all divine princess. Aang nodded, curious about what would follow.

"Do you want to go the easy or the correct way to firebending?" she asked dryly. Aang was confused at that. He scratched his head, having hair still felt somehow odd. Up until that moment he wasn't aware there where different possibilities.

"What exactly is the difference?" he asked. Azula rose an eyebrow, but had to admit, it was a legitimate question for someone new to firebending.

"Most firebenders are relying on their hatred, their rage and anger to fuel the energy needed for firebending." Azula began. "It is a sloppy, slouchy and lazy approach to the ancient art that is bending fire. It is imprecise, uncontrollable, as dangerous to the bender as it is to others, and it is effectively cheating around the real thing. But it is easy, every silly peasant fool can bend fire with anger and hate." Azula despised this kind of firebenders. Unfortunately most were like that. Zuko being one of the best examples. She shook her head "If you ask me, it is a shame to firebending"

Aang was soaking up her every word. There were a lot of points the princess mentioned that spoke out of his soul. He was scared of firebending ever since he hurt Katara. Azula speaking of imprecise, uncontrollable and dangerous was somehow putting him at some kind of ease, hoping that maybe the 'correct' way of bending fire would possibly avoid that.

"So, what's the difference to the correct way?" he asked. Azula eyed him and got up. The time to teach this was as good as any other, so maybe it was best to make it clear from the very beginning

"It's a common misconception to assume Fire is attached to emotion, because it really is not. Fire is solely and only created by correct breathing." She inhaled deeply "Only with correct respiration the chi will flow freely through your body. All energy radiates off your lungs and spreads through your blood into your body." Aula slowly moved an arm to her chest "With correct breathing and an precise focus on your own chi, you will be able to direct the flow of energy created by your breathing into your limbs where it becomes..." As Azula exhaled steadily she pushed the hand formerly at her chest in a fluent and graceful motion away from her body into the direction of the lake. Off the tips of her fingers a massive wave of blue fire washed away over the ponds surface and burned the trees on the other shore. "...Fire" she finished with a sharp grin. Aang was quick with waterbending the burning trees extinguished. While the point of controlled eluded Aang, he knew that Azula was a showoff. She did not care one bit about those trees.

"Correct firebending is an art of precision, accuracy and perfection. It requires peace of mind, the complete absence of conflicting emotions or even better absence of emotion all together and patience. In order to bend fire without hatred and anger one needs to be in absolute peace with oneself. It is very hard to learn, but, when done correctly, will empower the bender with the most manifold abilities imaginable" Azula was very proud to be one of those few, who did this the way it was supposed to be done.

"Such as lightning" Aang said in remark of the mentioned abilities. Azula nodded. "Yes, lightning is one of the most advanced forms of cold fire"

"And cold fire is more controllable?" Aang inquired.

"Of course. It is created with clear mind and absent emotion. It will do as its masters mind commands. Not as its masters feelings do."

"Is that why your fire is blue? Because you lack emotions?" It slipped out of Aang before he could think about it. Azula inhaled sharp through her teeth, but let go of it. "I suppose so" she answered, but Aang didn't like her tone one bit. It nearly got him worried. Not about him, but about her. He decided to change subject.

"Then I would like to do it correctly. I was always afraid of losing control over fire. If you say, doing it emotionless while prevent that from happen, I will do anything it takes."

Azula smirked. "That's what I wanted to hear" she said pleased. "Now, we will start with correct breathing techniques, we won't need sun for that anyway."

Aang got up from his place as Azula demonstrated. "The key is to breathe slow and steady. But deep. It is crucial to keep your breathing as consistent as possible, even in situations of extreme endeavor you must keep a slow and steady breath. That's why staying in shape is very important" Azula paused and ran her eyes over the Avatar, who again was shirtless. "But I see that won't be a problem" she stated with a slight hint of edginess in her voice. Aang rose an eyebrow at that, but Azula dismissed it. "Now, show me. Breathe"

Aang did as he was told and took slow and steady breaths. In and out, in and out. Azula was walking around him in circles like a tiger eying its prey. "Who taught you to breathe like that?" she asked. Aang shrugged.

"Jeong-Jeong" he stated. His new teacher shook her head in disbelief.

"Who the hell is... nevermind" suddenly her hand was touching his shoulder, pressing it back gently. "You need to breathe into your lungs" she said. "not into your stomach" Aang was surprised to find her touch soft and gentle. He did not expect the princess would be capable of softness. She always seemed rough and brutal. While her one hand was pushing his shoulders back, the other was straightening his back. "Breathing into your lungs will allow you to suck in more air. Which will provide you with more power, which will in turn allow you to create more and hotter fire, should you choose to" she explained. She walked around him again, and let her nails scratch around his back and over his stomach. There goes her soft side Aang thought silently. She seemed to enjoy this, because her smile was getting more and more genuine. "Don't get me wrong, breathing into your stomach is a legitimate technique, it is just one not suited for the likes of us" Aang did not say anything but gave her an asking look, while he was concentrating on implementing Azulas instructions. He did realize that he was getting substantially more air into his body. "Firebenders like uncle Iroh are breathing into their stomach. But you just need to look at him and then look at me, or at you. He has way more stomach to breathe into." she said dryly and Aang could not help but smile. It was true, Iroh was rather corpulent. "So how is that working for you?" Azula asked, still circling him

"Good. I can feel how I get more air into my system" Aang answered but made sure his breathing would not be interrupted.

"very good." Azula said, she was rather satisfied with his breathing work. But him being an airbender, she did not really expect him to have trouble there. "Now, go and run 20 laps around that pond as fast as you can. Then we will see how steady your breathing is" she ordered and pointed towards the small lake. Aang rolled his eyes, but took off to run.

Chapter Text

Had he known that Azula would chivvy him around that pond all day long, he would have taken the easy approach to bending. Not only did he have to run more laps than he cared to count, Azula also was meticulous and demanded perfection. For each ever so small mistake he was sent to run more laps until the princess finally seemed to be satisfied. Aang was sure that she did enjoy tormenting him like that. But on the other hand, he had to admit: she was a good teacher. The young Avatar would have never suspected, but she was very patient and always explained to great length the importance of this or that. Even if Aang felt like he would die from exhaustion the moment he returned to the beach house, he was sure that after his training with Azula, he would have mastered firebending like no one else, maybe apart from her. Azula demanded perfection, she never got tired to stress that. Not only in general but in every detail, and as much as Aang wanted to complain about having to run from dawn till dusk, he knew this was the only way he'd ever want to learn firebending. With absolute control of himself.

The Avatar had no more time to think, as he was shrouded by a long and dreamless sleep the second his head hit his bed.

Azula watched her student leave after being dismissed for the day. She sighted heavily. This was crazy. It was madness. She knew it before she arrived, and she knew it when she was alone again. But she forgot when he was with her. It felt natural, like the two had known each other for decades. He was determined to learn and was working hard to achieve Azulas almost unreachable standards. But he succeeded, and at the end of the day Azula was more than pleased with the Avatar. Sometimes he would ask something, and she would answer to her best knowledge. The princess had to admit, that she was enjoying this a lot. But it scared her to notice, that it was not the teaching she liked so much. She liked the trust he met her with as well as the respect. Well, technically she was used to respect, but this was different. Normally the respect towards her was clearly out of fear, and she wouldn't have it any other way. But Aangs respect was different, almost friendly. He was giving it voluntarily and because he liked to, not because he was afraid Azula would do terrible things to him if he didn't. And then there was his trust. Whatever she said, he did without a second thought, well at least as far as training was concerned. His old master taught him to breathe into is stomach, the moment she said to breathe into his lungs, he did that. No one trusted Azula, and that was with all due cause, because Azula could not be trusted. But the thought of possibly abusing Aangs trust someday was putting her at unease. She sighted again, collected her things and turned to leave the clearing in the forest. Azula was looking forward to the next day of training with mixed feelings. Tomorrow would be interesting, one way or another.

-/-

"No, no, no, no!" Azula shook her head hard. "You are still afraid. Being afraid is an emotion. You have to get rid of it." she hissed. It was a tragedy, Aang did everything perfectly correct but the fire he was producing was not even worthy of being called fire. It was more of a hot smoke fart. Aang slouched his shoulders.

"I know that. I am really trying" he said beaten. Azula was losing it, she ran out of ideas of what to do long ago.

"You have to let the chi flow and then push it out with force. Do not hesitate, just do it!" she exclaimed and shot a bright blue rolling barrage over the lake. The flames caught the surrounding trees and before Aang could extinguish them once again, they simply vanished. "See, It is me who has the control, not the fire" she said. Moving to Aang she pushed him into the correct position, standing directly behind him. She was basically hugging him from behind, as she purred into his ear "I can tell you are scared. But I am standing right here behind you. Don't be nervous. You won't hurt me, just trust me. Everything is save, even if you should blow the whole forest up, I can deal with that. There is nothing to be afraid of" she reassured him. "Do you trust me?" she asked but suddenly realized that this question was bound to backfire. Why would he trust her?

"Yes" his answer was immediate, and with that he killed Azulas nagging doubts off immediately.

"Then do it. Give it all you got. Breathe as I taught you, rid your mind of emotion and bend! I know you can do it." her arms wandered from his chest to his stomach where she tangled her fingers together over him. Aang inhaled "into your lungs, perfect" she whispered. "Let your chi flow, feel it, press it into you limbs" she accompanied his actions with a soft voice Aang never thought Azula could come up with. He was able to move freely despite the princess hanging on to his back, as he moved to stretch his right fist out. He let go of his fear of hurting anyone the instant he felt Azulas body press to his back. He knew that he should not feel that save and at ease with her so close to him, but somehow he did. He let go of that nagging fear he would once again hurt somebody and his mind was empty of emotion as he pushed his energy into his fist. The instant later the lake was filled with bright orange fire. Large and hot it washed over the water before dying off. Azula tightened her grip around him ever so slight before she purred "Perfect" and let go of him.

Aangs smile was contagious, as she grinned at him. "How did it feel?" she asked curious. She could not remember the first time she bended fire. Azula was a natural at that and started at such young age, she was not sure if there was ever a time when she could not bend.

Aangs breathing was steady and strong, just like he was taught, even as he smiled widely. "It was" he said, searching for the correct word "intoxicating"

Azula reached out and squeezed his shoulder "Did you feel like losing control?" she inquired.

Aang shook his head "No, not at all. Strangely I felt like there was nothing I could not do at that moment. I felt so... powerful and yet it was not my power. It was there and I controlled it, but it was not mine." he admitted, but was unsure if it was a good thing or a bad.

The princess nodded. "Yes. Firebending is very powerful. And it rewards the bender with that feeling. I am surprised you noticed the difference between power and being powerful. A lot of benders confuse that and get lost in the feeling of power. Don't ever do that, as you will lose control. Acknowledge the power, it is there, and it is yours to use at will, but it will never be yours. Keep that in mind and you have learned one of the most important secrets of being a true firebender" Azula smirked, as Aang bowed to her. Not because he bowed, but because she was really amazed how fine and acute the Avatars understanding of bending was. Maybe it was not so bad after all that he was scared of fire or otherwise he might have been tempted to grasp the power he felt. There are not a lot of firebenders who have the inner strength to withstand that temptation. Aang was apparently one of them and Azula appreciated it.

"Now, do it again, but on your own" Azula instructed and Aang shot once again a wave of burning orange fire over the lakes surface.

"Again! More ferocious!"

"Again! give it more power!"

"Again!"

-/-

two weeks later:

Aang looked Azula deep in her golden eyes, pondering what her first step would look like. They where circling each other carefully.

"Come on, Avatar. Attack!" Azula teased. "I dare you"

Aang sighted. He didn't have a good feeling about this. Even though the princess assured him there was no way he could hurt her. Which was probably correct, seeing how the two of them had faced each other for so many times. He shook his concerns off and shot a bright yellow flame towards Azula. His fire had changed color over the last days quite a bit from a deep orange to the current yellow. His teacher said, this was a very good sign, though something about it seemed to bother her. He was getting more and more confident about firebending, after all. His blast vanished in Azulas bright blue wall of flames, which was rapidly closing in on the Avatar. He sliced it in half and jumped right trough.

The training fight was intense and very explosive, as the two benders where slowly closing in on each other. Neither of them noticed half of the trees around them where on fire, and frankly neither of them cared. Azula was surprised just how powerful the Avatar was at this. She still managed to maintain the upper hand, due to experience but damn, that guy was giving her a run for her money. And she loved it. It was some time ago that someone defied her like that. He was a real challenge, which Azula also fancied. Maybe if he'd fought with all four elements, he might even stand a chance.

The princess was really ventilating her built up tension right now. The last two weeks where heaven and hell for her altogether. She and the Avatar got rather close during training. She found him to have a very calming effect on her. Somehow he managed to put her at ease like no one else ever could. They had formed some sort of very twisted friendship, which consisted mostly of snippy comments, teasing and lots of firebending, while widely ignoring their past ever happened. Occasionally they would talk about this or that, but it was really only superficial, both of them hesitated when it came to deepening the topics. They still didn't know a lot about the other one. But that was ok for the both of them.

What was not ok, at least not for Azula, was the amount of tension their daily training produced. Tension in a way Azula was reluctant to admit at first, but sooner or later was left with no choice. She was always driven by her lust for power, and the Avatar displaying on a everyday basis just how powerful he really was did not help one bit.

There was this one time she arrived at the clearing when Aang was obviously training how his bending of the elements would work together. He was twirling around circular forms of water and fire while balancing large junks of earth in the air, all while sitting on a ball of air. Azula stood there for some good minutes and simply watched. It was simply awe-inspiring. She had to admit, she liked the show very much. His movements where flowing and precise and his muscular body was shimmering from his sweat, reflecting the elaborate forms of fire-rings he produced to match the sophisticated water-forms. It looked amazing. He looked amazing. It was the day she pushed the fact that he was her enemy to the back of her mind.

The truth was, Azula wanted more. She took every excuse to touch him she got, but it was not enough. The tension unfortunately was sexual in nature and the princess just was not able to get Mais voice out of her mind. You need to get laid. And as much as she would loved him all over her, she knew, she could never get that. He would never do that, he would never lay hand on her. Unfortunately. It was a shame, Azula never met anyone who she found interesting in that way. Aang was not interesting either. Aang was fascinating, almost intoxicating. He was the symbol of absolute power and yet so gentle in nature. He radiated a special harmony off, that Azula was so dearly longing after, without even realizing it. She knew something about her was not right, she knew for a long time. She knew she was a monster, her mother made that rather clear. Up until recently she was not having that much of a problem with that. Father was loving her. Or at least she thought he would. But whenever she was with Aang, she noticed that, whatever it was her father was giving her did not feel the way it felt with Aang. And the Avatar did not even love her, that she was sure of. He respected her enough and had formed some kind of real friendship -out of liking, not out of fear- with the princess. Even that bit felt somehow better than anything her father let her feel. Mostly because he did not let her feel anything apart from being useful.

Oh yeah, Azula not only wanted more, she needed it. That's why she was not the least bit furious when Aang hat closed in to her so near, that he suddenly threw her off balance in hand to hand combat. But she would have none of that. With a fluent motion the Avatar was falling to the ground together with her as she landed on top of him. For a moment the two fought for the upper hand, while Azula was holding on to Aangs wrists trying to pin his hands down. Suddenly all the force and struggle was gone and Aangs face shifted from competitive to curious, as he looked Azula in her beautiful golden eyes, searching for something in them.

Azula was feeling his gaze on her, she was feeling his body against hers and it felt good. His bare upper body was brushing over her tummy. Azula gave up on her usual garment long ago and shifted to her beach-bikini. Ember Island was hot, and she just felt more comfortable. This and, though she would never admit it, she secretly hoped that showing the young Avatar a bit more of her would somehow also gain her a bit more attention.

She returned his gaze and almost lost herself in the galaxy that where his grey eyes. Suddenly she realized just how close she was to him, but it was already too late. Before she knew what she was doing, she had closed her eyes and pressed her lips to his. At first there was no reaction and Azula suddenly felt the urge to rush off into the forest, realizing how stupid she was doing that. But out of nowhere strong arms where wrapping around her, he was kissing her back with passion, as he rolled them around so Azula would be on the bottom, she relished his gentle strength.

The moment her lips touched his, Aang was shocked, but in a good way. It was the relief of a nagging feeling he was having since the second day. Azula was getting touchy with him, and it was getting more and more with each day. He did not say anything because he actually enjoyed it quite a bit. She had a way of being rough and gentle at the same time. Each soft touch of hers would be followed by something almost painful. A scratch of her nails or something similar. Azula was bossy, and he loved it. She was so not like Katara, who was all sweet angel, would worry a lot and was always concerned about Aangs wellbeing. She was helicoptering around Aang like a overprotective mother. Not that Aang did not appreciate that in general, but it was getting annoying more often than not. He was almost 19 after all and not the 12 year old boy he used to be.

Azula was so absolutely different. She definitely was no angel, and she knew it. Quite the contrary she was a little devil, which she was most likely also aware of. She was rather reckless at pursuing what she wanted and she always knew exactly what that was. The almost arrogant tone she was able to display gave Aang a kick whenever he heard it purred in a whisper into his hear and she definitely was an eye candy. He gained all the respect for her abilities at bending, Azula represented perfection in everything she did. Though he did not know much about her as a person, he was seeing her charm. She was so not Katara, and that Aang probably liked the most. As much as he knew him thinking that was wrong on so many levels, he could not get his mind off the forbidden princess. Azula wearing that bikini of hers did not help him either. He even had the wildest dreams about her. Dreams of a very much forbidden nature involving a certain sport typically performed at night and lots of naked skin. She was driving him crazy with unfulfilled desire and lust (of a kind he knew no one else would ever be able to satisfy). The worst part about it was: she seemed to know that and was teasing him with what he could not have. Aang was on the brink to insanity. All he could do was to concentrate on the training and hope that his tension would sooner or later wash off. Meditation helped him keeping control over his body and one day after an especially hot - yes hot in both ways of the words meaning- training session he just let all his built up energy out while bending all the elements at once, letting his inner turbulences direct the bending. He created a symphony of heart while images and fantasies of her were clouding his mind.

The second her lips touched his, all the past memories replayed in his head and suddenly it all made sense. Her teasing behavior. Her sudden touchy side. Her sudden change of wardrobe and the smirk she tossed at him, which he could never read, now all of a sudden made sense. It all clicked together as he deepened the kiss with burning passion and Azula moaned into his mouth as he spun them around on the ground.

Her skin was almost burning hot as he ran his fingers over the side of her longing body. He could see the flickering flame in her eyes as he kissed over her jawline down her neck. Azula was moaning loudly and Aang felt her body wince under his strong grasp. He would not let her have the control, this was his game and he would play it to his rules.

He suddenly realized just how hot her flawless skin was becoming. He noticed at the sudden pain near his chest, which forced him to let go of the inebriant taste of Azulas skin and look down. The ribbons holding Azulas bikini in place where on fire as the fabric just slid off her body like an annoying obstacle. She was completely naked in his arms, but did not seem to bother one bit. "sorry" she moaned with infinite pleasure in her voice "firebender, we burn hot" she panted in an attempted explanation as her mouth found his again, and they exchanged kisses made of fiery hot air. Aang moved one hand to cup her perfect breasts and found them to be absolutely amazing. Firm flesh with a small hard nipple made him want to taste. He once again left her mouth to tail a steaming line of licks over her skin down to her breasts. Sucking the hard bud into his mouth, Azula let out a scream of pleasure and Aangs hand slowly slid down over her tummy between her legs. He was not rushing and took his time teasing around the spot he was interested in. Azula was close to ordering him to finally touch her, he was such a tease. He was basically torturing her and she was already losing her mind over his sensitive touch as well as the amazing feel of his mouth on her hot skin. Just as she wanted to scream her need for attention, his hand brushed over her sex cupped it and applied pressure to it, before his fingers ran quick circles through her folds and his thumb was working on that one especially sensitive bud on her body. Azula was moaning and wincing under Aangs touch as she drove her fingernails deep in his back. She was falling apart for him and he hadn't even really touched her. She could not think clearly for even a fraction of a second, the fact that this was just as much of a mindfuck, as it was soon to become a real one, already had her addicted to it.

She tugged at his pants and they were quickly discarded, she reached down to his member and found it to be already rock-solid and ready. He was almost scarily huge, or at least Azula thought so, she had no firsthand experience in this. At the moment she was doing something the princess would never do otherwise. She was going with the flow and without a plan.

Aang was really fighting himself. Azulas whispers of breathed pleas for more were driving him crazy. And her delicate fingers were running quick and pleasurable strokes over his itching cock. He wanted this so bad. He wanted do dive into her and make them one. But he knew about the ancient traditions of the air nomads. He knew what it would mean if he gave her that, and he was sure she would not like it one bit. But he was the only air nomad left alive, so technically he was free to make his own rules. And he wanted this so bad. Looking into Azulas kinkily blazing eyes he was sure she needed this way more than he did. She was almost begging for it. If he'd stop now, it would send all the wrong signals. He knew the princess had a fragile mind, it became clear to him the day he found her in the woods and if he'd stop now, she would not take it well. He promised her, he would not hurt her and that included her feelings, didn't it? Besides, he would lie to himself if he said he did not want this just as much.

Aang threw his concerns overboard, maybe if he just went with the flow, things would sort them self out eventually. Besides, it felt right. Something feeling that right could not possibly be wrong. The Avatar wanted, almost needed this, and his princess did as well. He moved down to her burning body and placed himself hat her entrance. When his tip disappeared in her, she moaned loudly and her legs wrapped around his waist pushing him further into her. Azula was in heaven, it was perfect, she felt like she was freefalling. She wanted more, she needed more.

But suddenly Aang stopped and Azula found his gaze, which was one exemplary expression of confusion. He felt a barrier that he knew should not be there. Or at least he hoped. The thought of Azula being... of her giving... to him, he could not process it in between all these clouds of lust and desire. "Azula..." he whispered in shock "are you..." he could not bring himself to say it. He should not be the one doing that. There was no way he was the right person to take it away from her in a rushed action on the grass of a clearing near a lake. She deserved better than that.

A weary grin hushed over the princess' lips. "Yes." she moaned. "Please Aang, I want this. With you. Please do it. I want you to have it. To give it to you. No one else. Only you. Please do me, and do me hard. I need this, please!" she panted trying to push herself further down Aangs length. It was all it took for Aang to drop all his concerns at once. He pushed through the barrier and Azula screamed in a mix of pain and endless lust. "You ok?" he asked concerned.

"Yesssss" she hissed though her teeth "More"

At that Aang threw his caution into the wind, and started to use her. Her voice echoed through his mind 'Do me and do me hard'. The Avatar was happy to do just that. He ventilated all the tension in their dance of desire as he basically ravaged her. Grabbing her at her hips and picking her up against a burned tree, furiously penetrating her. And she loved it so much, being handled by his strong hands, having him have his way with her. She was his willing love puppet and was happy to comply to everything his lust-fogged mind came up with. He took her without a second thought about it and she still was not getting enough. Her screamed pleas for more where echoing through the woods and encouraged him even further, he was happy to give her all she begged for. Azula knew that he would leave her bruised, but she did not mind at all. On the contrary, she looked forwards to it, as it would mark her as his. And he looked forward to the marks she would leave on him, as it would in return mark him as hers. Aang groaned behind her as he switched her to the next position, she had lost count how many there were. Azula screamed once again as her body was contracting uncontrolled. She was twitching and jerking around unable to control the wave of energy that washed over her body, leaving her screaming. She was on all four when the last of an endless wave of orgasms hit her and she collapsed to the floor, screaming in pleasure as Aang was quick to gently rub the last waves off her tormented, but dripping wet center. Azula breathed a blow of blue fire unaware of doing so into the air before her body went totally limp. The more than satisfied princess could not move, even if she wanted to. She noticed being picked up and carried away. She smiled at him weakly.

"Thank you" she whispered, before falling asleep of exhaustion.

Aang carried her to a part of the clearing that was not devastated by their duel which lead to their... duet. He found a tree under which the shadow seemed especially dark and the moose more soft. The Avatar sat down, still holding sleeping Azulas limp body. He shifted her a bit and she snuggled closer to him, moaning silently against his chest. Aang was smiling like an idiot, as he gently brushed a loose hair out of Azulas face. He could get used to that, he thought to himself as he kept petting her head with all the gentleness in the universe.

Azula woke up to the wonderful sound of steady and strong heartbeat and the feeling of a hand running softly through her hair. Azula started smiling like she never did before. She felt sore but also very comfortable and complete. Like it should be this way.

"Aang?" she asked.

"mhm?" he murmured absent minded. He appreciated her using his name. She did this only when she was about to say something that was very important to her, he figured as much out. Otherwise she would mockingly call him Avatar.

"Do you regret it?" she wanted to know, but was not sure why. She was gazing out to the pond and could not see Aang shake his head.

"No" he said firmly. "Not one second" he really did not. But suddenly it hit him "Do you?" he pressed out but was afraid of the answer.

"It is surprising how much I liked it. Every moment was well worth it. Even though I made myself completely worthless, I regret nothing." At that Aang turned her around in his arms, so he would face him. The look on his face was very concerned.

"What do you mean? You made yourself worthless? What are you talking about?" he forced himself to ask. Azula laughed silently. For a second she considered telling him a witty lie, but she did not feel like it. Suddenly Azula felt something she never felt before. She trusted Aang and she trusted him wholly. She knew, if she wanted him to gain trust in her, she needed to be honest with him. Never in her life before had she risked, what she was about to risk. She decided that Aang, the Avatar and no two weeks ago her worst enemy, would be the first person she would and could open up to. If something went wrong she would kill him, and should she lose, he would kill her. That way her honor would be safe.

"Aang, I am a firenation princess. Someday my father will marry me off to someone he thinks is a good catch. Hell, he tried it once already, but unfortunately my to be husband had an really dramatic accident. He will try it again someday, I am sure. Me being untouched and pure at this time will be crucial. Otherwise I am of no value as a wife. But I don't care. This was something I would only give to someone special. Someone like you."

"Someone like me?" Aang repeated confused. He ignored the fact that Azula killed the person she was supposed to marry and twisted it so it would look like an accident. This was so very Azula, she was always one to make short work. Disposing someone like that just seemed fitting.

"Yes. someone like you" she confirmed and reached out to softly caress his cheek.

"But what about your father?" Aang asked and the princess stayed silent for long moments. He almost feared he took it to far with his curiousness, but then she spoke up. It took her a while to make up her mind and she still wasn't quite sure. But she knew where she was tending to, so she settled on this. Everything else she would be able to handle later, once she decided for sure.

"He does not need to know everything. I am not so sure anymore what I am to him. For years I thought he loved me, but I have that nagging doubt, that to him I am nothing more but a tool he can use. The way he commands me around sometimes is... well, I will have to see. At the moment I am useful to him, but that can change. Zuko once was useful to him to keep his wife under control, and look where it got my brother." Azula sighted heavily "If he finds out I am going to be dead. Well technically it is we. We are dead"

Aangs look asked all the question and Azula smirked. It was not her smirk of doom, but close.

"Legally you tainted my honor and purity. And as my closest relative it is my fathers right to challenge you to an Agni-Kai over my honor. Or someone marries me before that, then it would be his responsibility to wash my name clean." Azula giggled, she did not care enough. Her father would never get to marry her off. Azula was her own woman, ever was and ever will be. And no matter how many accidents had to happen, it would stay this way. "Those traditions are ancient." Aang could not help but suddenly see an escape, at least until he faced Osai. Or maybe he just wanted an excuse to bring up his nagging doubts about a certain airnation-law. It was more likely the later, since Azula would probably not run off and tell her father about today.

"And what if your future husband would refuse to duel me?" he asked.

"He would not." Azula stated.

"But what if?" Aang insisted.

"Seriously Aang, who would be crazy enough to even marry me for who I am, not for what my father promises them? You know me, I am a monster. The fact you where willing to even touch me... to give me a chance..." Azula averted her eyes, she felt ashamed. It was wonderful for her, but the thought what she has done to him in the past or what she would have done to him not so long ago was sickening her. Aang inhaled sharply and chose to save her later remarks for another time.

"Well, you know, someone is holding you in his arms, while you are being naked. And he likes what he sees a lot" he said calmly but with a playful tone. Azula sat up but scooted closer to him

"Where are you heading?" she asked. Aang sighted.

"How much do you know about airbender-law?" he inquired. Azula shrugged

"Absolutely nothing" she answered curious.

"You know, the air nomads where not the type for rituals and contracts and stuff like that. It was all rather freely. And well, technically, under airbending law...what we did" his voice faded away and Azula blinked a few times

"We married. By sleeping with each other, we married" she stated "In theory, yes" Aang nodded. There was a spark of fury lighting up inside her, but she chose to let him explain.

"Why didn't you tell me before?" she asked.

"Well, fist of all, it all happened rather fast. You know, we did not really... plan that, did we? And when I was about to tell you, I just could not bring myself to it. You were begging for it and I was afraid that if I told you at that moment, you would get the wrong impression. I did not want you to think that I didn't want you, because obviously I did. I did not want you to think, that I'll abandon you because of some ancient stuff no one knows about anymore. You seemed to need this just as much as I did, and I really wanted this. Then there is the fact that you are no airbender, you could not even know about the possible legal consequences. Besides I am the last airbender. Personally I think that I have all the right there is in the world to change laws." He was counting his points on his fingers as he listed them. It was a lot easier to come up with good reasons why he did not tell her in the first place, now that his mind was not fogged by sex.

For a moment Azula was furious. But she saw his point. Really, it was not planned and he was completely right, when he assumed that she would not have taken the interruption with that topic well, if he had brought it up then. She would have gotten the wrong impression. This was difficult for Aang and Azula somehow understood that. Technically they had the same problem. Both of them had some ancient tradition holding them back and both of them neglected them. She did not tell him either, that by sleeping with her, Ozai could challenge the Avatar to an Agni-Kai. Aang made it clear that he left Azula the choice of what to do with that information. She could take him up on that sometime in the future. But she still wanted to test him.

"I can live with that answer" Azula smiled. "But do tell me. Does it not bother you now being married? Do you even want that?" Aang rose an eyebrow, he was not sure if this was Azula being painfully serious or Azula mocking in her almost serious tone.

"Do you?" he asked, causing Azula to pause for a moment, sorting her thoughts.

"Well, we do not know each other that well. We had a difficult past. But this feels right. I mean, I am naked cuddling to you in an public forest, and I could not care less. So maybe we should just give us a chance and we will come back to that legal law stuff in some time, whenever it feels right. When we find it works, great. When we think it does not, you can still change laws" Azulas stroked her finger of his chest. Aang could not help but smile when she said 'us'. Something inside the Avatar was jumping in joy. This was wrong, both of them knew it. But it felt so right, which also was known to both. Some risks are worth being taken. This was definitely one of them. Though they would have to hide what they had -whatever it was- for quite some time.

"I can live with that answer." Aang smiled back at her. It was the only thing to do. Put that matter on halt for the time being and come back to it once it should arise again. Aang was ok with that. He did not really think that particular part of airnation culture made much sense outside of the monks-society anyway.

That whole conversation turned out way better than Aang expected it to.

-/-

Two hours later Azula was dressed again - she changed back to her more formal attire - sitting beside Aang, who was meditating. She loved watching him. It was already dark but Azula did not want to leave.

"Can I ask you something bending related?" Aang suddenly said. Azula smiled.

"Sure"

"What's the secret behind lightning?" he asked and Azulas smile grew wider

"I wondered when you'd ask" her smile turned into a smirk as she pulled him up with her.

"So, you already know the basics. The key to cold fire is also the key to lightning. Peace of mind. The difference to the way we bend fire is the source of energy. Where fire draws its power from breathing, lightning is created by forcefully creating an imbalance of cosmic energy inside you." Azula explained. She was not sure how to phrase the complex and difficult process that leads to lightning. Her mentors taught her but did not need to say much, she somehow knew what to do.

"You are talking about yin and yang? Positive and negative cosmic energy?" Aang asked and Azula nodded.

"Yes. Normally these two energies strive to balance each other. A skilled bender is able to force them apart creating a kind of power-vacuum, which the energies will want to fill in order to regain balance. The moment yin and yang are released and crash back together energy is created, which you can provide guidance to. This creates lightning." she explained before laying her hands on Aangs shoulders "But always keep two things in mind: First of all the energy you create can only be guided, you do not command it. Never try to force it in any direction, go with its flow until it eventually reaches the point you want it to be. Secondly: Never force the yin and yang apart for too long. This will throw you out of balance for good and is enough to permanently damage ones bending. Seeing how you are the Avatar, I have no idea what it could do to you. A few seconds, not more." Azula stepped back from him wiping her fingers through the air in circular motions. A moment later lightning was following her fingertips around her in loud sparks. "Remember, you only guide it" she said as the lightning flowed around her. With a fluent and precise motion she shot the lightning into the air, where it thundered loudly before it vanished. "Give it a try" she encouraged him "Feel the two energies inside your body and rip them apart."

Aang looked deep inside of him and quickly found what Azula was talking about. He found the positive and negative vortex of energy circling around each other and forced them apart. The second he did that, he felt the incredible tension that suddenly rushed through his body, every fiber of it was feeling like it was on fire. Aang let the two energies free immediately after pulling them apart, remembering the words of warning. The second they crashed together a electric thunderstorm rushed through his body. He felt unimaginable power searching a way out from his body. He was so stunned by the feeling he almost forgot to provide guidance. The electric energy rushed to his fingers and he could hear the sparking of lightning. He felt the flow push and pull on his fingertips as he directed the lightning around his body and up into the air. It was an amazing feeling.

Azula was smiling at him "Perfect" she whispered. "You are a natural at this. Who'd have thought after all your fear, lightning did come easy to you"

"I have an excellent teacher" he replied sheepishly.

She pressed a quick kiss on his cheek. "charmer" she purred before crossing her arms in front of her chest "Now. Do it again. But this time separate the yin and yang a bit longer."

Aang nodded.

Chapter Text

"How was she?" Toph asked and Aang froze were he stood in the hallway in the middle of the night. So much for his undetected return. He knew it would have been better to jump to the balcony, but no, he was so deep in thought, he took the front door.

Toph was coming out of the living room and was munching nuts. He had no idea how Toph could possibly know. Maybe she was just playing with him hoping he would trip over his tongue. He decided to try and play it cool. Gosh, why does that girl have to know when I am lying he thought. Of all people who could have stayed behind, why she? Why not Katara? Or even better Sokka? He would have been completely oblivious. But no, it had to be the living lie detector. Oh, come off it.

"Toph, what are you..."

"Twinkletoes, I could hear the two of you shagging inside the house. With doors closed. It was really annoying, too" she said calmly "And unless you acquired a taste for honey and jasmine perfume, you smell like her" she knew everything, she knew what he was doing, she knew it was a girl he spent his days with and she knew who she was. Toph was confused as hell when realization had hit her, how Aang could possibly become involved with that monster Toph would never understand. She knew it all, but Aang did not know that. Toph was going to toy with him for a bit, not because she wanted to make fun of him, but because she was so furious, she would have ripped his head off otherwise.

"No I did not" he admitted.

"Didn't think so. Jasmine is rather feminine after all. You gave that poor girl good, didn't you" Toph smiled coolly and Aang blushed hard. Oh she could feel his heart racing. He wasn't even seeing it coming. How he could possibly be that careless and naive was beyond Toph.

"Well..." he started, but Toph cut him off, deciding to bust the bomb.

"So. How do you enjoy royal flesh?" she teased, while she snipped a nut in her mouth. She seemed relaxed and cool, but on the inside Toph was boiling. If Aang would not confess right now, she was going to lose it.

"What...what are talking about?" he asked nervous. At that Toph exploded.

"Dammit Twinkletoes! Who the hell told you it was a good idea to nail Azula!? How the fuck did you even do that?! Are you some sort of twisted pervert? Did you think, hell why not, what could possibly go wrong, let's just hump the crazyqueen, because why not, right? Have you lost your mind? Do I need to draw you a picture of who the hell it is you are shagging? Hello, Toph to Aang, SHE IS THE LUNATIC PRINCESS OF THE DAMN FIRENATION! She killed you once? Have you forgotten? What's wrong with you? What is she even doing here? And... how on earth did that happen?"

"How do you..."

"Know?" Toph shook her head "You have violent sex with a girl and no three hours later I hear lightning roaring through the skies at the evening of a day even I was able to feel the sun on my skin. Since when is there a thunderstorm without a storm, without the clouds and without the thunder, but only the lightning? Mh, what could that possibly have been? You know, there is only one girl we know of who can even produce lightning." she roared angrily "But that's not all, no. Mr. Avatar even topped that. You come walking back in here smelling exactly like her. You didn't even have the decency to wash it off! And don't you dare ask how I know that, because I am blind. I remember scents of people like you probably remember faces. How dumb do you think I am, that I would not notice that? Now, answer me that: How did you like fucking Azula?" she stomped towards him and pressed her finger on his chest.

"It was amazing" Aang admitted.

"Yeah, I could hear that" Toph stated still very angry hat her friend. But there was a shift in him. He felt different, his heartbeat was changing and Toph did not like it for a second when she realized what was probably going on.

"Toph, listen, I am sorry ok?" Aang tried to cheat the gallows at this point. He always thought Azula could be scary, but damn it, at the moment Toph was not pleasant either.

"No, you are not" she sighted, giving up. She knew where this would end up. Somehow she knew. And realizing that took all her ground for arguments away. "Well, do you at least love her? Please tell me it was no hate-fuck"

"I really like her. We haven't known each other long enough for love but... It's going in the right direction."

"How did that even happen? Do tell me now, will you?"

And like that, Aang sat down together with Toph on the table and told her everything from the very first moment he wanted to meditate and found Azula almost dead in the woods. He told her everything, each little detail of the past two weeks and how their relationship evolved up until the moment they joined each other in loving embrace. At which point he reduced the details drastically.

-/-

"Where is Mai?" Azula asked, while Ty Lee was hanging from the ceiling with her legs wedged to the timbers. Her pigtail was swinging back and forth with the movement of the acrobats head.

"Azula!" she exclaimed before she let herself glide off the ceiling, gracefully landing on her feet "You are back" she gave her friend a hug, which the princess hesitatingly returned.

"Yes. So, where is Mai?" she asked again, but this time with her famous don't-mess-with-me voice.

"She left this morning, her Uncle sent her a messenger-hawk. Something about a prisoner she will be interested in, I don't remember." Ty Lee mused with a bright smile.

"Really?" Azula said plainly.

"You know Mai" the acrobat shrugged. "Oh, I almost forgot. This arrived for you as well. And there is a Dai-Lee agent waiting for you in your office." Ty Lee swung herself over to a table where she retrieved a scroll and handed it to Azula. "You should really stick around more often, I feel like your assistant"

"yeah, maybe" the princess said absent minded while she unrolled the scroll.

"On the other hand your aura is so very pink today. You must be happy!" Ty Lees singsong was worse than usual. Azula chose not to reply to that statement. What would she say anyway? It's not like she wasn't happy, Ty Lee was completely right. But whatever she would say now, the next question was bound to be why? and Azula simply did not want to talk about that with Ty Lee. Or anyone else for that matter. But Ty Lee apparently didn't get the hint to shut up. "What are you doing anyway?" she asked happily.

"Reading" Azula sneered. Ty Lee tilted her head slightly.

"No, I meant in general. You are gone so often" she smiled at Azula, who did not even look at her.

"Tying up loose ends. I already told you that, Ty Lee" Azula stated and shot her one of her deadly glares. She was of course lying, but Ty Lee would never know that.

"Right..." the pink girl replied disappointed. Something about the princess was off, and every time Ty Lee tried to bring it up, Azula just dismissed her like that. Like she always did. Apparently the princess didn't really trust her all that much and that made the pink girl sad. She once really liked Azula, but after they met again, she was way colder. Brutal, gruesome and with something about her, which scared Ty Lee. At least there was still Mai. Mai trusted her, they shared a lot of secrets together.

Azula wadded the scroll before lighting it up in her hands, there was a short blue blaze, and then nothing but fine ash was left. She dusted it off her hands. "Alright, time to pack up. Father sends us to the boiling rock. Something is not right there. You get us ready to go, I'll go and see what that Dai-lee agent has to say. I'll be back in an hour or so."

The princess left Ty Lees room and headed downstairs for her small office. If it was not for Aang she would have moved back to the palace weeks ago. But unfortunately there was no way she would be able to sneak in and out every day. Besides, she would never be able to make the trip in time while getting enough sleep. Due to severe lack of any better ideas, one of Mais parents holyday- houses had to suffice for now.

She entered the office, the Dai-Lee agent was standing there, bowing deep. "Speak" she commanded.

"Your highness, your assignment has been completed. We found the camp and the destination they were planning to move you to. As you wished there was no one left alive at the camp. Unfortunately the second location was already abandoned and we were unable to locate the general and his officers. I am sorry your highness. Please forgive me." he bowed again. On the one hand, Azula was glad that at least one half of the mission was completed. On the other hand, she would have rather seen that sad excuse of a general dead and his men alive than the other way round. She seriously had expected more.

"If you fail me again. Even if it is only the slightest mistake. The tiniest slip. You will never be sorry again" Azula stated in an terrifying cool manner. The agent swallowed hard, before she clicked her fingers "Now get out of my sight!" she ordered. The agent bowed again and was quickly gone. Azula was left alone, shaking her head. She wanted that general dead. She needed him dead. And everyone around him. They all had to die. No one was allowed to do the things they did to her and live. They will all pay for it. Azula promised herself when she was able to escape, no one would survive. Up until now it seemed to work. And it worked partially today as well. Just the one person she was really after managed to escape. Great.

She needed to see someone, and she needed him now. Memories of that day where flooding her mind, but she did not want to see them. She had to see him immediately.

-/-

Azula was hearing the predominant sizzling of lightning being bended long before she was at the clearing. Aang was still there, just like the princess suspected. He told him to go and get some sleep, but something was bugging him. He didn't want to share his concerns and that was fine with Azula. She was not really one of the sharing-type herself. Who was she to blame him. After all they were still at the work-things-out phase.

She ducked trough the covert and saw him standing near the shore, bending lightning around him. One thing Azula had to admit: He really got the hang on that really fast and exceptionally good. His stance was perfect, as were his movements. The princess would have no one else allowed to display such expertly precision without being harshly rebuked by her. But seeing Aang like that and knowing that she taught him everything he knew about fire and lightning, made her really, really proud.

"You know, there is such a thing as overdoing it. Even the Avatar should get some sleep from time to time" she said smiling. The bright lightning vanished and he spun around, capturing her in his arms, before he whirled her around him, grinning like an idiot. Azula would lie if she said, she did not enjoy his overly joyful attention.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, before kissing her passionately. Azula was unable to respond, too caught up in the moment, eagerly exploring his mouth with her tongue. She felt fog arise in her mind and before she was about to lose control over herself, she pulled away.

"I don't have much time." she said smiling, her golden eyes where gleaming brightly. "Father ordered me to the boiling rock. Something I need to take care of there, he was rather unspecific. As usual." She stopped at his disappointed expression. "Aww, come on. I'll only be gone for three days or so. You will survive." she teased.

"Yeah, it's just..." Aang sighted, causing Azula to smirk

"Oh, look at this. The almighty Avatar, brought to his knees by an absent women. Who'd had thought" she was mocking him. He knew it, this was their game. And he got a big ace up his sleeve

"And that, coming from a woman who is sneaking in my room every other night, because she can't wait a few hours more until she sees me again." he said calmly, watching his words have the desired effect. Azula thought she was so clever. Which she was, but sometimes she thought there was no way someone else could be even more clever. Those rare occasions where always great fun for Aang.

Azula was changing through all shades of red available. "You know, next time you can join me in my bed, you don't need to sit on the carpet." he teased and pulled her in for a hug. The princess was frozen

"How... How did you know?" she tried to hiss angrily, but failed. There was no way he could have noticed that. He was sleeping, she always made sure of that, before climbing through his window. It was her biggest secret... up until now.

"I did not" he confessed. "Toph told me the other day." At that Azula cringed hard.

"She knows?!" there was panic building inside her stomach. Aang could tell by the look in her golden eyes, that the princess was not pleased at all.

"Relax, she knew from the beginning. She kind of heard us that first time" Aang said and tried to smile. He held her close to him, hoping that this way she would not right away explode.

"what?!" she spat. Aang tried his best little innocent face, but knew he screwed that one up.

"I'm sorry! Look, I should have told you sooner. But trust me, everything is ok. Toph does not give a single flying fuck. It's none of her business and she knows that. We can trust her, ok? She is not going to tell anyone." Aang said with the most calming voice he could muster.

"Is that so?" Azula asked dangerously slow. She wanted to tell him, that there was only one person she trusted, which was the one who was trying to hug her and whom she did not hug back, but she left it out.

"Yes. Everything under control. Even if she would not have caught us that first time, she would for sure have noticed you sneaking into my room sooner or later. What where you doing there anyway? Not that I would not appreciate your company. I'm just curious." Aang asked, successfully trying to change the topic.

Azula sighted, leaning into him and wrapping her arms around his waist. "I am having nightmares. About what happened... before you found me. And well... you know, I still have your shirt, and normally that helps me, but from time to time it's really bad. And I need to see you, so I come and sit in front of your bed, watching you sleep."

Aang could tell she was crying. It tore something inside him apart. Azula was never the emotional type. Seeing that whole thing getting so close to her must mean a lot. He hugged her closer, gently kissing her forehead. He wished he could do more for her. "shhh, It's ok. I am right here, ok? No one is going to hurt you, I promise." He felt her nod against his chest.

"Tell me what happend, Azula." he said softly.

"No. I told you." she shook her head firmly "I will never talk about it" she sobbed. Aang pressed his lips together, it hurt him what happened to her. He never thought anyone could break Azula, she was always so indestructible. No matter what happened, Azula found a way out of it, whatever the situation was. Aang did not think she could be broken, when the princess still was his worst enemy. But someone nearly succeeded.

"At least tell me who it was. Maybe one day I will run into him. And if that happens, I want to know who it was." somehow he felt more anger and hate towards that person than towards the firelord.

"I don't know his name. He was an earthkingdom general. Huge beard, brown hair and eyes. Wore a golden brooch in his hair, similar to mine just with earthkingdom insignia. He was maybe forty or fifty years old. He seems calm but he is very aggressive. Oh, and he has that habit of balling one hand to a fist, while the other one stays relaxed." Azula sighted and Aang picked her up, sat down and pulled her in his lap.

"That's ok, Azula. No worries. He will show up someday. But next time on your conditions, ok?"

Chapter Text

Toph was enjoying a nice cool glass of watermelon-juice when suddenly the door was blast open. She had her feet on the table, so she did not notice anyone approaching. She shrieked loudly, spilling the glass all over her robe.

"Where is Aang?!" the distinct female voice shouted.

"Why hello to you too, Sugar Queen. Nice to have you back, how was the trip to the south pole?" Toph replied offended, while trying to clean off her soaking wet robe. Katara sighted heavily.

"Yes, sorry Toph. Hello. I really need Aang now. Where is he?" Katara urged as she bent the soddenness out of Tophs green tunic.

"Backyard. But I have to warn you. What he is doing might not please you."

"As long as he does not masturbate" Katara replied flatly, before she launched off to the backyard. Toph rolled her blind eyes "Yeah, it might be worse than that" she said to herself and slowly followed Katara. There was no way to prepare her for what she was about to see anyway. Better throw her in the cold water. The earthbender shrugged. It's not like Toph didn't tell Twinkletoes that someday soon the rest of the gang will return, but he didn't care. Well, now he had to face the music on his own.

"Aang, we need to..." Katara froze where she stood, door half open and stared into the backyard. She rubbed over eyes a few times, to be sure they were not fooling her. And they weren't. To Katara the moment felt like an eternity. She was not comprehending what she was seeing. When she left he didn't know anything, and now?

"Aang?" she repeated, without reaction.

"You need to speak up. That shit is loud" Toph said, who suddenly appeared behind her, pushing the waterbender out onto the porch.

"TWINKLETOES!" she roared. Aang cringed startled, causing him to shift the lightning he was spinning around him into a direction it was not supposed to go. Following its flow he turned around and suddenly there was Katara standing at the door. shit. That, he was not expecting at all; it threw him off balance completely.

The next moment half of the porch in front of the door to the backyard blew up, struck by lightning. Toph and Katara leaped backwards.

"Holy shit, Toph?! Are you out of your mind sneaking up like that on me, while I am lightning-bending?" he shouted furious. "Do you have any idea what could have happened!? This is dangerous!" Katara shove past Toph, she was not short on anger herself.

"Now let's not pretend it's absolutely normal for you to suddenly bend lightning, ok? How the hell are you even able to do this, Aang? When I left you were not able to produce the smallest flame. And now lightning?" she pressed her hands to her hips, demanding an answer. "What's going on?" Luckily for Aang, he prepared that.

"Roku showed me" Aang said with a rather well practised smile. Spirits help me, the lies are real. "You know I was meditating a lot. And it turns out, your past lives can show you a lot of things." he said and smiled again, like he was proud to have found out. Katara was mustering him for a moment, but started smiling a second later. Uff, close call.

"Wow, Aang. That's amazing. But why lightning though, and not fire first? Or do you also know how to do that?" Katara asked eagerly, but before Aang could reply, Toph nudged her in the shoulder.

"Sugar Queen, you wanted something from Aang. It seemed urgent? You remember?" Toph asked. Katara distressingly distorted her face.

"Riiight. Yeah. Sorry. I don't know how to put that. But Zuko and Sokka went to a high security firenation prison island. They try to bust Suki out and..." Katara sputtered. Aang was waving his hands right after sorry.

"Hang on, hang on. Zuko is back? Is he fine? What prison? And how the hell did Suki end up there? She was with the Kioshi-Warriors, wasn't she? How do you know all that? I am not here for two weeks and suddenly the world is crashing down."

"Actually it was more like three weeks, Twinkletoes" Toph teased, but got ignored.

"Yeah, we found Zuko by chance on the way to the pole, and picked him up. When we were already on our way back we paused at the place where we picked Zuko up before. He and my brother had a long talk that evening, in private. They left me alone in the night, I got that scroll, it was attached to Appa. They took Zukos War-Balloon and told me, we would meet back here." Katara said handing the scroll to the Avatar.

"Well." Aang said scratching his hair skimming the paper. "Glad you are back. And because of Zuko and Sokka. Do you want to do anything about that, or...?"

"They left two days ago. I am furious they left me alone! That's so unfair of them! Like I can't handle myself!"

"But?" Aang interrupted

"Well they will handle it somehow on their own. I hope. It could take some days, I guess. If they are not back by end of the week, we should probably go after them" Katara said rubbing her thumbs together. She always did that, when she was nervous. Aang nodded approvingly. "sounds like a plan" he said supportive but decided soon on a change of topic.

"And how is it going with Zuko?" Aang asked, causing Katara to deeply blush "We are fine" she admitted.

"Wait a moment, we?" Toph asked.

"Yeah, well, you know. We kinda talked on our way to the southpole and... He was so sweet." Katara replied unable to get rid of that deep red on her face.

"I am happy for you, Katara" Aang said smiling, before giving his friend a hug. "And his bending?"

"As good as new. He said he found some ancient Sun-Warriors who helped him somehow. I don't know, I'm no firebender."

"Well, finally some good news" he said. In theory at least. While it was great that Zuko got his bending back, Aang was not stupid. He was able to count two and two together. Azula was ordered to the boiling rock, the most secure prison the firenation had to offer. Zuko and Sokka where heading to a high security prison as well. There would be a lot of coincidence involved if this was not the very same prison. Now with Zuko being back in old shape, this was possibly a delicate situation. He wanted his friends to be save of course. But he also wanted his lover back as soon as possible. Hopefully this would not turn into a gigantic mess. He sighted.

"Katara, up for some waterbending? We didn't do that in a while"

"I'd love to, Aang" she said and grabbed him at his collar, before dragging him off to the beach. A few minutes later they were standing in the ocean in front of Zukos private beach, bending their water sculptures everyone of their friends loved so much. But today there was no one around to watch, and Katara was grateful for that. Something about Aang was not right.

"Tell me, Aang" Katara said softly as she bended tubes of water around her and at Aang, who was turning them around. "Why lightning?"

"I told you, I will never bend fire again, after I hurt you" he answered. He was lying so badly and he was feeling ashamed for it. But what was he supposed to do? He desperately needed Azula back. After she left, he was practising, when something happened to his bending. Something his princess was most likely not going to like at all. He tried to revert it, but his efforts were futile. He can't tell anybody until he spoke to Azula again, it would be a dead giveaway. He also had no idea how it happened. Why did this have to happen when she was gone? Why? It just had to be this way, hadn't it?

"But lightning is better? That's a strange logic, Aang" Katara said. Seeing how he blew up half of the wooden porch suggested that this was not a gentle breeze either. He said himself that it was really dangerous. Lightning was one of the most advanced forms of firebending after all. Even Katara knew that. She witnessed its raw destructive power before and it still gave her the creeps. She remembered all too well the moment Aang was hit by Azulas lightning. That crazy bitch killed him. One day she was going to pay for that, Katara swore it that very day in Ba Sing Se. How Aang thought lightning was a good idea was beyond the waterbender.

"Yes. Lightning is better." he stated, calmly returning the tube of water Katara was passing him behind his back.

"But why?" Katara did not understand at all.

"It's created differently. You rip apart yin and yang inside your body. Letting them crash back together creates lightning" Aang simplified a lot here, but his longtime friend would never do it herself, so there was no use in explaining to the same extent Azula did.

"You rip apart yin and yang?" Katara repeated, letting the water hose fall back into the ocean. "Are you crazy?"

"It's completely save. You only do so for a couple of moments. Trust me"

"It's save?" Katara was frowning hard crossing her arms over her chest. Aang let out a small laughter, while he splashed a bit of water in Kataras face.

"Well not at the receiving end, but you know what I meant to say. Ripping yin and yang apart is safe if you are not overdoing it." he said dodging Kataras counterattack expertly.

"Ok. But why lightning still? I don't get it" the waterbender shrugged.

"You need to be in absolute control of your feelings to do it. You can't feel anything or else you won't be able to separate the two energies. This is why I like it so much. If I'd be angry or something, I would not be able to create it, so when I cannot create it, I obviously can't hurt anyone with it." Aang replied. It was true, what he said was, what he liked the most about lightning. In theory at least. Azula taught him rather well. He was remembering the feeling of no emotions, which was enough to rip yin and yang apart. He found out that he was very well capable of bending lightning - and fire on that notion- while sad, lonely, overly joyful, completely happy or everything at once. Why would he not be able to do so when angry? But that was something he would never tell Katara. It was bad enough she knew he could do it at all. On the other hand he was horrible at keeping secrets anyway.

"Well Aang, that is... really wise, I think" Katara said with a smile on her lips while she left the ocean with Aang in tow. She understood Aangs reason. Amazing how his past incarnation taught him such an advanced technique, she never knew this was even possible.

Aangs shirt flew past her sucked by air towards the Avatar.

"Everything ok?" Katara asked. Aang rose an curious eyebrow.

"Sure, why?" he replied. Damn it, he shouldn't have done it so obvious. Up until now he was able to hide his back from Katara. It was still scratched by Azulas nails from their passionate lovegames each day, sometimes more than once per day. He was about to heal them before anyone would return to the Beachhouse, but Katara surprised him. And so he had to hide it physically. Up until now that had worked.

"Nothing, just asking" Katara replied. Something was suspicious. Aang never was quick with getting dressed again. He always took his time toweling himself down. He didn't bother that day though.

-/-

two days later:

"Katara, there is a firenation Airship on its way here!" Aang exclaimed loudly. "Is it the one Zuko left with?"

Katara came rushing to the balcony shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand. "No. no not all. Zuko had a balloon not an airship. Quick bring the telescope!"

Aang dashed off into the house "Where is it?!" he shouted.

"In the kitchen! Drawer to the left! Near the door!" Katara replied, she heard something breaking and Aang cursing loudly

"Got it! Got it!" she heard distant followed by quick footsteps and Aang coming bombed out of the house back onto the balcony. He looked through the telescope and quickly found the airship.

"Well, I can't see anybody." Aang said. "I'll go and check it out, you go and hide with Toph. I'll be back soon." Handing the telescope over to Katara the Avatar grabbed his glider and jumped off the balcony. Hopefully this was no unpleasant surprise. Aang had the nagging doubt that the original owner of the beach hose might return for vacation. It was after all still Ozais property. Katara ruled out the possibility of Zuko and Sokka returning, and Aang on the other hand was reasonably sure that Azula would not just park her airship in the garden. So who was this? Aang was about to find out as he landed on one of the jetties, swirling his glider shut. He blew the door out of the way and entered the airship.

Much to Aangs surprise the whole airship seemed abandoned. No one was here and Aang was sneaking though the corridors for some time now. Apparently the crew left in a hurry, because everything looked like dropped mid action. The Avatar decided, it was time to check the conning tower next, someone had to be there. The corridor leading to the closed door into the bridge was empty as well. Aang took a run-up towards the door, and sent a huge wave of air flying towards it. A moment later the door burst open, Aang coming jumped through the hole a second later, ready to dodge any attack that was about to be thrown at him.

-/-

"Bring us down at the Beach in front of the house"

"Yes, Sir!"

Chapter Text

"Sokka, don't Sir me, will you?" Zuko sighted.

"But this is so much fun! Captain, Sir!" Sokka exclaimed happy. Zuko was burning. Why did he have to put up with that? Why?

"I allowed you to steer, we are not the military." Zuko stated. To say he was getting slightly annoyed was a tiny little understatement.

"Why do you have to be such a bore" Sokka shrugged.

"Hey! That bore got your dad and your girlfriend out of prison" Zuko shouted angry.

"He is right Sokka" Hakoda pressed his sons shoulder "Concentrate on flying, will you? We came so far, I don't want to ..." Sokkas father was interrupted by a heavy chunk of metal, which used to be the door, crashing into the conning tower.

Zuko was the first to spin around, his hand held up, ready to blow a first strike of fire. But fortunately that was not necessary. Coming darted though the door was the Avatar.

"Aang?" Sokka asked confused, exchanging looks with Zuko.

"Guys?" Aang smiled broadly. "Where did you get this airship from?"

"We kind of seized it" Zuko replied scratching his head.

-/-

"The next time that peasant friend of yours swings his ridiculous sword at me, I am going to barbecue him, I swear!" Azula snarled loudly as she came stomped towards Aang, who was sitting in front of the pond "I am not going to hold back again. Who does he think he is?" She was furious, and it didn't take an expert to tell.

Aang rose an eyebrow as Azula dropped down beside him, giving him a tight hug. "Hell, there were moments where I almost missed you" she breathed. Aang gave her a warm smile and kissed her gently.

"That's fine. I didn't notice you where gone at all" he lied badly. Azula breathed out a knowing flow of air.

"Yeah, keep telling yourself" she said cuddling closer to him. "Why could my father not tell me it was Zuko who was that important prisoner. I mean, that's no relevant information at all! I could have prepared something instead of stumbling into it like an idiot." She shook her head.

"They told me what happened. The fight and everything" Aang was worried, Zuko said it was a pretty tough fight and it was a rather close call as well.

"Yeah, what was I supposed to do? I can't just stand by watching them escape, can I?" she rubbed her hand over her forehead "All of that wouldn't have been a problem, if those blistering idiots had not decided to cut the ropeways cable. But no, no, let's just do that, because better boiled prisoners than escaped ones." Azula was apparently boiling herself, but with rage not because of hot water. "It was only me and Ty Lee, we were outnumbered, it would have been an excuse to let them get away. But no, they had to cut that cable. So I had to think something up. Well that blew up in my face for good." She sighted angrily

"What's wrong, Azula?" Aang asked, putting a supportive arm around her. He could tell she was on the brink of exploding with anger.

"You want to know what happened? They betrayed me!" she spat out in disgust. Aang was able to see the hurt and betrayal in her eyes.

"Who?"

"Mai and Ty Lee. I wasn't back from the gondola when I saw Mai taking out guards. She restarted the system and that was why Zuko and your friends escaped. Those two traitors! I would have never thought they would do that. I trusted them. And then they come stabbing me in the back!"

"Wait, wait. Why is that a bad thing? Mai did what you wanted to do yourself, or am I missing something?" Aang asked.

"You are missing that they did not know what I wanted to do. For them I wanted to prevent them from escaping. And they betrayed me. You know what Mai said?" she asked, Aang shook his head no "She said she would love Zuko more than she feared me. I was so furious that moment I was about to attack her. Next thing I feel is Ty Lee chi-blocking me. How could she do that?! How? I trusted them!" Azula was huddling herself up to Aang. She was jazzed completely.

"I sent them to the dungeons to rot" Azula pressed out.

"Wait, why? They seem to be on our side?" Aang was getting really confused. Hide and seek was Azulas field of expertise, not his. She demonstrated that when she infiltrated the Earthkingdom disguised as a Kioshi-warrior.

"Maybe. But again, what was I supposed to do? My father would have found out and marked me a traitor the way Zuko was. Banished I would be of no use to no one."

"Has it ever occurred to you that you are the most important thing in my life, with or without a use?" Aang asked. Azula was losing herself in a complicated web of interests and connections, she groaned displeased with the situation as such.

"But it's true. My father must not find out. I could be so much more helpful for you when he still trusts me." she said. Aang eyed her carefully. They never really spoke about this topic. When they were together it was a simple fact that it was only the two of them. No one else ever got involved, and there was no talking about sides, or the war, or anything. Just two completely normal lovers with only them self in mind. And before they were lovers, it was just training, no war either. He was not the Avatar, and she was not the crown-princess of the firenation. Easy as that.

But now Azula was bringing the topic of sides up rather aggressively. She never did, up until now and Aang always thought what they had together would only last as long, as it was compatible with Azulas rather ambitious goals.

"Are you just switching sides, princess?" Aang teased. Azula rolled her eyes, as if it was painfully obvious.

"Pff, I switched sides that night you found me in the forest Aang. And you know it." she confessed and Aang contemplated that for a moment.

"You could have told me sooner, you know" he shook his head. Azula and her games.

"I thought I made myself rather clear the other night" there was her smirk of doom again. Aang leaned down to her and gave her another very passionate kiss.

"Mh, care to repeat yourself?" he said muffled through her lips. Azula gasped when she felt a hand suddenly move under her shirt. She threw her head back in surprise and his lips were kissing down hot trails over her neck.

"Mhh, not at all" she moaned in pleasure, feeling his other hand diving into her pants.

-/-

Even if Azula wanted to move, she was pretty sure she would not be able to do so. She was lying on her undressed robes, her head resting on Aangs chest. If she had a choice, she would spend the rest of her life like that. Only with him. Never before has Azula ever felt so happy. She even could forget Mais and Ty Lees coward betrayal for some hours. It has ripped something out of her, she knew it. There were only four people in the world Azula considered trustworthy. Her father, Mai, Ty Lee and Aang. Her father was someone who she never should have trusted in the first place and realizing that his interests where more for his own good then for Azulas was difficult, but predictable. But Mai and Ty Lee? After what happened at the boiling rock there was only Aang left. And he was a bit of a wild guess himself. Sure he was nice and understanding and everything a girl could ever wish for. But Azula did not know him all that well yet. But she was willing to take the chances with him. Never the less the princess was feeling more and more insecure.

"Azula, I need to confess something" Aang said. For a second the princess saw the sensible house of cards that was her mind collapsing, but thankfully he continued. "I was practising firebending the other day, when you were gone. I did something, and I need your help with it. But you are not going to like it" he said. Somehow Aang knew that Azula was going to be mad at him.

"What is it?" she asked cautiously, sitting up. He cleared his throat.

"Well, I was practising and I really missed you, so I was thinking about you. Trust me, I have no idea how it happened, I was just doing my exercises like you told me and somehow..." Aang sighted and held his flat hand out. A moment later there was a sapphire flame burning in it. Not quite as dark as Azulas, but undoubtedly blue. Bright blue, right there in Aangs hand. The expression on his face was the definition of being sorry, while Azula was not believing what she was seeing.

"I'm so sorry! I know this is your trademark and you are so proud to be the only one to be able to do that. I have tried everything to get it back to orange or yellow or red or anything else, but nothing worked."

"This could be a problem" Azula stated looking deeply into the blue flame. It was beautiful.

"Wait, you are not mad?" Aang asked puzzled.

"Oh, I am furious, but this was going to happen." she was completely calm and Aang was not sure if this was Azula being calm before killing him or Azula simply being calm. He let the flame die out with a flick of his hand.

"I don't..." he began but was cut off.

"The moment your fire first changed color, I knew where the journey was going to. Normally the fire produced by a firebender is one color and it never changes. Yours went from deep red to orange to yellow. This is what happened when I was younger. My fire changed color until it was blue. I can't change back either, neither can you. I think I have to accept, that you are just as good as I am." Azula explained.

"So, you are not mad at me?" Aang asked again. Azula shot him a glare

"I told you, I am furious." she sneered before adding "Not because you are as good as I am. But because I liked bragging about me being the only one with blue fire" Part of Azula indeed was furious. But the even bigger part was so proud. Obviously Azula would never tell him that, so she told him she was furious, which was, to a certain extent, correct. The princess was certain that no one else would have been able to teach him, what she taught him. She added the achievement to her personal list of impossible things she did.

"Well, now you can brag about having it taught to the Avatar" Aang suggested. Azula shook her head no.

"That's exactly the problem" she said. "Now every time you bend fire..." Aang cut her off. He knew where she was going with that. It was a train of thought that occurred to him as well. He didn't like it either.

"Everyone will know you taught me" he completed for her. Up until now he was still hoping that maybe Azula might know a way to go back to orange or yellow. Now this rose a new problem. How would he tell Zuko that he did not need to be taught anymore? With normal colored fire he could have just pretended. But now? He would figure something out.

"Exactly"

-/-

"Hey, Aang" Sokka stuck his head through the kitchen door. "We got a message from General Fong, you remember him?" he asked as he entered the kitchen and sat down with Aang.

"Yeah, that crazy guy who thought controlling the Avatar-state would work if he pretends to kill Katara" Aang said. He remembered rather well.

"Exactly, that one. Now he wants to meet up with us. He has a plan he would like to discuss with you. Apparently he needs your help" Sokka said.

"I am not sure Sokka, we did not exactly leave on the best terms, did we?" Aang replied. Sokka shrugged.

"It's your decision Aang. But If he really has a way to defeat the firelord without fighting him, I would see what he has to say."

Aang thought a moment about it. It was true, he was desperately searching for a way to defeat Ozai without having to kill him. He discussed that with Zuko and Azula. Of course without the two knowing about the other. While Zuko would like to see his father to live through that day, the conversation with Azula was not so much helpful. It was not her fault, but she was rather direct. Her methods worked most of the time, but lacked any emotion. They were hard-boiled success-oriented lines from where she was to where she wanted to be. Wall in the way? No problem, tear it down! Can't be torn down? No problem, trick someone who can into doing it for you, or intimidate this person long enough to do it. Easy as that. That was just the way Azula ticked when it came to these things. She even offered to kill her father herself, which didn't put Aang at ease at all.

"Well maybe we should see what the General hast to say." Aang got up from the table "I'll go and tell the others." he said.

Chapter Text

General Fongs fortress was even bigger than Aang remembered. Maybe the general did expand it further after Aang nearly destroyed it about a year ago. It was one of the last outpost still under control of the earthkingdom military. After the fall of Ba-Sing-Se the earthkindom was almost defeated. Aang did not look forward to see the General again. He was a really unpleasant person altogether, or at least that's how Aang remembered him.

He was already waiting outside when Appa touched the ground inside the fortress' inner courtyard. Aang looked back to his companions leaving Appa. He could see Katara clench Zukos hand, she didn't have any fond memories about the general at all. Luckily Zuko gave her the foothold she needed to face Fong. She took a look around and noticed that the fortress was rather thinly manned. On their last visit so many soldiers where protecting the facility. Now only a few here and there stood guard.

"General Fong" Aang said with a forced smile on his lips.

"Avatar Aang" Fong replied with a nod.

"I believe you have not yet met everyone of my group" Aang began "May I introduce you Toph Beifong, she is my earthbending master" he pointed at the blind girl, before shifting to the poor man getting his hand crushed by Katara "And this is my firebending teacher, Zuko"

"It is nice to meet you all" Fong said plainly. "Now, if you would follow me, so we can discuss the plan."

The room the general led the group to was rather large. It was without any windows, far underground, deep below the fortress. Green crystals provided the light for the cylindrical room. Large pillars near the walls seemed to be more decorative in nature than supporting. A guard was standing in front of each pillar facing the heavy wooden table in the middle, which was standing on a thick green carpet. Somewhere there also was a card-holder showing a detailed map of the firenation.

"Cozy" Sokka said when he looked around in the conference room.

"Thank you" the general replied. "But on to business" he turned to Aang "I have a plan worked out which would allow us to force the firelord out of his palace. We would force him to come to us. Alone" he said with a mischievous smile.

"How exactly should that work? He would never do that" Zuko asked

"Well" Fong shifted through some papers on the table "That's always a question of leverage, isn't it?" the general seemed to have found what he was looking for and stretched a sheet of paper out in front of him, before turning it around for the group to see. It was a sketch of Azula.

In that very moment something in Aang clicked hard into place. He did not notice his friends starting to discuss what the general was planning. He missed that Fong planned to capture Azula and use her as bait for Ozai. He also missed that he needed the Avatar to catch her and he did not notice the protest his friends, especially Katara and Zuko, put up. He was completely fixated on Fong, while Azulas voice was whispering into his ears long beard. brown hair, brown eyes. Aang was checking each point on an imaginary list in his mind. forty maybe fifty. It was fitting, which each point Aang checked on his list, he felt more and more fury raising inside of him. One hand clenched to a fist, while the other one is relaxed Aang stretched to see. And the general was doing exactly that. It was him. General Fong was the guy who almost killed his girlfriend. A unpleasant wave of images washed through his mind, reminding him once again in which shape Azula was when Aang found her. He felt a never in his life experienced rage raising up inside of him. Like molten lava spreading from his stomach into his body. It immediately cleared the cotton wool which was clouding his attention to reality away. He was standing right in front of the brute, who was ok with torturing people to death. Aang remembered what Fong did to Katara and it all made sense. It was him. And suddenly the rage inside of Aang cleared his mind, he knew what had to be done.

"Why didn't you capture the princess yourself?" Aang asked in staged calmness. "Why do you need us for that?" Fong was shifting uncomfortable from one foot to another

"Well, we tried once before." he said "but unfortunately we did not succeed. She escaped. After that princess Azula sent her Dai-Li agents and killed almost all of my men." he stroked through his beard. Unnoticed by him, Aang looked over to Toph. She shook her head ever so slightly, before nodding just as subtle. It told the Avatar everything he needed to know. The general was pulling a Pinocchio on him, at least the first part was a lie. The second apparently was true, though. Well it would fit Azula to send her assassins after the person who did that monstrosity to her. It only wondered Aang why she didn't go herself.

It took everything Aang got to keep calm at this point and not explode. "Very well" he said. "I would like to discuss the details of the plan in private" Fong nodded and pointed his guards out. Aang nodded towards the door

"Twinkletoes?" Toph started. She was feeling Aangs rage and anger. He told her in which state Azula was when he found her in the woods. Toph was able to count two and two together, the fury inside Aang could only mean one thing.

"In private, Toph" Aang repeated calmly. It worried Toph even more, his completely cool and collected demeanor. Azula was wearing off on him.

"Come on guys, let's leave him to it" Toph said shooing their friends out "We will be right in front of the door, should you need us" and with that the heavy wooden door was shut, leaving Aang and Fong alone in the room.

"Do you have family, general Fong?" Aang asked in calm demeanor. Fong frowned unsure what to say. The Avatar was asking strange questions. "Yes. I have a wife and a daughter"

"Do you love them?" Aang inquired

"Of course I do! My wife is an angel and my daughter is too. Why do you ask?" Fong replied.

"Pure curiosity." Aang answered with a smug grin before seemingly returning his attention to the plan "So how do you want to catch the princess? Or better, tell me what went wrong the first time!" Aang faked enthusiasm rather well. Interestingly enough he normally was a miserable liar. His anger seemed to do wonders. Fong shrugged.

"Well, nothing really. Classic misinformation. We attacked her camp, but she managed to escape. The princess had a whole lot of guards. Way more than we thought she would have. It was a badly planned operation, I admit." he was lying so hard, even Aang was able to feel it. And he was really bad at detecting such things.

"Is it true what they say about her fire?" the Avatar asked playing the unknowing, oblivious boy.

"It is blue, yes." Fong said, slightly irritated. He thought Aang already faced Azula in combat, the stories about Ba-Sing-Se where infamous.

"have you ever seen someone else doing that?" Aang asked in perfectly faked curiosity. Holy balls, the bullshit was real today. He was shocked how much of Azulas manipulative side he had incorporated by just teasing her. But right now it was coming in really handy. He would make Fong suffer.

"No, just her. I suppose she would never teach anybody how to do that." he said "Avatar, we should concentrate on the plan"

"Right. Sorry, of course. So how are we going to get hold of Azula?" he asked.

"Well, I hoped to use you as bait with that. Don't worry, you will be completely safe. The whole fortress will be filled with soldiers." Fong explained. "we would hold you in a cell and let it be known that the Avatar is in our custody for crimes against the crown or anything like that. That should lure her out"

"So you want to catch bait with bait." Aang concluded. Fong smirked

"Precisely"

"General Fong, I need to ask you something. It will seem a bit out of place, but please follow me here, will you?" Aang asked with is best diplomacy-voice. Fong hesitated but nodded soon after.

"Great. Let's assume for a moment your daughter would be abducted. What would you do?" Aang asked, playing out the last parts of his plan. Fong inhaled sharply

"I'll do everything to get her back again. But that's the whole point here, isn't it? We want Ozai to come to us" Aang shook his head no

"And what would you do if you found the person who abducted your daughter?"

"To be honest, I would kill him right then, right there." Fong answered honestly, causing Aang to nod. "Avatar, you need not be concerned about my safety. This will be a clean operation"

"What about your wife?" Aang asked, his voice beginning to tremble

"Excuse me?"

"Would you avenge your wife as well?" Aang clarified, he was beginning to have trouble keeping his voice steady. This man sickened him to no end. How anyone could be so cruel eluded him. Azula at least had the decency to kill her victims face to face by simply doing it, which was bad enough, but still. She did not torture her victims, at least as far as Aang knew, she did not. This was advanced sadism displayed by the general.

"Sure I would. But I don't see how that..." He was not able to finish his sentence, because he was suddenly surrounded by earth fixing him to the place he stood, before forcing him to his knees. Luckily for Aang only king Bumi was able to earthbend only with his head. Fong was trapped.

"Avatar Aang, what's all this about?" Fong shouted angrily. Aang bent down to him and spread his hand flatly in front of the generals face.

"Well, what does this tell you?" he hissed, letting his anger out. For a second he remembered the cold and distant feeling of having no emotion whatsoever, before he let the chi flow into his arm. In his hand a sapphire flame started blazing vividly. The generals eyes widened in shock.

"No! That's not possible!" he exclaimed.

"What, why not? Because she is the princess? Because I am the Avatar? Why should it be impossible, Fong? You are a sorry excuse for a human, do you know that? I found her in the forest and healed her. I know what you did to her. I know it exactly" he shouted before the ring between the wall and the pillars started burning the same color Aangs flame did. Fong was shaking his head rapidly.

"No, it's not what you think it is!" he shouted.

"What do I think it is?" Aang roared in fury.

"It was... It is... " the general stammered.

"Torture, Fong. It was torture. Very cruel, horrible, barbaric torture."

"I did not know the two of you where involved with each other!" he tried to explain. Fong was at this point literally shitting his pants. Never in a thousand years would he have considered that the princess would have a partner at all. And for sure he would have never guessed the Avatar if his life depended on it. What an irony that it appeared to do just that. He had it now and he knew it.

"That does not make it better at all!" Aang squealed shaking his head in confusion "What is that supposed to mean anyway? You only torture woman to death who are not romantically involved with me? Or with people you know? Or with allies in general? What kind of person does those things anyway? Tell me, because I cannot understand how anyone is willing to do such cruelties."

"I am terribly sorry, Avatar! Believe me, if I had known ..." Every word the general spoke out made Aang more furious. He was losing it, this person was the worst.

"Sorrow won't save you now, Fong. You know, I told myself I would do to you, what you would do to someone else in this situation. Thank you for your input, general. It was really helpful" The blue fire vanished. For a moment Aang hesitated, but immediately remembered Azulas hurt face. He would never be able to see her in the eyes if he let him go now. He would do it for her. It was what she wanted.

Katara was looking at Toph, she never saw her that worried ever. "What's wrong Toph?" she asked.

"We probably should..." Toph was interrupted by the distinct spluttering of lightning. Katara was a fraction of a second faster by the door than the earthbender. She pulled it open with little effort, but the picture she was forced to see nearly knocked her off her feet. Katara had to witness Aang swiping a bow of lightning around his body before pushing it to the generals head. Fong was secured in a massive rock, with only his face showing. Zuko and Katara were shouting Aangs name as loud as possible, but it already was already too late. He pressed his fingers to Fongs head, who screamed for a moment, before his face started burning. A few seconds later all the flesh attached to his bones was burnt off, leaving a highly inappropriate smell of barbecue in the air.

Suddenly the rocks holding Fong in place were removed, vanishing together with the lightning. Aang looked at the black burned skeleton kneeling on the floor.

"What the hell Aang?!" Katara screamed "Have you lost your mind?" Aang was breathing heavily. He felt better. So. Much. Better.

"I don't know. Maybe I left it at home, I'll check once we are back" he stated with dry sarcasm.

"What?! How can you be joking about this? You just killed a person!" Katara shouted. What happened to Aang? What happened to the sweet boy who refused to hurt anyone? What was going on?

"No, Katara. I killed a monster. This was no person" Aang said and walked past his puzzled friends. "Come on. Let's go, before anyone notices Fong is gone. I don't want to hurt anyone else"

"Care to explain that?" Zuko asked more surprised that Aang was lightning -bending than he was about him having killed. The banished prince was used to killing. Aang shook his head

"Someday I will. But for now, you have to trust me that this was right" Aang gave everyone a reassuring look.

"What?" Sokka interrupted "Some day? Aang, what's going on? I can see secrets when I... see them." he frowned at his own nonsense.

"Leave it be, Sokka" Toph interrupted "You will understand when he tells, ok?" At that Katara turned from Aang to the blind earthbender, stemming her hands to her hips.

"Wait a second, you are in the know about what's going on!?" Katara hissed at Toph, who just shrugged dismissively.

"Shut your mouth, Toph" Aang warned as he led the way back to Appa.

"I was only going to say, that no one needs to be worried and everything is going to play out fine." Toph explained.

"From your lips to the spirits' ears" Katara replied madly. She was not sure what she didn't like more. The fact that she didn't know what was going on or that Toph apparently did.

-/-

The flight back to Ember Island was rather unpleasant. Aang had to do a lot of convincing that everything was fine and that no, he was in fact not turning evil, and that no, he was also not losing control over his abilities as well as no, he would of course not wander around aimlessly killing off people he did not like. He was just dealing with something that he was not at free will to disclose right now and that Toph only knew because she figured it out herself, but was also sworn to secrecy. Which was actually true. He promised that as soon as it was safe to tell everyone, he would do that.

By the time they were having supper their friendship was almost back to normal. Katara was still a little mad, but more because of Aang killing someone than about him having a secret. But she seemed to trust him enough to believe it was necessary.

When Aang went upstairs to finally hit the mattress, he was followed by Toph who was smiling at him, clearly knowing something he didn't and definitely up to no good.

"You know you should probably soft-pedal a bit, if you want your sex kitten to stay a secret" she teased as she nudged Aang in his shoulder.

"She is not my..." he hissed but refused to use Tophs choice of words

"Bed bunny?" Toph suggested with a mean smirk. Aang pressed his eyes closed sighting heavily.

"She means a lot to me" he stated calming himself down.

"Whatever makes you happy. A warm bed is nice after all" she continued teasingly.

"Toph!" Aang snarled forcing himself to keep his voice down.

"Calm down twinkletoes, a blind one can see what she means to you... literally" she smiled at him when they arrived in front of Aangs room. "But please remember to hold your horses. Especially the volume, will you?" the blind girl blinked at him, before turning away "Good night, twinkletoes" she said. Aang was left behind confused.

"Good night" he replied and slipped into his room, closing the door behind him and locking it, not wanting to be bothered by anything tonight. He was welcomed by a calming cool and a dark room with only the moon shining brightly through the opened window. For a second Aang hesitated, he did not remember having the window left open while he was gone. But maybe he forgot to close it. He discarded his shirt and tossed it over a chair. He turned to his bathroom, when suddenly a few candles in his room flickered to life.

"I wondered how long it would take you to finish playing with your peasant-friends" a very familiar female voice asked. Aang slowly turned around to see where she was. What hit his eye was nothing he could have formed in words, for a split second he though his nose started bleeding. Well, maybe he didn't mind her bothering him.

Azula was lying on Aangs bed. And, much to his delight, she was doing so completely naked. The bed sheet was hanging over her hips only covering just the important part, it wasn't even reaching down to the mattress. She was resting on her right arm on her side, being slightly angled. Her flawless black hair was falling over her left shoulder covering her delicate breasts. One of her legs was lying angled over the other in a very teasing manner. The candlelight was shimmering over her pale skin and her glowing golden eyes where radiating desire. Her left arm was resting on her hips, her hand hanging in the air in front of the bed sheet.

"Like what you see?" she asked, beckoning him over to her with her finger. He swallowed hard and absentminded wandered over to the bed, where he sat down on the edge.

"I... uuuhm.. I..." he stammered. Truth to be told, never in his life has he seen anything even remotely as beautiful than Azula was right in this moment. She was always stunningly beautiful, but right now she was a goddess. Her hair untied and flowing freely over her pearl-white skin but retaining her two small bunches was amazing. Azula giggled silently, before capturing Aangs lips with hers.

"You are absolutely perfect" he whispered. She smirked at him, while Aang traced her soft skin from her hips up her warm side to the neck, where he pulled his hand through her silken feeling hair.

"I know" she teased, raising an eyebrow. She let her finger run over his chest, leaving a small red line.

"How did you get in here?" he asked. Azula smirked her famous smirk of doom.

"Your little earthbender friend let me in. I have to admit, I could maybe bring myself to not despise her." her smirk turned into a soft smile. Aang laughed silently. That suddenly explained a lot of Tophs teasing a few minutes ago. She was really ok after all. Aang could not have hoped for someone more understanding than the Beifong-heir.

"What's wrong, Avatar?" Azula asked when she noticed the concerned expression on his face. She thought he would be all over her by now, but something was bugging him. Azula could wait to get her brains fucked out of her head for a bit longer.

Aang sighted moping. How should he put this, without killing the mood. Azula came here for a reason, obviously. "Do you promise to not take it badly?" he asked. Azula nodded.

"I met him today. Your general" he said calmly. Azula gasped, clenching her teeth together.

"What did you do?" she pleaded to know.

"I... um." Aang decided not to beat around the bush. "I zapped him with lightning until nothing but black bones where left."

"He is dead?" she asked weakly. For a second Aang considered replying with something along the lines of: "No Azula, his bones walked out of it just fine" but instead opted for a simple "yes. He is dead. He will never bother you again, promised." while he was running smoothing circles over her back. Azula sighted in relive, as Aang continued "And it took him a while to go, I made sure of that. You would have been proud, I even played a little mind game with him." he stated.

Azula smiled at him, like a huge burden was lifted off her shoulders. Her face brightened up noticeably "I love you" she whispered, before kissing him aggressively. Her tongue was pressing against his lips demanding entrance. It didn't take a lot for Aang to give in, before he even noticed he picked Azula up from her place in the bed and pulled her in his lap. She was sitting equestrian-style on his legs, her naked body pressing against his. He was feeling the heat radiating off her as her soft skin touched his. Wrapping his strong arms around her delicate body, he pressed her to him. Their bodies were fitting perfectly together.

"Don't set the bed on fire, princess" he panted.

"Will try" she moaned in return.

There was a sudden knock at the door. Aang rolled his eyes at Kataras voice: "Aang, I need to talk to you." she said. "Why is the door locked?"

"Katara, can't a guy have his alone time?" Aang replied angrily, still holding on to Azula.

"Aang, it's important" Not wanting to be bothered, he came up with the closest-to-truth excuse he could muster. There was after all a hot as hell little devil sitting on his lap. Naked.

"Katara, I am masturbating! Come back tomorrow!" he said coolly. In the room next to Aangs, Toph suddenly exploded with laughter. Azula almost couldn't hold hers at Kataras rueful "oh", so she bit into Aangs shoulder. Toph on the other hand did not have to keep quiet, her uncontrolled laughter was filling the hallways. "You should have left at 'alone time' sugar queen!" she exclaimed gasping for air.

"yeah, really funny Toph!" Katara said still subdued.

"Guys! I am trying to concentrate here!" Aang exclaimed in an attempt to get rid of all the trouble. In his arms Azula was cringing with suppressed laughter, trying to not burst out. Toph was losing her shit completely, and suddenly Aang noticed that apparently Zuko and Sokka also tried not to burst out laughing but failed miserably.

"You are incorrigible" Azula whispered in Aangs ear still suppressing laughter.

"Alright guys!" it was Zukos voice "Let's all just respect Aangs private time. A lot happened today, let's all go to bed, shall we?" surprisingly that worked rather well. A few moments later the laughter died off and the house returned to the silent night it emerged from.

"still in mood?" Aang asked with caution.

"I don't know. Do you need to concentrate much?" she teased.

"I hate you" Aang said beginning to kiss her again.

-/-

Azula was slipping back into her robes at sunrise, ready to leave unnoticed. Aang was still sleeping peacefully in his bed. She was able to sleep so much better with him around, now that she knew Fong was gone even better still. She liked watching him, when he was asleep, somehow it calmed her down. Sadly she had to wake him up. Important affairs had to be discussed.

"Aang" she whispered, sitting on the bed, gently stroking over his head. "Aang, wake up" The Avatar made a displeased noise before curling himself up in the blanket. "Five more minutes" he groaned sleepy.

"No. Aang this is crucial" Azula turned him around with a determined pull. He reluctantly opened his eyes and blinked the sleep away. Why did she wake him at this ungodly hour?

"I'm awake. I'm awake." he whispered before sitting up in his bead. "Good morning, beautiful." he smiled hat her sweetly. She was absolutely breathtaking, the way her golden eyes shimmered in the rising morning sun. Absolutely beautiful.

"Good morning, handsome" She smiled back at him and scooting over to him. "I have to tell you something. About some plans my father made. He only told me recently, and it is really urgent."

"I'm listening" Aang was getting curious, rubbing his sleepy eyes with the back of his hands.

"You have to defeat him before Sozin's comet arrives." sighted Azula.

"Wait, what? That's in four days? Azula how do you think that would work?"

"You have to. He plans to use the comets power to do what Sozin did to the airnomades, only he is going to wipe the earthkingdom out for good. He has already ordered me back to the palace for something important. I guess he wants me at his side or something."

Aang was sitting there thunderstruck. Thinking hard, about how the next steps should look like. He was not ready to face Ozai. He still had no idea how to deal with him, because one thing was for sure. Aang would not kill the firelord. He promised himself that he would not and he also promised Zuko. He needed a solution, and he needed it fast. And he also needed Azula to be in safety. He would never succeed in anything if he would constantly worry about her. Not that she couldn't handle herself, she was the most powerful firebender ever, but still. Aang needed to be sure. And the easiest way to guarantee this would be for her to just follow her father's orders. This way, no one would suspect her affiliation with the avatar.

"Ok, Azula. You return to the palace. Keep pretending to be loyal to your father. Do whatever you think is best for you. Do not think about me. When I am going to face Ozai there is only one way this will end. One of us will stand, the other will fall. For the event that it is me, who falls, I want to know you save. This way you can still live a comfortable life in safety, on the winning side. Just be the princess like you would be otherwise, promise me, ok?"

"Aang, what are you talking about?" Azula sounded scared.

"Please Azula, I have no idea if I can defeat Ozai. Should I fail, I don't want him to come for you next. He burned and banished Zuko for lesser crimes. Promise me to just be his princess until I return to you, ok? I want you to be save."

"But you will come back to me, promise first!" she said unable to hide tears in her eyes. Aang leaned in an gave her a hug. Honestly he had no idea.

"Of course I will come back to you. Promised" he replied, but was not sure if he was able to keep his promise. Azula withdrew herself from Aangs hug, bestowing him with a rare genuine smile.

"Then I will leave you now. We will see each other after the comet." she said and turned to go.

"Princess" Aang said and she turned back to him.

"Yes, Avatar?" she replied eyeing him curiously.

"For the unlikely event that I cannot keep my promise. I want you to know that I love you."

-/-

"Has anyone seen Aang?" Sokka asked before looking into a crowd of confused looks.

"No, not since yesterday" Toph replied.

"I have been looking everywhere, he is not in the house. But I found his glider, he never leaves without his glider" Sokka explained. "Where is he? He can't have left after telling us that we have to take the firelord down until the comet! So where did he go? Toph?"

"Hey, don't ask me. I am not his tracking-device!"

"Well, you also did know about his secret. Which we are still waiting to be filled in." Katara accused.

"Hey, sugar queen, what has that to do with anything? Just because I know this, does not mean I also know where he went."

"Well, we better go and find him fast. Three days left until the comet. It's not a lot of time." Zuko said and stood up. "Sokka, Suki you go together to the north of the island. Katara and I will check in the south. Toph you..." he stopped himself. "Ok, scratch that. Toph and I will search the south, Katara, you will take Appa"

Chapter Text

The phoenix-king was standing on the attack-platform of his airship. The incredible power of Sozins comet was washing over his mind and body. He really looked forward to annihilating the earthkingdom forever. All the struggles of the last decades would be over in one short day, just like his grandfather solved the airnomade-issue. With one swift but hard strike. He put his hand out, a moment later a gigantic wave of fire washed over the land below him. Never before has Ozai felt such incredible power. His mind's eye already saw Ba-Sing-Se burning below him. But, to his surprise, it was not going to happen. Suddenly -out of nowhere- a huge lightning bolt from the ground below him hit his airships engines, causing them to explode. With all control over the vehicle apparently lost, the leviathan of the clouds was getting into a tailspin. Just before the airship hit the ground and blew up in one huge explosion, the phoenix-king abandoned his ship and propelled himself to one of the enormous rock posts. He noticed someone standing on the one right in front of him.

"I have been waiting for you, firelord" the person stated, calm and collected.

"Avatar" Ozai growled. "What an unpleasant surprise"

"You know, we don't have to fight. There is still a peaceful solution to this." the Avatar said. Ozai had to laugh. Peace? In the moment of triumph? Never.

"You are pathetic." Ozai screamed shooting a huge rolling barrage towards Aang. He dodged it expertly. Quite a lot of rounds sparring with Azula sharpened his already good reflexes even further. She has trained him very good, on the sly preparing him for Ozais combat style, by throwing in some of her father's favorite moves every now and then. To Aangs pleasure, he noticed to be rather familiar with Ozais style of combat. It reminded him of Azula, yet lacked her grace and precision. The firelord threw another hard attack at the avatar.

So Azulas father did not want to talk. He wanted to fight. What a shocking surprise.

It was to Aangs eternal luck that he ran into the giant lionturtle only three days before the comet arrived. After explaining his issues with ending Ozais life, he ancient beast showed him how to bend the essence within life itself and thus take someone's bending away. Finally he had found a method to defeat Ozai without killing him. Somewhere deep inside of Aang he was confused why he had such a problem with killing Ozai, when killing Fong was the easiest thing in his life. Maybe it was because Fong did unspeakable cruelties to someone Aang cared very much for. Maybe he did it because he knew, Azula would want it this way. Maybe he did it because he feared that she might question his loyalty to her, when he'd let him get away. He did not know. What he did know was, that Fong would remain the only one he killed.

He also came up with a plan, which did not require him to fight an awful lot. He would just dodge Ozais attacks until the firelord, or phoenix-king, or whatever that lunatic is supposed to be now, would eventually grow tired. Aang realized that this might take a while, especially with the comet around. But the Avatar was confident, that he would succeed in his plan. Ozai was extremely aggressive and got more and more infuriated by Aang not striking back. Apparently he thought the Avatar deemed him an unworthy opponent. The whole area was exploding, filled with fire and burning, while Aang was hopping from one post to the next, Ozai close behind him. He was getting close to him and the Avatar was beginning to think that maybe he would soon be left with no other choice but to fight back. Very soon to be precise. Maybe even right now.

Aang turned around mid flight and blew a wave of air towards the firelord. It threw him backwards through the air before he slammed hard against one of the posts. The sudden and obviously unexpected attack infuriated the firebender, provoking another violent attack.

Aang decided that now the time had come to really fight back. Sozins comet was having an effect on him as well and Ozai seemed not to grow tired anytime soon. So much for his great plan, yeah all for nothing. Aang was improvising now, but he wanted this to be over with. Better now than never. He remembered Azulas training, reassuring himself, that he would defeat Ozai today. He promised himself that he would not allow him to walk away from this and still be the firelord. Ozai would fall from his grace, this day, right here, at the hands of the Avatar. It had to be this way, or otherwise Aang would seal not only his fate, but Azulas as well. Should he screw up after attacking him, she would be in serious trouble. Ozai would know the instant he saw the blue fire Aang was able to produce, what his daughter did.

He sliced Ozais wall of fire in two halfs jumping through it. The firelord was still standing in front of the post Aang blew him against, looking very angry. Dodging a rapid succession of fire jets flying towards him, Aang shot a blue jet of fire directly in front of Ozais feet, causing him to jump back in disbelieving surprise. Even through the dust and smoke of the epic battle between the firelord and the avatar, the later saw the rising disbelief in the formers face just as realization was dawning on him. He stepped a few steps backwards, obviously trying to process what happened. Just as his back made contact with the post, his limbs where surrounded by handcuffs of earth, pinning him to the rock. The post was suddenly surrounded by a blue wall of flames, creating a impassable blockade around it, as the Avatar was walking slowly towards his nemesis.

"How... Where...?" Ozai was puzzled, looking back and forth between the blue flames and Aang apparently searching for someone.

"Oh, don't look for her. She is not here." Aang stated extremely calm. He was feeling surprisingly fine. Sure, his body was burnt here and there, together with the occasional scratch, but he was fine. He was confident that this would end the way he wanted it to. Maybe the upset and confused look on Ozais face was gaining him steam.

"Only my daughter can do that! Only she can produce sapphire flames! How did you learn that?" Ozai was spitting flames of rage.

"Oh, my girlfriend showed me" Aang answered still slowly walking towards the firelord.

"Impossible! Who is she?" he asked, throwing his head around in an attempt to break free. "I shall have her head on a plate!" Another wave of fire blew away from his mouth. "Tell me now and her death will be quick and painless!"

Aang laughed silently as he added more bindings of earth just to be sure. Giving him the smug grin, which he kind of copied from Azula, he said "Well, it is your daughter of course" he revealed, before pressing his thumb to Ozais forehead and the other to his collarbone. The firelord screamed but not for long. He felt Aangs mind forcing his way through the inside of his head as he sensed him ripping something out. He tried to stop him with all his strength and it seemed to work for a time. But all of a sudden, there was this overwhelming feeling of confidence, luck and happiness. Suddenly he was seeing images of the Avatar and his daughter and it threw him off balance for good. The Avatar pulled something very important out of Ozais mind, before his restrains fell off.

"I took your bending away from you, so you will never be able to hurt anyone again."

-/-

Azula was running back and forth nervously. What was taking him so long? She was feeling her mind slipping out of her control, more and more with every minute Aang was gone. She did as he told her when she arrived back at the palace. Pretending to still be her daddy's girl, she stayed behind to be crowned the next firelord. But she did not want the throne anymore. She realized her lust for power had a hard cap her mind was able to handle. She banished everyone in the palace. Everyone. Even Li and Lo who surely meant her no harm, or did they? Maybe they knew? Maybe they would have betrayed her like Mai and Ty Lee? Who can tell for sure? Azula was completely alone, with herself and with her thoughts.

Why was Aang gone so long? If she had to see her father standing in front of her declaring victory she would kill him immediately, before proceeding to go completely bananas, totally bonkers, entirely nuts, three fries short of a happy meal, absolutely and irreversible insane. She was feeling like her mind was about to explode while at the same time it slipped through her fingers like dry sand. She was running up and down her dressing room in an futile attempt to calm down.

"Where is that lovely boyfriend of yours?" asked a voice, Azula has not heard in years. Slowly she turned around.

"What are you doing here?" she asked as she looked in the mirror.

"I didn't want to miss my own daughters coronation" the voice said with a motherly smile. "But I can't help and notice that someone important is missing"

"I can see that, Mother. Thank you. I know. He is not here." she hissed. "I don't deserve him anyway" she whispered.

"Oh, why do you say that? He is such a nice guy. Of course you deserve him. You deserve to be happy, Azula" Ursa said calmly.

"Don't pretend that you care. I know what you really think of me, you think I'm a monster!" Azula shouted, tears falling from her eyes.

"I think you are confused." Ursa replied, hiding the hurt in her voice. "All your life you used fear to control people. Like your friends, Mai and Ty Lee. You are not used to it being any other way."

"But what choice did I have? Trust is for..." Azulas mother interrupted her gently

"No, Azula. You know better than this. Think of Aang, he trusts you. He loves you. And so do I"

Azula was cringing, grabbing a hairbrush. "But he is not coming back to me!" she shouted in tears as she tossed the brush into the mirror, shattering it into millions of pieces. "Just like you never came back" she whispered to herself.

-/-

"By decree of phoenix-king Ozai, I now crown you firelord of the..." the fire sage paused. Azula turned around "What are you waiting for? Do it!" she exclaimed, wanting this to be finally over. In her head she always heard Aangs voice, telling her to only have her in mind and only do what's best for her. She promised him and really tried to find a way, but she was losing track of things. Hearing a mighty roar, Azula looked up from where she was kneeling, waiting to be crowned, into the sky. She saw Appa approaching and her heart skipped a beat. She felt her sanity coming back for a moment, but it was brutally squashed, when her brother and his peasant girl were the only one carried by the beast.

"Sorry, but you are not becoming firelord today." Zuko called out. "I am" Azula blinked for a moment. Was her brother just back stabbing the Avatar? He had a history of double crossing him, so it was possible. Maybe he was doing that. Maybe he realized that the throne was there and all he had to do was to grab it. And maybe he had convinced that water tribe peasant to join him. Why else would Aang not be here? Where would he be otherwise. Only do what is best for you, Azula! Promise me.

She giggled loudly "You are hilarious" she said wanting to call him out as a traitor to his friends and to the ones who apparently trusted him. But the fire sages where still around, so she kept that part to herself.

"And you're going down" the peasant exclaimed. This was not just happening, was it? Oh, well, apparently it was.

The fire sage moved to set the crown on her head, but she stopped him "Wait." she ordered the priest, before turning to Zuko. "You want to be firelord? Fine. Let's settle this. Just you and me brother. The showdown that was always meant to be. Agni-Kai!" Azula would kick his butt, and she would kick it hard. Maybe her brother had even betrayed Aang so far that he sent him into a trap set up by her father. Maybe he had made arrangement to get his honor back, maybe... The mere thought wounded Azula deeply, driving her mad with worry.

"You're on!" replied Zuko. Oh he was on to something, she could tell.

Do not think about me... For the event that I cannot keep my promise... He was not coming back. He failed. Azula would never see him again, she was alone. She couldn't stand being alone. Even her brother betrayed her in the end. Everyone abandoned her. Everyone. Her mind was clouded, she was unable to think straight. Everything was turning around Aang, and her brother, that peasant girl and how they betrayed her boyfriend and how they now tried to get rid of her.

So it happened that the two siblings fought a brutal Agni-Kai for the throne. Only Azula could not care less about the throne. She wanted to punish her brother for betraying the love of her life. She wanted to make him and that little peasant girl pay for taking him away from her. But she was still hearing Aangs voice inside her head, whispering into her ear. Do whatever you think is best for you. I want to know you save she was unable to concentrate. It was all too much, she wanted him back. She needed him back. Why did he have to go, why? It was not like he had to take Ozai on his own. She could have helped him. Why didn't she insist on it? Why did she just accept his decision to do this alone and went back to the palace? This was all her fault.

Azula was all at sea. That's why she failed. Even after getting rid of Zuko, it was that filthy peasant girl who got her. Azula was getting sloppy, she was worried beyond comparison, not able to think straight for a second, she tapped right into the girls trap. Infinite concern mixed with the unbridled desire to kill that bloody bitch of a traitor, Azula was losing it. She did not see the sink she was running onto, when suddenly everywhere around her was water. From one moment to the next frozen in a block of ice, Azula was helpless, being chained to the grid on the floor.

No, no, no! Please! This was not happening! It could not. She lost everything.

I want you to know that I love you.

She would never see him again. Azula started crying in pain, breathing out blue flames of hate and anger, realizing that her brother got what he wanted.

"How do you think Aang is doing?" the peasant asked Zuko. He shrugged. "He will be fine, I am sure he is going to be back soon."

Azula could not believe what she was hearing. Aang was alive? He was...still there? But where was he? She cried out as loud as possible "Where is he?! Where is the Avatar! Tell me! Tell me now! Where?! Is he alive?! TELL ME THIS INSTANT!" she was rolling over her chains trying to break free with all her strength. It reminded her too much about her days in the hands of that brute that general Fong was, which added up to her already extreme level of panic and fury. Only this time she was sure Aang would not come to her rescue.

Katara looked over to Zuko, who was still bowed due to his injury Azula inflicted him with. He was raising an eyebrow at his sisters crazy behavior. He never saw her this emotional in his entire life. She was totally hysterical.

"You won't be here to hurt him again" Katara snarled angry, provoking a heart-shattering cry of Azula. Had Katara known what was really going on, she would have had nothing but sympathy for the troubled and confused princess. But she did not know, so she mistook Azulas cries for something they weren't.

-/-

"Excited to see her again?" Toph asked, nudging Aang in the shoulder. He nodded slowly. He could not believe it took him two whole days to get back to the firenation on an airship. He somehow thought those things were faster. But apparently they were not.

"Why didn't you stop them when they went to face Zula?" he asked. It bugged him since the blind earthbender picked him up from his fight with Ozai and told him everything that happened in the past days, since he was gone.

"I tried. But without telling what was really going on between the two of you, I had no chance of convincing them otherwise" she replied.

"I wonder what she did to Zuko" Aang mused. He knew that Zuko was no bad bender. But his girlfriend was an artist and a brilliant one that was.

"Kicked his butt, I suppose. But I wouldn't know" Toph shrugged, she was feeling Aangs pleasant anticipation of seeing the princess again.

"Who kicked whose butt?" Sokka asked, coming down the stairs to the closed loading dock the Avatar and his earthbending teacher stood in front of.

"No one" Aang replied, without turning around. Sokka shrugged mindlessly.

"Well, we arrived. You can lower the loading dock"

Aang was curious what it was he would see once he left the Airship. The shimmering light was falling through the slowly opening dock, his eyes trying to adjust to the sudden bright light. He really looked forward to seeing her again. This time he would never let her go again, ever. The dock crashed loudly to the floor of the parade ground in front of the firenation palace and Aang thought he would see her standing there, down the loading dock.

But when his eyes sharpened up, he realized, it was not her. It was Zuko and Katara, who were awaiting him. He swallowed hard.

Not what he expected at all.

But who knows, maybe she was just still in the palace or something, he thought disappointed. He sincerely hoped she would be there when he arrived.

Walking down the loading dock, accompanied by Toph, towards his two waiting friends, he suppressed the urge to just burst out with the question which was burning on his tongue. He barely felt Tophs fist hit his shoulder and almost failed to hear her whispered "relax, twinkletoes" when he arrived in front of his friends. Giving Katara a tight hug, he turned to Zuko.

"It's over" he said relieved. To be honest, knowing he defeated Ozai and ended a hundred years of war felt like the weight of the world was lifted off his shoulders. It was very relieving. Zuko nodded, before he too hugged Aang.

"It's over" the firebender repeated confirmatively, sighting slowly. Aang could not help it. He had to ask now. He just had.

"Sooo" he began "where is your sister?" Aang had no idea why he used the words he did. Zuko cleared his throat, visibly uncomfortable.

"In prison" he said. Aang eyes darted to his friends, drilling holes into his head.

"What?!" he cried "Why?" Zuko rose a suspicious eyebrow, exchanging a look with Katara who was also not quite sure what was going on with Aang. She somehow expected him to be happy about that.

"Because she tried to kill Katara and me. And because she went completely bonzo" Zuko replied hesitantly. Aang could not cope with all the information at once. Prison? Insanity? What was going on?

"I need to see her" Aang demanded

"I don't think that's a good idea, Aang" Katara said. But the Avatar shook his head.

"No, you don't understand, I need to see her now" he hissed.

"You should bring him to her, sparky" Toph crossed her arms over her chest.

-/-

"I have no idea why I am doing this" Zuko sighted standing in front of a heavy door in the high security prison near the royal city. Aang did not say anything, but noticed the look Zuko and Katara exchanged. "at your own risk" Zuko said plainly, before turning the keys and pulling the door open.

"I don't want to see any of you traitors!" screamed Azulas voice from inside the cell, followed by a wave of blue fire. Zuko and Katara were still exchanging looks as if they were having a discussion with their eyes. Aang was really getting annoyed by that. Why could they not talk like everyone else did?

"Watch and learn for yourself" Toph whispered, while Aang entered the cell, indicating his friends to wait outside.

When Aang entered the cell, he wanted to cry. Azula was cowering in a corner, her arms wrapped tightly around her legs, head on her knees.

"Princess?" he whispered cautiously. Her head darted up, as she looked at him in disbelieve.

"Avatar" she breathed. Aang nodded, confirming her unsure statement with the best smile he could muster in this moment. But she started shaking her head no.

"No. No. You are not real. I am imagining again. You are not here. They said you would never come here. They said I will never see you again. You are only in my mind. You are only in my mind. You are only in my mind" she was rocking back and forth, repeating herself over and over again. Aang felt someone punch him in the stomach over and over again with every time she repeated her mantra.

"Azula" he said slowly going closer to her. "I am here. Right next to you" he reassured. "I promised to return, remember? I said I would always come back to you. I am so sorry it took me so long, but I am here now" he said, kneeling down beside her, so they were face to face. She hesitatingly looked up and extended a shaky hand to him, cautiously touching his face. The moment her fingers touched his face she immediately withdraw her fingers. For a moment she was looking at him like he was some kind of ghost. He stood up again "Come with me, love" he whispered.

The next instant, Aang never saw anybody move so fast, she was up to her feet and crashed into him, sending him stumbling back, out of the cell and onto the wall of the corridor. She was hugging him so tight, he was having trouble breathing. Crying her eyes out, she hammered with her fist to his chest, shouting "Don't you dare leave me again!"

The moment Aang flew out of the cell with Azula on him, Katara sprung to action, determined on getting her off her friend. But Toph held her back, shaking her head. At that Katara was already confused, but hearing Azula shout at Aang to never leave her again, was doing the rest. Now she was positively lost, what the hell was going on? She looked to Zuko who was just killing off a fire-knife in his fist, looking equally confused as he processed that his insane sister was hanging on to his best friend for dear life, crying heart-shattering faltering. Only Toph had a knowing grin on her lips, which seemed oddly out of place.

"Calm down, Zula" Aang whispered. "I am here. No one is going to hurt you. Everything is save. I am here for you. I always will be. It's over, everything is fine now." he stroked her hair behind her ear smiling.

"I have something for you, ok? It will be better any second, do you trust me?"

"Yes, of course" she sobbed, not even noticing that she was not alone with Aang. He pressed his thumb gently to her forehead, and the other one to her collarbone, before his eyes and tattoos started glowing.

Suddenly Azula was seeing herself floating in the galaxy in front of a blue transparent wall. She was seeing her pink reflection in it, before her reflection slowly turned to Aang. She felt completely in peace, with the hunch of Aang being everywhere around her. Her mind was calming down with every moment she was floating there. The confusion and worry was washing away like her mind was being cleaned.

"Do you know where we are?" he asked calmly. She shook her head.

"No, I don't. where are we?" she asked.

"This is my mind." Aang pointed around "You are inside my consciousness, it's everywhere around you" he explained, as the transparent wall dissolved and the pink glowing version of Aang was floating directly in front of her. Azula noticed that more and more beautiful lights and nebulas of thousands of different color where floating in the universe just like Aang and herself.

"It's beautiful" she said open-mouthed, causing him to smile broadly.

"Thank you." He followed her sight around "Tell me, how do you feel?"

Azula felt amazing, almost like new, she felt in control of herself, she felt like her old self with the knowledge of Aang always being there for her. With the overwhelming feeling of true love for the first time in her life. "Perfect. I feel perfect." she mused.

He smiled at her "kiss me" he said.

Leaning in, Azula was suddenly back in the prison, looking in Aangs white glowing eyes, before their lips found each other. Her mind was at complete peace. The voices whispering things into her ears were gone, the doubts and worries were forgotten.

Katara rubbed her eyes when Aang let go of Azulas head and collarbone and she opened her eyes. For a second they where glowing just like Aangs before they kissed each other. The waterbender heard her lower jaw drop to the floor. She had no idea what was more incredible, the kiss or Azulas glowing eyes. What the hell was going on here?

Azula broke away from the kiss, suddenly becoming aware to the three other people around. She eyed Katara and Zuko carefully, leaving Toph out. "This time I will forgive you for the things done and said, Zuzu." she stated, her voice as icy as it used to be, shooting him her smirk of doom. "And you Avatar, better see to it, that you will never abandon me like that again" grinning she turned around to leave, but Katara blocked her path. "You might have succeeded once in defeating me. You care for a rematch?" she stared the water-peasant down.

"Let her go Katara" Aang interrupted, before either of the two girls were able to do something harsh and imprudent. Deciding it was better to hear Aang out explaining what was going on, Katara stepped aside.

"I'll be in my chambers, should anybody need something" Azula said while leaving. Katara spun around to Aang.

"Aang, you will tell me what is going on this instant!" she sneered at him. Zuko was only nodding. "Yeah, I could use some clarifying too."

"Well, Azula and I are... We are a couple" Aang said.

"What?" Zuko asked. "No way." Aang held his hand out flat in front of him, a second later there was his blue flame. Katara was looking back and forth between Aang and his flame.

"Sorry I did not tell you guys sooner. But you know, what would I have said."

"You do realize, she literally tried to kill us?" Katara asked incandescently. "How can you call her your girlfriend?!" Aang scratched his now cleanly shaven head. "That is kind of my fault." he admitted. "I told her that she has to stay low until I come back to her. See, I feared that I would not be able to defeat Ozai and I was scared that if he found out about her and me, he would do horrible things to her. So I said, she has to pretend that she still was loyal to Ozai and do everything to be save. She may have though you double crossed me and kind of got furious. Sorry about that. She was really confused."

"How do you know all those things, Aang?" Zuko crossed his arms over his chest. "I let her into my mind just before" he said "You can bend the energy within a person. That extends to everything. While she was in my head, I was in hers, fixing what was broken. And you have no idea how much was not only broken, but shattered. She has been through a lot over the past month, trust me. It was difficult. But give her a chance, she will surprise you." Aang explained as calm as possible. He sincerely hoped that he would not have to decide between his friends and Azula. Because this choice would be really simple. Azula made him happy in a way he never thought was possible.

"How long is this going?" Zuko asked.

"It happened, when I and Toph were alone. That's why she knew, she busted us" he said, causing Toph to giggle. "Gotcha good, didn't I" she grinned

"Wait a second. So she taught you to lightning-bend?" Katara asked "Not Roku?"

Aang shook his head. "Of course not. It was her, she also taught me firebending. Why do you think my fire is blue now? It's also the reason I refused to train with you Zuko. Sorry for that as well, but I can't revert it back to orange. It's blue now. I didn't suppose it was a good idea to suddenly wave around with blue flames. Everyone would have known immediately. Ozai certainly did."

"So what was going on with General Fong?" Zuko asked. "Let's go somewhere a little more comfortable, and I will start from the beginning, ok?" Aang suggested. His friends nodded, before they left the prison heading for the palace.

"And before you guys ask. That night you came to my room, Katara. Well, I was not exactly alone."

"What!?" Katara and Zuko shouted like one. "How did she get in?" they were talking in such synch it was almost comedy.

"I let her in" Toph replied smiling. "I am a great partner in crime, am I not?"

"really awesome Toph" Katara replied, rolling her eyes.

"Zuko" Aang said, taking him to the side a bit. "I know it is none of my concern. But what I have seen in Azulas mind was... shocking, horrible, saddening. I don't know. A bit of everything, and everything was somehow connected to her mother. Trust me, we should search for her. That is, if you want my help. But trust me, finding her is important."

Chapter Text

"They should make it official" Katara said, sitting beside Zuko on a bench in the sparring-arena. She was wearing her white outfit reserved for training. Zuko was rubbing his face in a towel, being totally soaked. "Well, they are somehow fitting together. Though I have still no idea how. Because what they are doing now looks more like overcoming relationship-problems than actual training to me" he replied, watching his sister and Aang fight a tough as nails training match against each other. It was fire versus the (un-)holy trinity. Earth, Air and Fire. Ever since Katara froze the princess on the day of Sozins comet, she hated water even more. At her request Aang never used it during training, understanding that it would bring back bad memories.

Suddenly there was a bright flash and the sizzling of lightning followed by a huge explosion. Katara and Zuko exchanged a mildly worried look, before looking back at the arena, where the fight was obviously over.

"Has anyone ever actually won one of their fights?" Zuko asked rhetorically.

"Nope. They always end up making out passionately. Apparently blowing each other up works as a make-up therapy." Katara laughed softly. Zuko sighted, drying off his ruffled hair.

"How comes we never end it this way?"

"Well, should you one day come close to defeating me, I'll distract you with a kiss as well" she smirked.

"Ohhh, don't tell Aang" he laughed. "Wouldn't dream of it" she laughed back and watched Aang and Azula walking over to them. When they were coming closer, Katara saw that Azulas skin-tight black training-outfit was burned up pretty badly. The whole left side was practically nonexistent anymore.

"You just had to blow everything up, hadn't you Aang?" Zuko asked. Aang shrugged. "Hey, she was winning." he said.

"Azula, you are hurt!" Katara cried, when she saw the burnt flesh under her garment. "It's nothing" the princess returned shrugging dismissively, but Katara shook her head vehemently.

"That's not nothing." she exclaimed, standing up "Come, I'll take care of that for you, before that amateur over here screws you up even more." she said with a joking wink at Aang, before leading a reluctantly following Azula away. Over the course of the last year the two of them came to some form of truce. It was no friendship, it was more the mutual understanding, that the other one was meant to stay. The biggest success up until now was Azula not calling Katara peasant anymore. She instead would call her waterbender, watertribe-girl or on very rare occasions by her name. While it's not much, they could at least have some vain chit-chat, before politely coming up with an excuse to leave the conversation.

The two boys were left behind, watching their girls leave. "You know, I kind of wanted to talk to you in private anyway" Zuko said and Aang looked at him curiously "What's on your mind?" he asked. Zuko sighted, apparently trying to talk himself into speaking up.

"You know, I talked to Sokka yesterday." he began "About Katara. Because I needed some input about watertribe traditions."

"Spit it out already, Zuko. What's wrong?" Aang said.

"I want to marry Katara. And I need a betrothal necklace for her, but I have no idea how to make one. I was wondering if maybe, you could help me with that?" Aang smiled over his face

"Wow, Zuko! Congratulations! I am so happy for you. Of course I will help you" he exclaimed, giving his best friend a brotherly hug. He was thinking about something that Katara would love. "And I think I know just the perfect thing for her."

"Really?" Zukos face brightened up visibly.

"Let me handle that. No worries, firelord. She'll love it, promised!" Aang smirked. He had just the thing in mind, which would be perfect for Katara. But he would not be able to do it alone, he would need someone's help. But all in its proper time.

"Have you asked her father for permission, Zuko?" a motherly voice from behind asked. Aang and Zuko spun around both shocked how easily Ursa managed to sneak up on them.

"Mother! How long have you been standing there?" Zuko asked ashamed of being busted.

"Long enough, dear. You have to ask her father, you know it's tradition." Ursa said, her voice had something very calming. It was like silk for the ears.

"Mother, the watertribes don't have that..." Aang cut him off

"Zuko wants to say, he is not sure if hunting seals for their skin in a competition against chief Hakoda and beating him at it, is something he can do. Seeing how he didn't grow up hunting seals, I do see where he is coming from" Aang said with a unsure smile. He knew one thing or another about the traditions of the watertribes, and most of them were... rather interesting. It had a lot to do with competition and proving better than someone else.

Ursa looked suspicious "Are you serious?"

"Unfortunately, mother, he is" Zuko sighted.

"Why would they do such a thing?" Ursa wanted to know.

"Well, Katara is the chiefs daughter. It is tradition. If you want to marry the chiefs only daughter, you are bound to be the next chief, and the father of the chief after you. It is done to make sure only the most suitable person gets to have the honor of marrying the chiefs daughter. At least Zuko won't be chief, Sokka is going to. But that doesn't change the tradition" Aang explained, while Zuko looked devastated.

"I know what my sister would do" he shook his head, as Aang laughed.

"Yeah, she would blow up a whole seal-colony." his girl made a habit of going overboard at times. Ursa shook her head. It was something Azula would most likely do. Luckily she noticed the Avatar was having a very positive effect on her daughter, though they were still far from speaking terms.

"Fortunately it is not Azula who will be hunting seals. But you my son, will. I am not having a son and firelord who isn't respecting tradition" Ursa said. Zuko eyed her carefully, and Aang was already seeing the witty comment building inside of Zuko.

"Well, you sure would like me to challenge the Avatar to an Agni-Kai then, wouldn't you? For tainting my sisters honor for the past year and a half? It is tradition after all" he stated calmly. Ursa looked at him, trying to hide a smile.

"Maybe not every tradition is meant to be preserved. But you still will go seal-hunting!"

-/-

"You indeed are way better at this than Aang is" Azula confessed, after Katara removed the cooling water off her side.

"It was only a minor burn. Healing more severe injuries would have been painful either way. But thank you." Katara gave the princess a shaky smile. She added when Azula did not speak up for a while "You should maybe come to a agreement as far as the use of lightning is concerned during your sparring matches."

"Where would the fun be?" Azula shot back. "I like challenges."

"I know" Katara said. Being around Azula she always felt strangely on edge all the time. But she promised Aang that she would try and work her issues out with the princess. Now was as good a time than any other. "So, Aang complained about you not having attended the dance last week" she said, passing Azula a new top to her training-garment.

"I can imagine. We had a pretty bad fight over it" she said, not sure why she even told that watertribe-girl. Well she kind of promised Aang that she would work on improving the icy thing that somehow was their relationship with each other. One had to start somewhere.

Katara was rather surprised by Azula suddenly opening up a bit. The waterbender expected a crafty comment on how that was absolutely none of her busyness. Azula was almost never initiating conversation with Katara at all.

"Really? Why is that?" Katara wanted to know. Azula grunted rather un-princess-like.

"He wants to take me to these events all the time." she said, while slipping out of her burnt top, throwing it into a trash-can and pulling the new one over her head. For a moment Katara admired her flawless pale skin, at least she could see what Aang liked about her body. The princess was rather easy on the eye.

"Well, he wants you around him and do things with you besides of sparring. I don't think he even cares what it is, as long as you do it together. That's kinda cute, if you ask me" Katara said. She had no idea how do talk to Azula in general and now she was on the edge of giving relationship advice. If this wasn't a time bomb.

Azula sighted, she was unsure if it was good idea to tell the waterbender. But for a year now Aang was encouraging her to finally go and start trusting people at least a little bit more. People who were not him or Zuko. He had suggested her mother, but Azula was unable to talk to her. It was too difficult, there were so many misunderstandings built up over the years, they would never find back together. However, she did get back in touch with Mai and Ty Lee, but soon found out, she would never be able to fully trust them again, so their friendship remained platonic. There was a time when she got rather close to the blind earthbender girl. Azula liked her direct, unprettified approach on things. But Toph returned to her academy of metalbenders. So there was really only Katara left, as she ruled out her silly brother and his girlfriend -Suki- from the beginning. Two of the two people Azula really trusted were trusting her. So maybe it was worth a shot.

"I know it's cute. I would like nothing more than to do what he is constantly suggesting. It's not like I didn't want to go. But..." she shook her head, it was difficult for her. She stood up and walked over to a row of lockers where she leaned against them. "But it's better if no one knows about us. People would start comparing everything he does to what they think I would do and sooner or later would accuse him of becoming like me. I don't have the glorious reputation he does, and never will. No one would understand how the Avatar, the shining hero of the world could possibly end up with his complete opposite. I mean, I know that I am feared everywhere for the horrible things I did. They would say I am hiding behind the Avatar to escape punishment for my crimes. They would accuse him of shielding a war-criminal. Hell, they accused Zuko of doing just that! No, It's better for him, if I stay his dirty secret." There. Azula said it. She laid her secret thoughts out in front of her. Now it was up to Katara to prove if trust was something the princess would further pursue in her life.

Katara was taking some time to respond to what Azula said. It all made sense, from a certain, rather dark perspective. She needed to think about what she would say very carefully, understanding that it must be really hard for the princess to tell her, she did not want to screw up what was most likely her first field test of trust. The fact that she chose her to test this was still a bit surreal to Katara, but never the less she would respect the decision. "You are not his dirty secret, Azula! I understand what you are saying. But there are two sides to every truth, and it is up to us to choose which one we want to look at. See, I notice the snarky looks or comments the noblemen and women give me, because a filthy peasant is with Zuko, and it bothers me. But I also see the face he is showing the world, a face of a new and open minded firenation. A nation people will grow to love. And I choose to look at this side, because it is what I want." Katara looked deeply in Azulas eyes. She still felt that spark of panic every time the sharp gold was piercing through her. "You can also say that your relationship with the avatar will prove to people that you have changed. They might as well compare your actions to his and see that you are a different person now. You might not have his reputation, but who knows, maybe you will one day. Maybe they will see a war criminal hiding. But maybe they will see someone they always feared helping the Avatar at restoring balance. You will never know until you go out and see for yourself. Maybe start small, with something where only a few people are around and see how that goes. I think it's worth a shot. The Azula I know never turns down a challenge." Katara said smiling.

"leave the manipulation-attempts up to those who can pull it off" Azula replied in reference to Katara trying to give her plan some competitive character. "But you had me at perspective. Thank you. Katara. That was rather helpful."

"Pleasure to help" Katara said, before turning around to a strange noise of something being knocked over. There was a small girl standing beside a spear-holder, with some of the weapons fallen out.

"Excuse me aunty Katara" Kiyi came waddling into the ladies changing room. She obviously should not be here. Coming into the room, she was only able to see Katara at first. Azula was standing behind a wall in the U-shaped changing room. When she came closer, she was able to see Azula as well.

Kiyi immediately froze. She was really afraid of Azula. Everything about her scared her. She was so cold and always had that evil glare, like she was about to hurt you any second. Kiyi remembered vividly the day she had met Azula and the princess threatened to cut her dolls head off. "A-A-Aunt A-Azula" she whispered. How uncle Aang liked the evil woman, Kiyi did not understand. Azula smiled at her the best she could, noticing how Katara was aunty and she was aunt. Not that the princess would have ever admitted it, but somehow this fine difference one letter can make hurt a lot.

"Kiyi, what are you doing here?" Katara asked warmly.

"I ..." she started, trying to come up with something but when she glanced over to Azula she didn't dare lying anymore. "Wanted to watch your match" she confessed, making the best puppy-face of an innocent child. Oh gosh, Kiyi was so incredible cuuuute, Katara could not wait to finally have kids on her own. And yet, the sparring was nothing suitable for a little girl no older than six.

"Kiyi, you can't be here. This is no place for children." Katara said firmly. She had a way of being incredibly warm and yet firm and determined. Azula somehow admired this, at least around kids.

"I'm sorry" Kiyi replied.

"You need to go back to your mother, ok?" Katara gave her a warm smile, and Kiyi came a little closer to her.

"Will you come with me?" she asked. Katara smiled internally, coming up with a rather genius plan.

"Oh, sweetie, I'd love to. But I am all sweaty and gross." Katara looked down on her making a playfully disgusted face. "But aunty Azula will help you, ok?" Katara said and smiled. Kiyi swallowed hard

"She will?" Kiyi and Azula asked at the same time. The princess shot Katara a glare, she was -contrary to Katara- really bad with children. "Small steps, Azula" Katara returned her stare until the princess gave in.

"Fine, ok." Azula sighted. "Let's go and find our mother" she said extending a hand to Kiyi. The young girl hesitated and looked at Katara for confirmation. At her reassuring nod, she took Azulas hand. Something inside the waterbender cringed when she heard Azula talk about our mother. She forgot to easily that Ursa was Azulas mother as well, making Kiyi her half sister. She only called Azula her aunt.

Watching Azula leave with Kiyi on her hand made the waterbender smile. It was a heartwarming picture, not only because the princess looked totally awkward, but because Katara knew she was almost as scared of Kiyi as the little girl was of Azula.

Had Azula left the chainging-rooms the way she entered, the two would have bumped right into Ursa. But Azula didn't choose this way, thinking that maybe Aang and Zuko were sparring at the moment. So she took the exit leading directly into the royal gardens.

-/-

"Aunt Azula, why is the fire of you and uncle Aang blue?" Kiyi asked, walking at Azulas side, still holding on to her hand. They checked all of Ursas favorite spots in the palace together, at least all Azula could remember. She never spent that much time with her mother, so she might have missed one or another. Anyway, no Ursa. She was nowhere to be found, so Azula decided to take Kiyi back to her parents apartment in the palace. Right now they were walking though an impossible high hall with dozens of thick round dark red posts.

"It's because we are very good at it." Azula replied tense. The girl had been asking uncomfortable questions since they left Katara and the princess didn't have the nerve to explain why no one had any idea what the reason for their blue fire could be. It just was this way. Period.

"He that praises himself spatters himself" Kiyi replied clearly having to concentrate to remember the saying. Azula looked at her in a suspicious manner.

"Well, but it's the truth. We are better than anyone else" she stated. And it was true, there indeed were the best.

"Did he teach it to you?" Kiyi asked innocently. Somehow, after having talked to her for a little bit, Azula wasn't as scary as Kiyi thought she would be. Kiyi was always so afraid of her, mostly because her parents seemed to be as well. Mother not so much, but father definitely. And father usually wasn't scared of anything. But aunt Azula seemed to be rather nice. Cold, reserved and nowhere near as funny as uncle Aang, but not really all that scary. The closer Kiyi paid attention the more she was convinced, what she always mistook for scary was indeed just sadness being hidden. Though the little girl had no idea why her step-sister could be sad. Maybe because everyone was avoiding her whenever possible. Maybe because people said mean things about her. Kiyi did not know.

"What exactly makes you think he taught me?" Azula asked sharply.

"Because he is the Avatar! He can do everything!" Kiyi replied excited. To her the Avatar was almost omnipotent.

"Well, he once was unable to bend fire. I taught him" Azula said, with a proud smile on her face. She had very fond memories of teaching Aang. Kiyi started jumping vividly in excitement.

"Really? You taught uncle Aang do all those fire things he does? And that scary lightning stuff as well?"

"Yes, the lightning bending... Hang on, how do you know that?" she asked shooting her a deadly glare. Kiyi froze and Azula, letting go of her small hand, stopped in her steps to look at her. The young girl was nervously rubbing her hands together. Even if Azula was not always scary, she obviously was very capable of being so. Right now, Kiyi was really scared.

"I... I kind of watch you fight from time to time" she confessed, looking to the floor. Causing Azula to hiss out air though her teeth.

"I thought you only wanted to" Azula hissed.

"Well today I missed it" she said, before silently adding "But I don't miss many" Azula rolled her eyes at that. This was just great. Not only did a six-year old watch her blow up Aang or Katara or Zuko and vice versa, no. She apparently did so rather frequently. Kiyis mother would be furious.

"mother surely does not appreciate that" she stated, remembering how her mother always would try to keep her away from bending when Azula was younger.

"No, she forbid it." the girl admitted. She somehow knew it was better not to lie to Azula.

"And you do it anyway?" the princess asked demanding an answer.

"Sorry" she whispered, fearing aunt Azula would tell her she was now in serious trouble. But Azula suddenly smiled hat little Kiyi. She had more of herself than the princess imagined. She was like a mix of Zuko and her. Strangely disturbing to watch. She took the little girls hand, and walked on.

"Don't worry. I was the same when I was your age" she said, suddenly shifting to an almost Katara-like warm voice, or at least as close in warmness as Azulas voice could possibly to be to Kataras. She remembered when she was young and mother would always try to hold her off at all the things she liked and were fun. She would not be angry at Kiyi for doing what she obviously enjoyed. Though even Azula had to admit that watching her fight especially with Aang probably wasn't really something for children. On the other hand she herself would have loved watching it even in Kiyis age. But then again Azula always had a sadistic side to her.

"You are not mad at me?" Kiyi asked. Her mother always got very mad at her whenever she found out that Kiyi had once again attended the sparring-matches in secret. Which was almost every time the case. Both attending ad getting caught.

"No, why would I be mad? I am not our Mother" she said, surprising Kiyi once again. Though she never really believed it, when mother told her, that Azula was also Ursas daughter, the princess seemed to know a lot about how mom usually was. "So. Why do you come to watch?"

"I don't know. It's just so much fun to watch. Zuzu and Aunty Katara are ok, but when you and uncle Aang fight, you are KILLING IT" Kiyi exclaimed loudly, obviously very much enjoying the matches.

"Uhm, thanks. I guess" somehow Azula liked the compliment. On the other hand it was coming from a six-year old. She sincerely hoped Kiyi would not turn out like her. While it would be tons of fun for the princess, everyone else would probably have a hard time enjoying Kiyis company. Maybe it was a really bad idea to agree to Kataras idea and search Ursa with the child. What if she was wearing off on her? Ugh, Azula felt so uncomfortable around kids. Most of the time she had no idea what she was doing.

"I wish I could do what you can" the little girl mused.

"You are no bender?" the thought never occurred to Azula. Somehow she always just assumed Kiyi could bend.

"I don't know. How do you notice?" Kiyi wanted to know. Azula stopped again, kneeling down beside Kiyi.

"You really want to know?" she asked. Kiyi nodded enthusiastically. "But you must never tell mother, or anyone else. Promise!" the princess demanded in a serious tone, somehow knowing that this was a huge mistake.

"I promise! I promise!" Kiyi cried happily.

"Ok." Azula sighted. Ursa was going to have her head for this, but what the hell, the relationship between her and mother was so bad, it couldn't really get any worse. "Spread your hand out in front of you" she instructed. Kiyi did what Azula told her and put her hand out. Azula took it gently in hers. "Now, breathe slow and steady. If you feel something changing inside you, concentrate on that feeling and push it into your hand" she gave Kiyi a smile, or something like that. Azula was not good at expressing positive feelings. The little girl breathed in and out. In and out. She repeated it a few times, before suddenly the small hand in Azulas heated up considerably.

"Well, you definitely are a bender" she said, rising an eyebrow. And what a bender Kiyi was. Azula knew that normally the first test only results in a ever so slight change of temperature. But her step-sisters hand was almost burning hot. This was actually pretty amazing. Kiyi was jumping again, completely happy with knowing that she was able to bend as well. She always wanted to do that. "You cannot tell mother about this ever, you hear me? Never even mention it!" Azula warned.

"yes" Kiyi replied a little disappointed. As Azula took her hand again and led her away. Azula had no idea where Ursa was and searching the palace would take forever. Kiyis father would sooner or later find Ursa. Hopefully he would be home.

"Aunt Azula, will you teach me more?"

"No." she said firmly. It was impossible.

"Oh." Kiyi said devastated "Why not?"

"Mother would never allow it. It's a bad idea. You don't want to spend time with me, trust me."

"She doesn't have to know. It's not a ..."

"Kiyi! Enough. It won't happen. I shouldn't have shown you at all." Azula hissed, switching corridors to Ikems and Ursas quarters. Two royal firebenders were standing guard, snapping to attention once they noticed the princess. "...Sorry" Kiyi whispered, but Azula ignored it.

"Open!" she hissed at one of the guards, not bothering with knocking. She was the princess, why would she ask for permission to enter a room in her palace. The guard immediately opened the door into the apartment. Azula entered with Kiyi. The princess noticed the guards looking at her and the little girl on her hand, even though they were wearing masks. She shot them her famous glare, telling them to mind their own business or die painfully. They got the hint immediately.

"Daddy?" Kiyi shouted upon entering the lobby, while Azula proceeded to walk into the living room. There was a moment of silence, before Ikem appeared from another room. He noticed his daughter standing in the middle of the living room holding on to the hand of...

"Princess Azula!" he gasped, kneeling down.

"Stand" Azula hissed. "Your daughter was searching for Ursa. She will be back soon, I trust?"

"I suppose so, princess" Ikem replied, standing up.

Sometimes, timing is a bitch. Even though searching for her for quite some time now, Azula could have actually been able to live without seeing her mother right now. But well, what the hell.

"Ikem, do you have seen ..." Ursa said, bursting into their apartment, wondering why the door was open. "Kiyi!" she said before she realized who was holding her daughters hand "Azula?" she asked in disbelieve.

Noticing the tug at her hand towards the girls fathers direction, Azula let go of Kiyi. "Go to your father" she said, before turning to her mother. "Don't bother, I'm almost gone" she said turning to leave. But Ursa stopped her.

"You brought Kiyi back?" she asked. That did not fit the Azula Ursa knew at all. While it was what she always wished her to be, she knew it was not what she was. Azula was never the warm and open type. She would never take care of a small child on free will. Ursa hated herself for thinking it, but what was she after?

"Seems like I did." Azua shrugged. She felt really uncomfortable around her mother. Now that she knew that Kiyi was a bender and was so eager to learn, more than ever. It's not like she didn't want to teach Kiyi. She was just afraid she could do something wrong, and she knew that she most likely would to something wrong. Azula knew she was able to display brutality and recklessness like no one else and while that did not bother her at all under normal circumstances, Azula -despite being rather cold- knew very well that her character was nothing to expose a child to. She knew that she would have a very bad influence on Kiyi. The kid already had some traits of the princess and she was not going to bring them to the surface even further. If anything she wanted the little girl to have a normal life and not be corrupted by the cruelty of someone like herself.

On the other hand maybe Kiyi would allow Azula to see if she was able to work with kids. Maybe with Aang around, or Zuko? Maybe only for short periods of time? She knew very well one day Aang would want to rebuild the airnation, it was his given right to want that. And you cannot rebuild a entire nation without offsprings. And you cannot have those without a mother. But Azula was not ready to be a mother yet. She would be terrible, up until now there was only one person she ever felt really close to, someone she honestly cared for and loved. Everyone else was still a possible enemy. Besides maybe Zuko, who made his intentions towards Azula clear in the past. But being a mother? She would be horrible. The thought of possibly not feeling anything for your children gave her the creeps. She remembered far too well how that was like.

"Thank you" Ursa said plainly.

"Don't mention it" Azula replied quickly, before leaving the apartment as fast as possible. Maybe it was true what Katara said. Maybe people would not see her as the big evil she somehow was. Maybe if she found out that no one was around to stab her in the back, she would change for the better. And maybe even one day have kids with Aang, kids she could honestly love and care for.

-/-

"Ty Lee, may I speak to you for a moment?" Aang asked through the door, after having knocked firmly.

"Who is it?" her happy singsong replied, before the door opened. "Avatar Aang! What a surprise. Come in!" she said smiling, waving him in. Ty Lee was halfway done removing her Kyoshi-Warrior makeup and looked rather spooky at the moment.

"Thank you" Aang said, before entering her room. It was exactly like he imagined it. Pink all over the place, and it had a very sweet scent. It fit the acrobat perfectly.

"Mind if I finish that?" she asked, pointing at her smudgy face.

"Not at all" Aang smiled back at her. Somehow Ty Lee always made him smile. It was her unconditional happiness, he supposed. Ty Lee sat down in front of a huge mirror, starting to wipe makeup off her face. Aang just seated himself in a nearby chair.

"So, what can I do for you Avatar?" she asked, rubbing her face with a tissue.

"I need you to steal something for me." he said and realized immediately, that this was a terrible way to initiate conversation.

"Sorry, what?" Ty Lee asked turning around to look at him very puzzled. She was no thief! And he should have really known that!

"Not really steal. Let me explain, its complicated." he said, searching for a point to start from. It was best to just tell her from the beginning. After all it would hopefully be her, who would make the whole plan possible. "You have to know, Zuko wants to propose to Katara"

"Really?! Oh wow!" Ty Lee squealed "I am super happy for them! That explains so much! His aura was so...vivid the last days." she clapped her hands together.

"Yeah. You know it is a watertribe tradition to give a betrothal necklace to the woman you want to marry, right?" Aang asked. The acrobat nodded, returning to cleaning her face

"Good. I need Kataras necklace. And I need it without her noticing it is gone and also, I need it returned as well, without her noticing anything." he said. "And since you are very skilled at..."

"sneaking around in places no one can reach. I am flexible, I know. You want me to get it out and back in for you unnoticed" Ty Lee said. She still did not feel comfortable with the idea. She promised herself never to do something wrong again, the day she attacked Azula. And her feelings about this where mixed. What did he need the necklace for anyway?

"Exactly." Aang replied nodding in confirmation. That was the plan at least.

"What do you need it for?" Ty Lee asked raising a brow. His answer would determine if she would help him or not. Help the Avatar steal something, it sounded ridiculous, even if it would be returned.

"Well, I actually don't need the necklace at all. I just really need its exact measurements for what I have in mind. I could guess them from looking at it, but they need to be precise. So I need the necklace run the tapeline over it, and back it goes" He explained.

"So if I'd bring you those measurements instead of the necklace, that would be good as well?" Ty Lee asked. She would feel way more comfortable if she did not have to steal anything. Get in, make an impression in wet clay, get out. Done. Simple as that

"That would be perfect. Can you do that for me?" he asked trying his best at a puppy face.

"Of course I can. Meet me again at sunrise and you'll get your measurements."

"Thank you, Ty Lee" Aang was relieved. This would make everything so much easier.

"No Problem. One day I might ask you for a favor as well, you know"

Chapter Text

Aang was lashing down Appas saddle once again, to check if it was fitting comfortably to his best friend. He had quite the trip ahead of him, all for a betrothal necklace. But he wanted to bring something back for Zuko that said everything about him, Katara and their relationship. The two deserved it. Though Aang found himself jealous at times. That special topic of marriage never came up since that day. Aang wasn't really not ok with that, he understood. Azula was not the most emotional girl, she needed time. And he always knew that. But sometimes he wished to call her his wife and take her around the world with him. But well, probably not anytime soon.

"We will have to wait, right buddy?" he said petting Appa. The sky bison roared. "I know you don't like her" he said "But I do, you just have to trust me with this one" Appa roared again, before licking Aang from head to toes. "Easy, buddy!" Aang said laughing.

He checked once again if he had the impression Ty Lee brought him some hours ago in his pocket. Which he still had. With everything onboard, Aang was ready to leave the palace.

"Where are you going?" Azula asked, suddenly standing behind Aang. She made it an art to sneak up on him, even when he expected her. He turned around to his girl, she always showed up last minute to say goodbye.

"Getting a betrothal necklace for Zuko" Aang said. Azula started laughing loudly, an outsider could have terribly misunderstood that.

"Well, I somehow thought you and me were serious. I didn't think you'd go marry my brother" she laughed, giving him her special cheeky grin, reserved only for him.

"Ah well, you got me there. Didn't you know I used you as a cover for our secret affair all this time?" Aang asked, a goofy grin running over his lips. "You provided an excellent facade"

"Hush, I know. I am just the perfect actress" she said, smiling suddenly getting half-serious. "But, believe it or not, I didn't come here to talk about your escapades" she giggled softly.

"Came to say goodbye, love?" Aang asked.

"Not this time, no. I was actually wondering, if maybe...that is only, if it's ok with you..." Azula was forcing herself to say it. She knew he would like it, but she was not sure if she would. "I could accompany you this time?" there, she said it. And for a second he didn't react at all. But after a moment of processing what was said, Aang was smiling like he never did before. He wanted this for so long. Just something she would do together with him. He didn't give a flying fuck what that was. Hell, he'd done a silly spa-day if that's what she wanted to do. But up until now Azula always refused to go in public places with him. To keep him safe, she said. Though Aang never understood how this was supposed to keep him safe.

"Really?" he asked.

"If you want to... If you think I'll distract you, that's ok. I understand" she said silently. It was really unusual to see Azula insecure. But from time to time around Aang she was terribly shy. Like she feared to fuck things up big time. On the other hand they also had some very explosive fights... well at least it provided a constant flow of new furniture. Everything had a bright side.

"Are you kidding me? Hop on!" he said, pointing at Appa. "You two need to get to learn each other better."

-/-

Azula never quite enjoyed flying on Appa. She always preferred the feeling of security an airship provided. But she had to admit, Appa had his advantages. For example the absolutely stunning night sky. Far over the clouds and in otherwise complete darkness, she was able to see each and every star in the galaxy, brightly shimmering in beautiful colors on the firmament. While Aang was lying beside her star-gazing with the princess, her mind drifted around aimlessly. It was beautiful, quiet and peaceful. Only a bit frosty, so Azula snuggled closer to Aang. He never seemed to be cold at all, maybe he was already used to the temperatures up here. At least they would soon arrive at the Western Air Temple where Aang was about to search for the first component of the necklace.

"Why do you put so much effort into this betrothal necklace?" she suddenly asked, breaking the comfortable silence they shared.

"Zuko wants something special for Katara. Why would I not put effort into it?" he replied

"No, of course you put effort into it. But there is overdoing it. I mean, dragon scale? Glass-Crystal? Spirit water? You do realize that these things are nothing you get at the local marketplace"

"Of course I realize that, but that's the whole point now, isn't it? I have known Katara since forever. And Zuko is my best friend. If he trusts me with finding a necklace for his soon-to-be fiancé, why would I come back with anything but the perfect piece for Katara?"

"I know that, it's just…" Azula stopped herself from talking. It was a really bad idea to even start this topic at all.

"Hang on a second, are you jealous?" he asked, suddenly struck by realization.

"No, I am not!" she exclaimed.

"Well what's the problem then?" Aang inquired. She was jealous, it was rather obvious. It's not like he wouldn't have gone to excessive amounts of effort if the necklace would have been for her (which would have been rather idiotic, Azula was no watertribe-member, why present her with a watertribe betrothal necklace?) But Azula didn't want that, yet. So why was she jealous?

"There is no problem at all" she said looking at him. He was giving her a knowing, rather victorious grin "Fine, I might be a little jealous! Ok, here you have it" she admitted reluctantly, while crossing her harms over her chest.

"But why? I would have married you a year ago, but you always said you are not ready yet. I respect that. Don't feel obliged to do something just because someone else does it. Or because someone says it would be time, or anything. Do it when you feel ready. I told you before and I will tell you again. I can and I will wait as long as it takes. Should you decide you don't want that at all, it would be a shame, and I would be sad, but I would respect that as well. Should you decide you are ready say so and I will immediately officially ask you to marry me. Whatever makes you happy, Zula." He gave her his best supportive smile. It was true, he would be absolutely content with whichever decision Azula would make.

"What about you?" Azula asked, like it never actually occurred to her.

"What about me?"

"What would make you happy? You always talk about me and how I am, never about you. There are two sides of a relationship, no?" she said, looking him in his eyes. His beautiful grey eyes, which were as of now reflecting the beautiful starlight. It was a endless galaxy to get lost in forever.

"Zula, you know exactly what makes me happy. You know, there is this one girl." he said laughing softly. "And it's curious, because we never really liked each other in the past. But, one day, I dunno how it happened, we just clicked together; like it was meant to be. And I fell in love with her so hard, it hurts." he was looking her directly into her golden shimmering eyes, smiling like you only can smile when you are with the one person you truly love. "There is no one like her, you know? She is beautiful, intelligent, at times a bit intimidating, but I love that as well. She is strong, fierce and passionate, she always knows exactly what she wants, which gives me so much stability for myself. We can talk for hours and hours with no end, and we can blow each other up just as long. Both things I would not want to miss ever again. She is the perfect woman any man could ask for and I am the lucky one who she decided to be with" Aang laughed, running two fingers through her soft, silken hair.

"Well, she does sound rather interesting" Azula playfully mused. "And she makes you happy?"

"more than anything could ever do in the world" he replied truthfully, the smile suddenly gone to underline how serious he was about this.

"Do I know her?"

"Ah, well somehow. You see her often, I guess. In the mirror"

-/-

"KIYI!" Ursa shouted as loud as humanly possible. That girl was driving her crazy. "Where are you!? Come here immediately!"

Little Kiyi knew she was busted, the second her mother called out her name. There is a very particular way for parents to pronounce ones name, so you know straightaway you are in trouble. Ursa had really mastered that special tone of her voice. Kiyi slowly walked out of her room to her mother, who was holding a badly burnt pillow in her hands.

"Tell me what happened" Ursa demanded.

"I… ummm" she promised Azula to never tell anybody.

"How did that get burnt, Kiyi? Young lady, I am not stupid."

Kiyi was trying to come up with anything remotely plausible, but her mind was not prepared for it. She could not think of one at least somehow believable thing that could have happened, besides the truth. And she didn't want to tell her mother, that she tried to bend fire. She didn't only try it, she actually succeeded in it, at least a bit. But she somehow still managed to set the pillow on fire. Despite hiding it with great effort, her mother did not take long to find it. Great.

"You were bending, weren't you?" Ursa sighted. This can't be happening again. Please not again.

"Yes…" she admitted guiltily.

"Who showed you? Zuko surely didn't, he promised me that! So who did?" Ursa sat down on the couch holding the burnt pillow on her lap.

"I promised not to tell" Kiyi said. Ursa rose an eyebrow. Kiyi promised not to tell? Who would make her promise that? Who would even know that her parents didn't want her to discover her bending yet? Well there really was only one person, besides Zuko who could possibly have known. And even though Ursa hesitated for a moment to even think about the possibility, it was the only logical explanation.

"Azula showed you, didn't she?" Ursa asked, softly laying her hands on her daughters shoulders. The little kid nodded reluctantly. Her mother was thinking hard, trying to phrase in words what was crossing her mind. She was concerned.

"Kiyi, listen to me. Azula is my daughter as well, and I love her like I love you, ok?" she said, making her words clear "But, no matter how I feel about her, she is very, very dangerous! You cannot spend time, yet alone bend with her, do you hear me? She will hurt you!" Ursa implored her little one. But Kiyi frowned and tried to squirm herself free of her mothers hands.

"Why are you saying that? She is nice! I was scared of her, but she is really nice. Sure, she isn't funny and sometimes very cold and sad, but if Aang was the only one who would ever smile at me, I would be sad as well! I don't understand why everyone is so mean to her! I would be angry! She even told me herself, she would be bad for me. I don't understand why! It's not fair, what has she done to deserve this?" little Kiyi was really upset. Small tears were forming, before she turned around and stormed off, leaving a speechless mother back on the couch. Sometimes the perspective of a child was a... cruel testimony of the own imperfectness, because no matter how Ursa looked at it, she could not help but admit, that her youngest daughter somehow was right.

-/-

Guru Pathik was sitting on a balcony of the western air-temple, enjoying the beautiful warm and peaceful sunset very much. He knew who was coming to pay him a visit for quite some time. Yet he still was surprised to find out, he didn't come alone. Someone was with him, a person who's energy up until now he never really was aware of. And even so close to him, it was hollow and vague, like it was once shielded perfectly only to have someday cracked open just a little. The feeling of her energy was nothing the guru has ever seen or felt before. And in his 150 years of life he had seen a lot. He was curious who she was, following the Avatar. He felt them coming closer and closer to him, before a familiar voice called out his name.

"Avatar Aang" he said, standing up to turn around. He looked at his friend and then at his companion. For the first time in what felt like an eternity, Pathik saw someone before he felt them. The young woman standing on Aangs side was beautiful. Her skin flawless, her eyes bright gold, her hair dark like the night. The eye would have never guessed anything could be wrong. But the eye is a foolish organ, made to trick the soul. And what Pathik saw with his soul at this close distance was... sad. Very sad.

"It's good to see you again, guru" Aang said, bowing to his mentor. "Azula, meet my spiritual mentor, Guru Pathik" he said "And guru, this is my girlfriend. Azula"

"It's nice to meet you, Azula" the guru said

"likewise" Azula replied, in her typical voice she met strangers with. It was scary and amazing at the same time to see and hear, how the princess was able to say If you dare to stab me or anyone with me in the back I will have you spend the rest of your sorry life in eternal suffering. And that with merely one single word. She was making her point clear. Crystal-clear.

"Zula..." Aang whispered, hinting at her tone.

"It's ok, Aang. She does not know me. But we can change that. Why don't you go and collect your Glass-Crystals while I have a nice chat with your girlfriend. It's been a while since I have talked to someone new" he said. Azulas eyes narrowed immediately.

"How do you know about the crystals?" she hissed.

"Relax Azula. The guru knows everything. He is connected to the whole world." Aang said, wrapping an arm around her waist.

"That's right" Pathik laughed. "Though I don't know anything about you" he said. Azula was looking at Aang, at a loss.

"I kinda can't take you with me anyway... You need to be able to airbend where I am going. Sorry" Aang admitted. She gave him a look that made clear, this argument would be fought later.

"Well, off you go then" she pointed away from the balcony. "And I will talk to your guru" Aang smiled and left the two to it.

The guru sat back down on the floor, and waited. It took Azula way longer than anyone else to finally sit down as well. She kept a distance and was facing him, obviously very suspicious. But the silence was beginning to annoy her.

"So. What do you want to talk about?" she asked. Guru Pathing sighted heavily.

"My poor child." he said and sounded genuinely sad, shaking his head "What have they done to you?"

-/-

24 hours later:

"Hey, are you ok?" Aang asked, when Appa was landing at the village on Kyoshi-Island. His girlfriend hasn't spoken a single word since they left the Western Air-Temple a day ago. Aang returned with the glass-Crystal he searched for and found her deep in meditation, sitting next to Pathik, eyes closed while the guru was talking to her on what to concentrate and what to forget. He left them alone to pack the crystal in one of Appas saddlebags. When they left some hours later, Azula appeared to be deep in thought.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just thinking" she answered slowly. It was very unlikely for Azula to be so deep in thought and show it this obviously.

"Anything I can help you with?" he asked.

"No, but thank you." she said, and apparently snapped out of it, giving him a gentle push "Now, you go and say hello to the people, Avatar. They are waiting" Azula smiled and nodded towards a crowd respectfully waiting in some distance.

He hopped off Appa, waiting for his girl, before approaching the group, but didn't make it very far. Suddenly he was surrounded by a bunch of teenage girls, screaming his name and squealing hysterical. Being the polite person Aang was, he said hello to every one of them surrounding him in an uncontrolled bubble of chaos. Fangirls basically everywhere. Azula was growing more and more angry with every second. Thankfully there was this old man, who spoke up before the princess would have done something stupid.

"Girls, leave the Avatar alone. I am sure he had a long journey and must be tired. You all will have plenty of opportunity to talk to him again, I am sure" he roared over the screaming and giggling girls, so he would be heard. It took a moment or two for the words to sicker in, before finally the cluster of nearly fainting girlies around Aang dissolved itself. Azula took that opportunity to close the distance to the Avatar jostling the girls out of the way. She could not stand other woman looking at him.

"Thank you, major Oyaji. I appreciate the... um, warm welcome" Aang said.

"Forgive our girls, I guess they didn't expect you back after your last visit here" Oyaji said "But let me welcome you once again to Kyoshi island" the major bowed to the Avatar.

"It's a pleasure being here again." Aang replied, also showing his respect. "Major Oyaji, would it be possible for us to stay a couple of days? There are some things I need to acquire for a friend of mine." Aang asked.

"Of course, Avatar." Oyaji replied, turning to look at the woman who was with him. She looked familiar, despite the obviously very expensive and exquisite firenation getup.. "Tell me, who is your companion?"

"Oh, right, sorry." Aang completely forgot to introduce the two, that never happened before. "Major Oyaji, this is my girlfriend, Azula" he didn't mention her official title, just as he said he would. They agreed on not hanging the lantern on her being the princess of the firenation. "Azula, this is major Oyaji, he is the head of Kyoshi-island."

When Oyaji heard the name, he suddenly remembered why her face seemed so familiar. He met this girl before, some time ago. When she was searching for something along with two of her friends. A lot of people got hurt that day. "You are the firenation princess. The sapphire-death, are you not?"`

Azula sighted. She couldn't believe that man knew her. She had never seen her in her life before, or at least not that she was aware of. "I...Yes, that's me" she said. Sapphire-death, a nickname she once was proud of, and now felt nothing but shame for. "But don't worry. I am merely accompanying the Avatar. I mean you no harm" she felt Aang giving her hand a gentle squeeze, while he stood noticeable closer to her.

Major Oyaji was obviously not sure what to do. He didn't trust the princess one second. Not only has he seen what she was capable of, but also has he heard very disturbing stories about her. But of course what he was seeing now, didn't really add up. The Avatar was holding her hand, standing just a bit in front of her, his shoulder overlapping with hers, subconsciously protecting her.

"Very well. If the Avatar trust you, who are we to not follow his lead" Oyaji said, nodding slightly. "Follow me, I will show you to your rooms"

Some time later Azula and Aang were enjoying a very delicious supper, after Oyaji showed them to a plain but cozy little flat, they could use during their stay. And while during dinner usually not an awful lot was said, this day was unusual quiet. Azula hadn't said a word since they arrived at Kyoshi-Island. Aang had no idea what was wrong, but he didn't want to ask again. To his luck, he didn't have to, because the moment Azula swallowed the last bit of dinner, she cleared her throat.

"Can I talk to you for a moment?" she asked.

"Sure" Aang replied.

"How long do you think you will have to stay here until you get everything you need?" she asked. Aang shrugged, contemplating an approximate schedule for collecting both the dragon-scale and the spirit water.

"I don't know. Maybe a week or so. Why?"

"Would you mind if I fly back to that guru of yours?" she asked. Aang was irritated. Of course he did not mind, but he didn't expect Azula to show even a remote interest in spirituality.

"No, 'course I don't, but..." she cut him off

"I think he can help me with something. Something I need to take care of and should have done some time ago, but didn't. Sorry, I can't tell you what it is, I don't know myself quite yet. But it's important to me. And you" she explained. Aang nodded slowly. Well, he knew that feeling of something not being right and needing help to figure out what it was and how to overcome it. But he somehow always thought that he would be her guide through difficult times. Hearing that he obviously could not help was disappointing. On the other hand, guru Pathik was roaming the earth before Aang was even born. At 150 years of age, he had to offer way more wisdom than Aang probably would ever have.

"Sure. Why don't you take Appa first thing in the morning and come back to pick me up in a week?" he suggested, smiling supportive.

"You don't like it, do you?"

"Zula, I was looking forward to our time together, that's all. I understand you. Guru Pathik is a very wise man. It's ok. When you feel he can help you, by all means go. We will have plenty of opportunities to repeat this" he said.

-/-

The next morning Aang was watching Azula standing next to Appa. The sky bison looked suspicious, as the princes petted his furry head saying something. The mighty beast gurgled relaxed, after Azula ruffled the hair on his giant chin. Aang was leaning to a tree, watching her pack everything she was going to take with her together. It was something to look at, getting to watch how his girlfriend and the bison formed the first steps to friendship. Appa wasn't growling at Azula anymore and seemed more and more relaxed with her around, while Azula started talking to him, she even brought him a little goodie in form of a rather big watermelon.

"Why is the sapphire-death with you?" someone asked beside him. Aang looked to his right, where two girls were standing.

"Don't call her that." Aang sighted. He didn't want to put up with these girls at all. Unfortunately they were always so attached to him. They were when he visited the first time and obviously nothing has changed. Apparently the only girls leaving him alone were those in the slick-green getup and the fans, namely the Kyoshi-Warriors.

"But she is..." one of them started, getting interrupted rather harshly.

"Don't" Aang stated angry.

"Ok. So why is the princess with you?" the other corrected, but her pronunciation of Azulas title still left room for improvement.

"Why not?" Aang shot back.

"Is she your prisoner?" one of the two asked. Aang couldn't help but roll his eyes. How can a single person possibly be this stupid? It was not even normal stupidity, this was advanced stupidity. He had no idea how prisoners on Kyoshi-island were handled, but he was pretty sure they were not running around feeding bison, while obviously preparing to leave.

"Does she look like a prisoner to you?" He asked sarcastically, before Azula turned away from what she was doing, and was walking over to him and the two girls. She heard every word of what was said. Her boyfriend was way too nice to people obviously annoying him to no end. Aang continued "Seriously, what is wrong..." he didn't get to finish his sentence, as Azula wrapped her arms around him, giving him the mother of all passionate kisses. Like a wildfire, burning and deeply filled with lust and desire, making absolutely and unmistakably clear why she was here.

"Any more stupid question you want to ask?" she sneered after breaking away from Aangs intoxicating lips, looking towards the two open-mouthed girls, shaking their heads. "Good. Now get out of my sight, and never talk to him again. Or I will show you why it is they call me sapphire-death" she hissed. The two girls stormed off in a giant cloud of dust. Aang turned back to Azula

"While I am eternal grateful for you getting rid of those two for me, maybe you shouldn't threaten them to be the next barbecue"

"Details" Azula giggled.

-/-

Aang miscalculated gravely, as he had to notice now, much to his displeasure. He was sitting in the flat mere three days after Azula left to return to Pathik. And he already had everything he needed together. If he had known that the dragon scale was as easy to come by as it was, he wouldn't have told the princess he would be busy for a week. Seriously who would have guessed the Sun-warriors had this stuff laying around in almost infinite numbers and just were not really sharing it? And while acquiring the spirit water was the most challenging task he had to accomplish, it still was done within a day and a half. So now he was stuck here. Maybe he should have talked to Zuko before leaving, he could at least have told him about the scales. But then again, where would the surprise be in that? So now Aang had to somehow spend his time until the end of the week, together with a horde of girls going crazy over him. He almost considered riding the Unagi again, but he was not yet bored enough to do that. Not yet. But at this rate maybe pretty soon. He should have flown Azula to the temple, not let her take Appa. But he didn't. Tough luck.

He decided it was time to go swimming. Not with the Unagi, of course. Just plain swimming. Sitting around all day was nothing Aang wanted to do and while he was in water he would at least be left alone. Hopefully.

The way from the flat to the water on the other hand would be…interesting. Aang sighted, grabbed a towel, tossed it over his shoulder and left the flat. He didn't make it far, who'd have guessed.

"Avatar! Avatar!" Aang turned around to see who was storming towards him. He was surprised to see not a excited little girl, but a worried woman in her fifties. Aang looked at her, waiting for the issue being voiced. "Come quick! Please! There is a house on fire! Please help us!" she exclaimed. Aangs annoyance was gone instantly, of course he would help.

"Lead the way" he demanded, dropping the towel into the dirt. He hurried after the woman until they arrived at a spacious house a little off the village. It was burning everywhere. There was more fire than house to see. He felt the heat radiating off the flames even from a distance.

"There are still people inside!" the woman cried. Aang shook his head in disbelieve. There was still someone inside?! Holy smokes.

Immediately he located the nearest source of water, which luckily was a small river flowing behind the burning inferno that once was a house. He bended the water over the house creating a fine rain, which vaporized the instant the fine drops hit the flames. He tried jetstreams of water, water in waves and airblasts as well, but that building was basically fire itself. There was no way he would get the flames killed and still have someone survive. He had to get inside and rescue those who were stuck there.

But the inside was even worse than the outside. The heat was almost unbearable, while black and grey smoke was tormenting his lungs. His eyes were burning badly and he didn't see shit, not only because of the opaque smoke, but also because of the glaring flames. Every now and then a burning beam crashed down, one of them almost hitting Aang. He managed to dodge the glowing hot death trap barely. How on earth was he supposed to find someone in here? Half the rooms weren't even accessible anymore. This was literally hell on earth, the temperatures felt like bathing in molten lava. Aang was making his way through a particularly infernal corridor, ducked down to minimize his exposure to the unbearable heat, when he heard a voice. It was distant at first and over the loud cracking sound of fire and parts of the house collapsing almost not noticeable. But it was there, and Aang was getting closer and closer with every careful step on the glowing hot floor. He didn't even have shoes.

"Hello?!" he screamed, coughing hard. "Where are you?" The smoke in the air was denying him the air to breath.

"Over here" the voice replied. "To your left! Here!" it was a girl screaming. With a fluent wave of his hand he cleared the fire in the doorway just long enough for him to jump though. The room beneath was interestingly not on fire all that much and the floor felt almost infinitely cooler. In the corners there were some flames, here some and there some, but despite the cool floor, the air was hot as hell never the less. To the wall opposite of him leaned a girl, she was dirty from all the smoke and fire and, just like him, coughing heavily, desperately trying to get the ash out of the lungs. Aang walked closer to her, and noticed her face. She was one of the annoying shits that bothered him on the day Azula left, he immediately remembered her. But he didn't mention it, pretending not to know or recognize her.

"Are you hurt?" He asked.

"My leg" she said, still coughing.

"Ok, I'll help you, hang on" Aang hurried over to her and kneeled down beside her, to pick her up. But she didn't need to be picked up, only Aang realized this way too late. Suddenly the girl spun around and slammed a sharp needle into his neck. He was caught at complete surprise, not contemplating an attack whatsoever. The girl wasn't hurt either, as she suddenly sprung up and stood in front of him, while his vision was getting blurry. Everything he saw started turning and he swore the girl smiled at him viciously before he passed out. It was a trap, and he didn't see it coming until it was too late.

Chapter Text

"You have to accept the fact that there are people who care for you. But you also have to accept that not everyone does. Shielding yourself from everyone to not get hurt will work. But it will also condemn you to a very lonely life"

"But I don't shield myself" Azula stated calmly. Over the last days the guru had been helping her discover more and more of herself. Things she didn't realize were even there. She was making good progress. Up until now.

"Yes you do. And you did so for a very long time." Pathik replied.

"But..."

"Do you remember your childhood? Think about it. Think what happened. And then, consider again"

Mixed images of her childhood rushed into her mind. Memories she was not fond of at all.

Suddenly Azula was seven years old again. She was standing in the royal gardens, looking over to her mother and Zuko. The two of them were laughing about something, the princess did not know what it was. Azula wished for nothing more than to be in her brothers place now. But somehow her mother always pushed her away. She only talked to Azula when she did something wrong. So naturally, little Azula did a lot of things wrong on purpose, so her mother would at least give her some form of attention. But only Ozai seemed to notice her. All she wanted was... but she didn't have time to think this thought through. Her father was yelling her name, and she quickly hid the desire for her mothers love and attention somewhere deep inside, so he would not see it. She dodged the barrel of fire rolling in her direction. She despised that man. But at least he talked to her. He said he was proud of her, at least he did so as long as Azula did what he wanted and never showed weakness. And emotions were weakness, he said. He would never tolerate them. She knew Ozai was the closest thing, little Azula would ever get to being loved. So she took was she was able to get, not realizing what price she would have to pay for it.

The next second she suddenly was four years older. Her father was standing in front of her. Mother was long gone to no-one-knows-where. She simply was no more, vanished out of her life and out of Zukos. Azula was holding a dagger in her hands and her father was smiling like the devil probably would do. He whispered into her ear, telling her that only people who deserve this end up at this place. Traitors and foreigners, scum and filth determined to weaken the glory of the firenation. He told her this person, hanging on his arms from the ceiling, was really no person. It was dirt. Lower than dirt. Literally nothing, absolutely and totally worthless. It looked only human, but it was not.

Azula hesitated, this was a person. She didn't hesitate a lot, but her father was disappointed. Ozai glared at her, as if she failed him. "Well" he said "I didn't think you would be just as pathetic as Zuko is." he smiled an evil smile "I should go and teach him a lesson, it's a disgrace if he and you would be on the same level. I don't think he can sink any lower, but who knows?" Azula swallowed hard. She already knew this game. Whenever she hesitated, Ozai threatened to do something to Zuko. The young princess was trying to protect her brother, even though her father constantly kept telling her, how much of a failure he was. The horrible fact was, she was starting to believe him. Yet she tried to keep him save. With a look to Ozai's eyes she knew he was absolutely serious. Azula forced herself to do it.

Swinging the dagger around in her hand, she turned the handle to let the blade point in the opposite direction of her thumb. With a precise movement, she sliced the man's throat clean in half. It was quick and accurate, just as her father always demanded. She ignored the dying sound the man made, but got still bathed in a sway of blood. Wiping it away with her free hand, she threw the dagger into the wall behind her.

There, she had killed a man.

A person.

A... traitor...

someone who ...

might have deserved this. He wouldn't have been here otherwise would he?

He deserved this. She killed...

dirt.

Somewhere deeply hidden inside her the 11 year old girl she was screamed in terror, but Azula only hid that girl deeper. He would only hurt her, or even worse, he would hurt Zuko. Azula felt nothing when she killed her first victim, and her face showed that. She didn't even flinch. Ozai smiled warmly at her. At least she was able to make her father happy, where she failed to do the same with her mother.

It was the day before her father sent her away to a secret military facility, where she would be trained the next year. Her own father sent her to train with the best benders the nation had to offer. With the elite.

At merely 11.

The drill-sergeant loved it, he was able to shape a completely new person from scratch. The perfect soldier. Normally he would have to break the men down in order to build them back up again. But Azula was an unwritten paper. He would make the ultimate weapon out of her, just like the firelord told him to.

Azula returned to reality, before she was able to live through the events at the military facility again. Breathing heavily and having to consider what it was she just saw, she shook her head. She had to think. It was so long ago, and she was trying to forget, not remember. It took her a while to figure it out.

"Ok, I am shielding myself" she admitted, only now truly realizing her father used and abused her to form an ultimate weapon. A precision tool of destruction and death, without any remorse or guilt. A machine not capable of mercy. That's what he wanted to make out of her. That's what he'd succeeded in making out of her, if not for that one fateful day in the forest. He never loved her like a daughter. He only found her useful. She was a tool to him, not a human, yet alone a daughter. And she fell for it, whishing he would at some point love her like mother loved Zuko, if she only kept trying and fulfill all her fathers desires.

"And why is that?" Pathik asked. He had a pretty good idea why that was. Azula never got what she really wanted. She never felt warmth and affection in her life up until recently. And in order to not implode someday she hid her feelings in an inescapable prison deep inside her, so they would never come out and she and the ones she tried to protect would be save. But now, all those years later, the prison became unnecessary, and someday was slowly cracking open. Hidden and forgotten for almost a decade, the princess was unable to deal with what was slowly lurking out of it.

"Because it hurts" she said, remembering the feeling she got, when she looked over to her mother and Zuko, while she had to realize, this would forever be out of her reach.

"Hurt is an essential part of life, princess. Just like pleasure and joy. So is grieve and hurt. This is balance. There can't be one without the other. There can't be light without darkness. But without light there won't be darkness either. You tried to not feel anything. Why?"

"So I would not be weak" her father never tolerated weakness. The slightest hint of it would be punished immediately. "So I would be save. And the ones I cared about."

"Feeling is no weakness. Admitting feelings is the greatest testimony of strength. Aang has always felt a lot. Do you consider him weak?" Pathik inquired. Whoever did this to the princess had to be a special kind of sick. Who threats a kid like a soldier? The poor child was slowly and over long years systematically brainwashed and shaped into a tool, not into a human. Pathik never saw someone hidden so deep inside oneself. The fact Aang managed to get a part of her real self to the surface was absolutely amazing. Yet there was still so much hidden and locked away.

"No" Azula replied. Aang was lot of things, weakness was surely none of his attributes.

"And yet, you still hide your feelings." The guru said.

"I always did." Azula said plainly. She did not remember a single day when she expressed her feelings like she felt them, if she even felt them. Except maybe for Aang and even then they were... tuned down. Most of the time she would acknowledge a feeling should be there, but she put it into the box inside herself, where she would not notice it. She hadn't felt in a long time, again, except for Aang, and ironically a little bit around Kiyi. She was getting there, very slowly. It was scaring her out of her mind.

"Those who you were afraid of no longer are a danger to you. They are of no importance anymore. Gone and forgotten are those, who did those atrocities to you; and with them went, what they stood for. There is no reason to hold on to old habits." The guru eyed the princess carefully. He felt so very bad for her. "You are the most powerful firebender in the world. If you would overcome your inner conflicts, your abilities might very well be limitless. But at the moment, you are your own worst enemy. What you need is balance."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Azula asked. He was her own worst enemy? What?

"Mhh. Let's try this differently. The direct approach worked for the Avatar as well. Yet you might have to work way harder for this." Pathik considered it. Aang did pretty well with the direct approach to it. The guru just told him, they existed and instructed him how to free them. Maybe this would be easier for the princess.

"What are you talking about, old man?" Azula was no big fan of puzzles in conversation. And she was also no big fan of not knowing something. It bothered her.

"Princess, what do you know about chakras?" Pathik asked.

"About what?"

"Very well. That's also an answer, I guess."

-/-

In the brief seconds Aang gained consciousness again he noticed being carried. Somewhere cold and very damp. It smelled rotten. There were glimpses on two men who carried him, and the girl in whose trap he obviously stumbled right into. He heard someone talking.

"Where do you want him?"

"As deep inside as possible, bring him to the stone of attraction. He must not move! And don't forget his mouth" the girl ordered, as Aang made a gurgling sound. She noticed him waking up, and punched him hard across the face, sending him right back to unconsciousness.

They carried him deep into a dark and ancient cave system. Tunnels like a labyrinth, some of them naturally originating from the cave, some others made by earthbenders. Deep down in the lowest level in the last corner of the network, there was a room, roughly hit into the dark rock. Inside that room was a wooden handrail formed in a semicircle around a part of the wall opposite to the door. The rock there was green-ish, not the dark brown and black the rest of the cavesystem was. The semicircle was open at the front, so one could pass through it. There was a badly damaged table standing around somewhere. The room was lit by glowing crystals, but was rather dark nevertheless.

When the doors opened and Aang was carried inside, he was still unconscious. He didn't notice the guards stuffing an old rag into his mouth. He didn't see how one of them was putting on a harness, before fixing a rope to it. The guard with the harness picked up Aang while the other one held the rope tightly in his hands. The second the guard stepped through the gap in the handrail, the rope straightened, and the harness-guard had trouble standing on his feet. He stepped two careful steps closer to the wall, before he let go of Aang. The Avatar crashed onto the wall, and stayed there, pinned to the cold rock with what could only be magic. The guard pulled on the rope, helping his colleague back to save distance. The stone of attraction somehow created gravity. Everything in a certain radius around it got pulled towards it. It was perfect to restrain Aang, because he won't be able to move at all. At least until someone got the stone wet. Then it would lose its effect until it dried again.

The young kidnapper appeared in the cell, to check if everything was alright. She was pleased with what she saw. So long had she waited for this. She plotted, planned and prepared for all those month and years now. Only to run into the Avatar by chance. Well, better than having to put her men at risk and chase him down. This was just as clean as it was easy, sometimes you get lucky. Her father would have been proud of her.

She turned to a small table where a scroll of heavy brown leather was lying. She tied the ribbon of leather straps open and rolled it out on the cheap wood. Various small knives and needles, as well as countless other sharp object were inside. The kidnapper-chief could not help but laugh. This would be so much fun.

-/-

Azula was sitting behind an enormous waterfall, the masses of water crashing down should have made hearing impossible, but somehow behind the curtain of water, it was surprisingly quiet. The cataract was unlike anything the princess had seen before, just mesmerizingly beautiful. The light was shimmering in the fine droplets floating through the air, whirled up by the water falling into the depth. There were some beautiful rainbows around the falls. Aang would have loved it here, Azula knew it.

She was sitting on a rock behind the silent water falling down, right next to the guru. The floor was wet and very moist air kept splashing into her face, but she didn't care. Over the last couple of days, Azula grew to like the man. He was old and a bit weird, true. But he was also extremely helpful. Besides, if someone was 150 years old, they had all given right to be a bit weird.

She'd never thought anyone could say as much in so few words as the guru did. Naturally, the princess was skeptical at first, but once she realized he was able to guide her through her own mind, she just let it happen. Everything was easy from there on. She already managed to open some of her chakras, each one of them giving her a strange feeling of something lost and long forgotten returning to her. Something she didn't remember was there. Something she couldn't name really, it somehow just was.

"The next chakra is the water chakra." Pathik said happily. "It is located in your sacrum and is blocked by fear. In order to get the flow of energy flowing again, you need to let go of your fears. Lay out in front of you and then, forget about them."

Azula inhaled deeply. Her mind changed location to a place she didn't want to ever see again.

Azula tugged on the chains restraining her, but it was futile. She would not break free. She was scared out of her mind at this point. The general had made some very cruel threats, and Azula didn't think he was one for empty words.

"Oh you are not going to tell me?"

"Go to hell" Azula spat in his face. The general laughed cynically, before punching her into the stomach with all force. Azula coughed up blood. The day she would get out, this bastard had to pay.

"Oh, I love the fighters, they are so much more fun to break." The general punched her again, laughing like a maniac.

"Just tell me where I have to go, and this will be over"

"You have to be deaf and stupid." Azula said, spitting again. She remained calm, like she was trained to be. Keeping her cool was her life-insurance all her life, she squashed the fear and panic rising in her with an iron fist. The general, obviously getting pissed off at her spitting, stuffed a cloth in her mouth. He grinned, before he punched her again, this time a bit higher, breaking one of her ribs. Azula felt the cracking bone, but she suppressed her urge to scream, and instead bit down on the cloth as hard as she could.

"I could do this all day" the general laughed, breaking rib two three and four in quick succession. He knew this had to hurt as hell but the princess did not show a sign of emotion up until now. But the day was young and they had all the time in the world. She would scream for mercy sooner or later. They all did at some point. Fong was good at this. Not only did he like it, he also knew what to do. The perfect combination. And inflicting pain was such a creative job, he loved doing it himself.

"So much fun" he said turning around. "But unfortunately, breaking more ribs will cause you problems with breathing. And we don't want that" he said, picking something up from a table before turning around with a giant thumbscrew. "At least not yet." The general laughed, attaching the device to Azulas hand. She didn't allow herself to show her pain, even when she felt the bones of her hand break. He asked the same question over and over again. But she did not give in. She did not say anything.

"I hope you die" Azula coughed. He violently stuffed the cloth back into her mouth.

"You won't be around to see that." he turned to an assistant. "Get me the ice-pool and the device!" he commanded before turning back. "I don't have to do that. But you know what? It's going to be so much fun breaking you down princess. You know what I have ever wondered?" he smiled diabolically.

"What, where you left your balls?" Azula murmured through her gag. The general laughed.

"No, I always wondered what the ever so arrogant and snooty princess had to hide" and before Azula could realize what was about to happen, he grabbed the collar of her jacket and tore it open with a violent jolt. The buttons sprung off, into the cell, tinkling loudly. Azulas eyes widened in shock. The general grabbed her bra and ripped it off her violently, not only abusing the princess by exposing, but also by hurting her. He grabbed her pair of breasts roughly, while kneading them forcefully. "My, My. Who'd have thought. Maybe I'll keep you afterwards" he laughed. It took everything Azula got to not cry. She forced herself to remember the times when she could not show any emotion around her father. She had to stay strong. She mustn't break, she could not afford to. She had to survive. Survival is a question of clear mind and precise thinking. She was concentrating has hard as she could. Someone would slack sooner or later, the she would escape, if she only kept her cool.

The door opened again and in came the assistant who had been sent away earlier. He brought a long tube with a rather scary looking needle on the front. It was more a spear than a needle. The general let go of Azulas breasts, but while doing so almost tore her nipples off. He broke her another rib sending the bone straight into her left lung, before punching her straight across the face. Azula felt the bone pierce through her vital organ, and immediately she noticed the trouble she had with breathing. General Fong took the tube with the needle from his assistant.

"You see, we will stick this" he held the huge metal needle to her nose. "Into your chest" while saying it, he slammed the sharp tip into the right side of her chest. The pain washed through Azulas body, almost unbearable. "Before filling your lungs with ice cold water." He laughed. "Happy drowning!"

Azula panicked, when the assistant filled water into the tube. She felt the painful cold fill her lungs, before starting to cough hard. The next moment, from one to the next, the feeling of drowning overwhelmed her. Not only was she panicking, each time she coughed, her ribcage felt like it was exploding, hurting from all the broken ribs.

When she thought she would pass out, they let the tube sink below her lung, and the water emptied itself again. Azula gasped for air, but soon the cold returned to her chest. They repeated this procedure quite some times.

When Azula still did not give in, they switched to something else: Skin-peeling. Some part of her skin, mostly on her arms, thighs or stomach was cut in, and the skin slowly rolled onto a stick, peeling away more and deeper into the skin the longer the stick was rolled. She got effectively partly flayed alive. Luckily Azula did not have to remember this part anymore.

Azula suddenly returned to reality. Guru Pathik was softly touching her shoulder. He saw what the princess has seen. Torture was something he too was familiar with, but compared to the princess, the things done to him seemed like vacation. Any normal person would have broken and would never be whole again. Azula did not only survive, she managed to stay mostly herself. She was extremely strong, and yet so fragile. While her willpower was infinite, her soul was vulnerable. So naturally the one hid the other. Azula survived on pure willpower since she was a small girl. Pathik was amazed, but now it was time to get her out of her protective shell. Times have changed. "General Fong is not here anymore. He is dead. Aang killed him for you. You survived his hell and everything he did to you. His best attempts were not able to break you. He threw everything he got at you, but you stood your ground and succeeded. Accept this, it is part of your life. But let go of the fear connected to it. You are stronger, you were stronger back in the day, and you most certainly are stronger now." Pathik smiled softly. Azula felt the truth in his words. She was stronger. She could survive anything. She survived her father, she survived the war, she survived insanity and she survived Fong. She always survived, and it made her stronger. She obviously had forgotten on the way. She breathed in and out, before letting go of her nagging fear of what happened.

"Very good, princess" the guru said "But remember. Strength has many sources. The ability to survive is one of them. But not always do we need what is required to survive. There are other sources. There are other ways." he said, standing up. "Come with me"

The princess followed her mentor to the next location he had picked. She knew he was right. Strength was something she mostly drew from herself. But there were others giving her strength, whenever she was unable to generate her own. Of course there was Aang before anyone else. He gave her the most and the best, on every day since he found her. After Aang, Azula realized someday, that her brother also deeply cared for her and now, he also provided crutch when she needed it. Which was not so often, but still.

And then there was Katara and Kiyi. Azula was not sure jet, but maybe Katara was not so bad after all. Her advice was useful. Without her she would not have taken Kiyi with her. And of course Kiyi… Her list of people she liked slowly started expanding.

-/-

When Aang woke up he was disorientated. He had the weirdest dream, he was in a burning house and a girl attacked him. Ha, ridiculous! Who would... But Aang opened his eyes. He was in a cave. And he was unable to move his hands.

Or arms.

Or legs.

Or anything else for that matter. He looked around. Behind a handrail stood the girl who was in the house.

"Ah, I see you are awake" she said plainly, her voice lacked all emotion, almost like Mais, but there was this hint of sadism in it, that got Aang worried. That and the fact he was completely unable to move at all.

"Who are you?" Aang asked confused "What is going on?"

"Oh, you don't know me?" she asked, faking disappointment. "Look closer."

"I know you are the girl from yesterday. We talked before Azula left. You were in the burning house"

"Yes, yes. But that's not who I am. Look at me. Look me in the eyes. Do you know who I am?" she asked, picking up a small knife, apparently meant for throwing. Holding it between her thumb and index finger, she moved it over the handrail and the tip rose up, now facing Aang. She held it from flying towards him. Aang ignored the knife apparently defying gravity and focused on the girl. She did seem familiar, but he had no idea who she was. Maybe he had seen her somewhere else, maybe on his first visit at Kyoshi Island. But he had no clue who she was.

"I have no idea who you are. I have never seen you." he said. The girl laughed, letting go of the knife. It flew towards Aang, burying itself deeply into his left shoulder. Aang screamed a wave of blue fire. This hurt more than he ever thought.

"Wrong answer" the girl said. "Unfortunately I had to take this out of you" she said and held the gag up in the air. "So you could talk." she picked up another knife.

"So, let's try this again. Who am I?" she asked.

"I have no idea, come on, give me something! I don't know you!" he said, he was on the brink to panic, because he had absolutely not a single idea what was going on or what she wanted from him. He didn't do anything wrong, or did he? He was thinking hard who he possibly could have hurt enough to justify this.

"Well you are right, you don't know me. But you knew my father. Look at me again. And tell me who I am" she was far from being clam now. Aang looked again. She did look familiar, but he already knew that. He looked into her eyes and could not get rid of the feeling he already had seen them somewhere. Suddenly it hit him. Of course! He knew her father. He even talked to her father about her. She was...

"You are Fongs daughter, right?" he asked. She grimaced, apparently not happy he found out.

"Yes. I am. My name is Misa." she said, still holding the knife.

"What do you want?" Aang asked. She let go of the knife; this time it hit him a little lower in his chest. Aang screamed again, this was hurting like nothing he ever endured before. "Revenge?" he pressed out. "You realize what Fong did? You know he tortured people almost to death? He had to be stopped! I did what had to be done! I am sorry for your loss, but your father was a monster!" Aang said. Misa nodded slowly, grabbing yet another knife. Aang felt the sharp metal of the two blades stuck in his body sinking into him with every moment they stuck in him.

"And that coming from the same person who spared Ozai. But you are right, I know he was a monster. He was terrible" she said, holding the knife and aiming approximately "But he was also my father" she let go of the knife "And I loved him." The blade hit Aangs stomach, he breathed out yet another blast of blue fire.

"To Ozai, his fate was far worse than death" Aang justified. It was true, he stripped the phoenix-king of all his power. Not only his bending, but his throne, his armies, his everything. He had nothing left. He was nothing. He rotted in a cell and no one cared about him. It was Ozais worst nightmare, and he had to live through it ever single day for the rest of his life.

"I don't give a shit about Ozai. This is not about him. This is about my father" Misa said.

"I can't give him back to you, even if I wanted. I can't give you a new family, you have to find your own happiness. So what is it you want?" he asked trying to focus on something else than the pain. There was a horrible long moment of silence and an evil glare in Misas green eyes.

"I want you to scream, Avatar!" she tossed a whole bunch of knives at him. A few missed, but most of them now where stuck all over his body. One dangerously close to his neck. He felt the adrenaline rush through his body, the wave of energy and heat that indicated he was about to go into the avatar-state. But before the fire in his blood started burning, it died off.

"Oh, don't bother" Misa said, while she looked for something else than knifes. "We took care of your superpower. Amazing what a few plants can do if you combine them correctly, isn't it?" she wandered around the cell. "I'd like to show you something else. But apparently it's not here. Hang on, I'll get it. You will love it, trust me!" she smiled a fake smile at him and left. Aang was trapped. What the hell was going on? Was he here, just to be slowly tortured to death out of revenge? Fongs daughter; never in his life had he thought he would end up on the receiving end of her hate. He never thought she even knew he did something to her father. Then again, there were only so many options of what could have happened.

-/-

"How do you feel, princess?" Pathik asked, after Azula reopened her eyes.

"my mind is so clear. I feel… so powerful"

"Yes your mind is clear. You have unlocked your last chakra. You are in complete balance with yourself again."

"What exactly does that mean?"

"It means you are free of everything what was holding you back. Your past is your past, and nothing else. It is a part of you, but it does not define who you are. You are free to go and make new decisions based on a balanced mind. And your bending should develop into new heights. Go ahead, bend" Pathik pointed towards the sky in front of the balcony they were sitting on. Azula smiled and got up. She washed a dark blue fireball into the air, larger than ever before. Even when Zosins Comet arrived it was not this huge. And the color was darker as well, it was still blue, but almost purple. She could not believe it herself. All her inner struggle was gone. She knew what she wanted to do and where to start, she suddenly felt so… normal. She might never be the easy trusting person, but at least now she knew there were people she could trust, besides Aang and Zuko. She bowed to the guru, who was still sitting on the floor, with a victorious grin on his lips. He loved helping people.

"Thank you so much, guru Pathik. For everything you did for me." Azula said.

"It was my pleasure, princess Azula" Pathik replied. "But now, go. Aang will be waiting by now." The princess bowed again, before storming off to Appa. Pathik watched her leave and felt terrible for not telling her. He knew Aang was in trouble. But he could not tell her. She would have run off like he did all those years ago. It damaged him and he did not care, but it would have most likely cost her everything. Her bending for sure, her sanity probably too and her life… well, Pathik was not sure. He never saw someone so out of balance before. But after one week he managed to restore her balance. He could tell, Azula would never be what people considered normal. But she would be as close as she could ever get. And that had to be enough. He knew she would achieve great things. Hopefully saving Aang was the first.

He watched Appa getting smaller and smaller before vanishing in the horizon.

Azula meanwhile was petting Appas head. "This was great." She said "Thank you for flying me"

Appa roared pleased. He started liking Aangs newest friend. She was getting nicer with the hour. And he liked her voice, when she talked to him. It was always so calm.

"Now let's get you back to Aang." Azula said, leaning back and closing her eyes. She felt good.

Appa roared again, knowing full well that him returning to Aang was only her second priority. Sky-Bison did hear rather well. Azula wanted her lover back. Which was something Appa could live with. She made Aang happy. And that made Appa happy.

Chapter Text

When Azula arrived at Kyoshi island, she immediately knew something was not right, she just couldn't quite put the finger on it. People were walking around as if someone just stole their monthly food-supply. Everyone was trying to evade the princess. Not that this would be unusual, but normally people would glare angrily at her before making space. Today they were just ducking away. Azula was getting suspicious. What was going on here? Maybe a village-elder had died, or the major? She did not know. But something must have happened, while she was gone.

She wondered if Aang would be in the flat or if he was still searching for the components for the necklace. Azula walked up to the door leading into their flat and let herself in. On the other side she was certain something had to be wrong, and she was also certain it had to do with Aang. On the bed there were the three components he collected. dragon-scale, crystal-glass and a vial of presumably spirit water. His glider was still leaning to the wall and his cloth were scattered over the couch. But he was nowhere to be seen. He never left without his glider. Azula frowned and left the flat. Maybe he went swimming. So she went to check the lake, but again, no Aang. Up until now Azula merely was annoyed he wasn't here to greet her. But she was beginning to worry.

She quickly found major Oyaji, who was in his office. Azula didn't bother knocking and just entered, she ignored his assistant who was causing a commotion when she walked in. The princess just slammed the door shut in the assistants face, leaving him outside of the majors office. Oyaji stood up immediately, not liking her facial expression at all. She looked terrifying. It had to be the almost unnatural golden glow in her eyes that made the princess look like a deadly predator. Which she somehow was.

"Where is Aang?" she asked, her voice so cold, it was able to freeze an ocean. The major rose an eyebrow

"He is not with you?" he asked confused.

"Why would he be with me?" Azula snapped. "How would he even come to me? Walk? To the western air temple?" she stared the major down. "Where is he?"

"We..." Oyaji sighted. "Don't know."

"You have exactly 10 seconds to specify that before I lose it." Azula hissed.

"We hoped he might be with you. He was suddenly gone. After the third day of his stay no one has seen him again. He vanished."

"So he is gone and no one knows where he went? You realize he left everything behind. Even his glider?" Azula was at the brink of burning something, though on the outside she remained cold as ice. Oyaji shrugged, he did not know.

"There was a house on fire. He tried to put it out, I was told there were still people inside, so he went to get them. Ever since he is gone"

"WHAT?!" Azula spat the word out like it was bitter. "Has anyone seen him leave?" her eyes narrowed and Oyaji swallowed hard.

"Erm... no" he admitted. The crown-princess suppressed the urge to just zap that incompetent fuck. He was basically telling her Aang might have very well burned to death.

"Have you searched the place?" she hissed, but didn't wait for an answer. "Nevermind, just take me there" Why was it that she always had to deal with a bunch of incompetent idiots? She remembered vividly the time she had to restructure Zukos security guards, because their sloppiness got him killed almost every night. She had to ask most of the Kyoshi warriors to replace the firelords bodyguards, since those seemed to be incompetent beyond comparison. Even bread was able to mold, those idiots weren't able to do anything. With the best of the Kyoshi-Warriors protecting the firelord, there weren't a lot of them left on the island itself. A fact that would proof problematic later on.

She reached the gutted building, nothing but black coal was left. Azula shook her head, and stepped into the ruin searching for anything that could provide information where Aang went. Or if he went anywhere. She was running in her cool and efficient mode again, or otherwise she would probably freak out immediately. If she had to find a burned body with Aangs body proportions, she would take the 12 o'clock express-train straight back to insanity. She searched for quite some time and found nothing. Absolutely nothing, no burnt bodies, luckily, but also not a single useful hint. It was a gutted house, what was she expecting to find here besides charred wood? Almost giving up, she noticed something shimmering under a fallen and halfway burned post. The object seemed out of place, so Azula went over to pick it up.

She was holding a syringe in her hand. Classic glass vial, with metal needle. There was still some green-blue-ish fluid left inside the glass chamber. Azula took it with her and inspected the syringe closer once she was back, standing beside the major. He looked at her curiously, asking what she discovered. She held the syringe under his nose.

"We will see" she said, and pressed a tiny drop of the blue fluid out of the syringe. Azula smelled carefully, the scent was immediately known to her. But she would still make sure. She rubbed the tiny drop on the back of her hand. the liquid turned almost black after a second of waiting.

Azula really got mad the moment the color changed. She realized immediately what most likely had happened, once she smelled the scent of the liquid, but there was still a chance she could be mistaken. Now Azula was certain. Years ago she learned to trust her instincts, because they were usually right. And at the moment they were basically screaming at her. Though she didn't like what they had to say.

"Epidendroideae Corymborkis Corymbis." she stated, waiting for her wave of rage to build up inside her.

"You know that from smelling?" Oyaji wondered. "I ask, because they are really rare"

"Yes" Azula nodded. "I have used it myself often enough. And I can assure you, whoever uses that, is no amateur." she pinned the major with her glare. "The Avatar had been kidnapped" Azula declared

"what makes you think that?" Oyaji asked puzzled. Yes, there was the syringe, but that doesn't have to mean anything.

Azula frowned "It only makes sense. He left everything behind, because he left in a hurry. Presumably someone came rushed to him asking for help with the fire. Naturally Aang would help, so he immediately went to the house to do what he can, leaving his glider and the necklace parts behind. Then they told him there were people still inside. Aang would never leave anyone behind, so he entered the house, where he expected someone in dear need of help. He would have never suspected a trap, that's not how his mind works. He is way too trustful. That's how they got the jump on him. Someone pretended to be hurt and when he approached this person, they knocked him out. He would have never suspected anything like that. It was all a setup, the fire the hurt person, everything." Azula had a very clear mental picture of the scenery.

"How can you possibly know that?" Oyaji wanted to know. The princess sounded like she did this herself.

"That's how I would have done it" Azula replied turning around and leaving for the majors office. She was already a hundred steps further, planning what had to be done in which case and when. After everything the guru taught her, she was scared how easily she was able to slip back into her icy demeanor. But right now she had to keep a clear head. Maybe she wasn't slipping back to her old self. Maybe she was balanced enough to realize the importance of a cool and calm mind in situations like that. She was very intelligent after all, her mind was her most dangerous weapon, possibly on a par with her bending.

Oyaji followed heel. The princess arrived at his office and sat down on his side of the table. He wanted to say something, but her glare stopped him again. To be honest, he was not comfortable with her around at all. He felt like she would kill him, if he stood in the way. He was lucky to notice it, because Azula would have.

"Do you have a messenger-hawk?" she asked, while simultaneously writing down something on a scroll.

Oyaji nodded.

Searching her pockets for something, Azula finally found what she was looking for. She pulled out a heavy golden ring and a stick of sealing wax of the same color. She rolled the scroll up, and with a tiny blue flame from the tip of her finger she dropped some drops of wax on the scroll, before pressing the ring into it.

"Send this to firelord Zuko, immediately." she ordered passing the scroll to the major, getting up to leave. "And get me each and every remaining Kyoshi-warrior. I have to talk to them." she said walking past him. She knew there would most likely be only the new and inexperienced warriors, together with maybe some instructors on the island, but she needed manpower until reinforcements would arrive.

"Princess..." Oyaji started carefully, but he immediately had a blue fire-knife at his throat. He wanted to take a step back, but Azula pinned him to the wall of his own office.

"You listen to me very carefully. This is all your fault! The avatar got kidnapped in your village and you did nothing. This was three days ago. Three. Do you have any idea what head start his kidnappers already have? So if you want to live another day, I suggest you better start praying we will find him, and do as I tell you! Have I made myself clear?" she snarled, that dangerous glowing in her eyes. The major swallowed hard.

"Right away, princess" he whispered.

-/-

Firelord Zuko was sitting in his office talking to his soon to be fiancé and his mother. "You two should finally talk to each other." he said hinting at Ursas and Azulas problems with each other.

"I refuse to have her around Kiyi" Ursa stated calmly. "Her and my problems are one thing, but Kiyi is another. Azula is not someone to be around kids, as much as I'd like her to be. And you all know that."

Katara hasn't said something in quite some time. She always knew the royal family had issues, but it being so bad, she would have never thought. Her mother was dead a long time, but ever drifting apart so much was something she could never imagine would have ever happened. It was sad to see a mother be such afraid of the influence one of their children could have on the other.

"Well, Kiyi wants to be around her" Katara said. It was true, while Azula was gone the little girl often asked Katara when the princess would return. She always said she missed the sparring, but it was apparent Kiyi just wanted an excuse to be around her step-sister. She obviously took a liking in her during their search for Ursa after the last sparring match.

"But why?" Ursa replied.

"I guess it is because Azula doesn't treat her like a child. I have talked to Kiyi and she said Azula would be a - and I quote - 'badass'. Now, I know she might not look like being suitable for children, but..." Ursa interrupted the kind waterbender "There is no but. She is not suitable for children. You don't want to know what she did to all of her toys when she was younger. She is cold hearted and cruel, and I am sorry for that. But never the less, I have another daughter to protect."

"You do realize Azula will probably one day want children herself? I don't know of course, but I can imagine she is super afraid of that, because everyone keeps telling her she would be bad for kids." Katara was completely calm. This problem hit her one night and she had to wake Zuko up and discuss it right then. He was not amused.

"But she will not experiment on my Kiyi!" Ursa exclaimed.

Zuko shook his head. Katara had told him a lot of what Azula told her and what she saw of Azulas interactions with Kiyi, so he was reasonably sure, Katara could be right with what she said. "No one was talking about experimenting. But we could take her along someday and see how it goes. Aang, Katara and I would be around as well, and we would see how Azula works with kids."

Ursa looked at her son. She knew when he was certain about something, and right now he was. He would not give in, so Ursa did. "She won't teach her firebending!" Ursa almost defined that.

"I will repeat myself, mother. You should talk this through with her, not with us. She will surprise you, because she really does everything she can to change." Zuko said. He didn't really get, why his sister and mother would not talk to each other. And he didn't consider a cold greeting an actual conversation.

"I had quite a lot of Azulas surprises" Ursa sighted, but before Zuko or Katara could reply, there was a knock on the door before it swung open the second later.

"I beg your forgiveness for this interruption, Lord Zuko, but a messenger-hawk arrived with this." The servant entering held a scroll in her hands. Zuko thanked the woman and took the scroll of her hand.

"It has Azulas seal on it" he stated before cracking the wax open and rolling the scroll out. There were only a few words written, but his eyes widened in shock.

"What's wrong, dear?" Ursa asked. But Zuko sprung up, leaving the scroll on his desk. The servant was not yet gone.

"Get me Colonel Yamomoto! Tell him to meet me in the war room!" he shouted.

"Yes, my lord. When do you wish to speak to him?" the servant asked.

"YESTERDAY!" he roared before he stormed off.

Katara and Ursa looked at each other, then at the scroll. Then back at each other. Katara was a split second faster to reach for the paper than Ursa was. But what was written there made no sense to her whatsoever.

Zuzu,

Red star rising, immediately. Kyoshi-Island. Everything you got.

A

Katara rose an eyebrow before handing the letter to Ursa. She looked exactly as confused.

"What's that 'red star rising' thing?" she asked. Katara shrugged.

"No idea. But apparently not good."

"My Lord, you wished to see me?" a man in his mid fifties entered the war room, and bowed to the firelord. He was wearing a sharp-looking black uniform with red detailing on it and a visor cap. So absolutely not like anything the firenation usually wore as wardrobe.

Zuko turned around to see the Colonel. The man was a genius, one of the best strategists on the planet. "Colonel Yamomoto." Zuko started. "You will take hundred of your best soldiers and bring them to Kyoshi Island. Princess Azula is awaiting you, she will instruct you wholly. Time is key, Colonel"

Yamomoto bowed again "As you wish, Lord Zuko" he replied and was gone.

When Zuko returned to his office, his mother and girlfriend looked at him. They both wore the exact same facial expression and he knew, that he would not get away without an explanation.

"Who is Colonel Yamomoto?" his mother asked.

"And what is this 'red star rising' Azula mentioned?" Katara added. Both of the woman crossed their arms over their chests. Zuko sighted. He knew it was of no use. They wouldn't stop bothering him, until he told them what they wanted to know.

"Colonel Yamomoto is the leader of the IMIS" Zuko said "Azula requested them with highest priority, hence the 'red star rising' phrase." He rubbed his hand over his face "This is absolute confidential information, you hear me?"

"Zuko, what is the IMIS?" Katara asked "And why did you send them to Kyoshi island?"

"Katara..."

"Don't you dare and Katara me." she narrowed her eyes. Ursa was impressed, her future daughter in law had a good grip on her son.

9 month earlier:

"I cannot believe you actually succeeded in this" Zuko said as he watched over an army of similar dressed people in black uniforms. He was standing next to his sister on a balcony, the soldiers down on the training ground practicing. Azula had a victorious grin on her face. "How did you convince Kuei to agree to this?" he asked.

Azula smirked "Oh I didn't exactly convince him." she said smiling. The siblings exchanged a look.

"Do I even want to know?" Zuko asked.

"I don't think so." Azula laughed and handed a paper to Zuko "But he signed. The IMIS is now perfectly legal basically everywhere."

Azula led him down to the soldiers. Some of them had red details on their uniforms, others had green or blue.

"Why black uniforms, though?" Zuko was wondering.

"Why not?" Azula retorted "It was a logical choice. Red is already firenation, green earthkingdom and blue watertribe. So that's out of the equation. White seems just impractical for actual combat use and the orange and yellow the air nomads used to have looks like shit. But don't tell Aang." she giggled softly as Zuko rolled his eyes. "Besides, black is a subtle color, and everyone gets detailing in the color of their respective element. I don't see a problem"

The firelord nodded. It made sense in a way, though he'd liked it if everyone had the uniforms in their own national colors. But then they would probably look like a bunch of gay chicken.

"And you really think putting together benders of different nations will work?" Zuko asked

"Of course it will. Most of the earthbender are ex Dai-Li and waterbender didn't exactly show up in masses. This will work, trust me." She walked past a group of training soldiers, three to be precise. A firebender a waterbender and an earthbender. They were put together in teams of three, each member of another element. Air, of course, was missing. Azula spent the past two month setting up the IMIS. The imperial military intelligence service. It was Zukos idea to have an agency which could operate in each nations and still be able to go deeply undercover. Their purpose was to keep peace by finding and eliminating those who sought to overthrow the current order. Azula kind of scared Kuei into signing the contract. He expected the firelord to show up for negotiations, not his crazy sister. (Kuei had still nightmares of the day the princess threatened to kill him, before she took his kingdom away) All Azula really had to do was give him one of her evil glares and tell him the firenation would create this secret agency with or without the support of the earth-kingdom. If Kuei wanted a part in it, he better sign the contract. At the beginning the king refused to do such a thing, but at the end of a long and exhausting day full of negotiations he signed anyway. Azula always got what she wanted, and there might have been the prospect of beneficial trade agreements presented, followed by some vague threats hinting to the current stability of the kingdom. Azulas carrot-and-stick approach usually worked wonders. And it worked wonders on that day.

Now, with everyone agreeing to the contract, the IMIS would be slowly built into the most elite military facility in existence. With the most expert benders of all elements and the best, toughest and most challenging training programs the IMIS would be a force to reckon with. They were chosen to be the best. Most of the Dai-Li agents volunteered, also a lot of the royal firebenders joined. The trickiest part was getting suitable recruits from the watertribes. But with chief Arnook on board, this issue was slowly solving itself.

"So, who is in charge?" Zuko asked.

"Well technically the supreme commanders are you, King Kuei and Chief Arnook. But the IMIS will be able to lead itself." Azula said. The whole idea was that no one really knew they even existed and only the head of state was able to order them to missions. A shared secret service for and from each nation. "Come, I'll introduce you to Colonel Yamomoto. He is currently the commanding officer."

-/-

Azula was leading the umpteenth search party and still hadn't found jack shit. It was not her fault, nor was it the fault of the Kyoshi-warriors. They simply lacked manpower to search effectively. The princess suspected Aang might have been taken into the mountains, but for a working search operation into the tricky and dangerous territory they weren't enough people. She desperately needed the requested backup.

Azula was getting impatient, with every second which passed more. She didn't dare picturing what happened to her boyfriend, because the more she thought about it, the more gruesome her mental image got.

She returned to the village, exhausted and disappointed in herself. She has been on her feet for the better part of 36 hours and all she could think of at the moment was Aang, eat and bed. In this order. She was getting more and more edgy with the hour.

Unfortunately her rest would be denied, Azula knew that when a very upset major Oyaji came rushing towards her. "This is intolerable! Such a procacity!" he screamed. Azula sighted heavily, dismissing the two Kyoshi-warrors following her with a wave of her hand. She was way too tired for the major right now. He pointed towards the harbor. "You cannot do that!" he exclaimed. "This is an attack on Earth-kingdom territory!" Azula rose an eyebrow and followed Oyajis finger to the harbor. Behind some trees she was able to see the bow of two airships. Suddenly her tiredness seemed forgotten and Azula took off towards the harbor, leaving a very upset major behind.

When Azula arrived at the harbor she knew this would be over soon. There was a whole ocean of black uniforms systematically unloading from the airships. Azula took a deep breath before heading towards the men. She would have never hoped for Zuko to send so many IMIS agents in her direction, but of course she was grateful he did. Out of the black ado a man emerged followed by two very well known ladies.

"Princess Azula" the man said bowing to her. "Colonel Yamomoto, reporting for duty"

"It's good to see you again, Colonel." Azula said, ignoring the two girls for now. "I'll make it quick. The Avatar got kidnapped, meanwhile five days ago. We don't know how many kidnappers there are and where they took him to. I already searched some areas, but others need to be checked, get in touch with Kry, she will provide you with all the important terrain related information. I want a whole perimeter-sweep with special focus on the mountains. Set up your base of operations somewhere in the village, I don't care. But get going. We will head out first thing in the morning to find him." Azula ordered.

"Of course, princess" he replied, bowing and making his exit.

"Oh, and colonel?" Azula added, the officer turned around. "Don't disappoint me" she said coolly, her eyes glaring. He nodded and went to bark orders at his soldiers, the only thing she understood was to find Kry, the Kyoshi-warrior Azula worked with the most during the search. Azula turned back to the two girls.

"So, what are you two doing here?" she asked skeptical.

"Zuko asked us to check on you" Mai replied, not that she liked it to be here. But she owed Zuko a favor and now that she knew it was more about Aang than about Azula, her mood actually got a bit better.

"Yes, he was worried after you sent him this strange letter" Ty Lee smiled. Azula frowned, but had to admit, her former best friends could turn out being very useful. This, and she had also to admit, that she really missed them badly. Azula remembered a lot of what guru Pathik told her. About trust and friendship. She knew now that her best friends didn't betray her because of her, but because of the dark path she was heading down, where they simply didn't want to follow anymore. They made a decision. Azula would have decided the same way, if the roles would have been reversed. Maybe there was hope to regain their lost friendship. She regretted giving up on them so quickly after the war, she should have tried harder. But she didn't.

The last couple of days Azula was terribly alone. Working hard to find Aang she had no one around who she could share her concerns with. She was tired and exhausted, both physically and mentally. She missed Aang so much it hurt and was worried out of her mind. It all suddenly washed over her in one gigantic wave of feels. Her lips began trembling, when she said with croaky voice: "Someone took Aang" she was crying now that she said it aloud. It sounded ridiculous. He was the Avatar. And yet he was gone. She wanted to tell him how much he meant to her, she wanted to tell how much she missed him and she wanted him back! Now!

Mai and Ty Lee exchanged a worried look, before the acrobat stepped forward and hugged her friend tightly. "It's ok, we will find him." Azula didn't reply, but just held on to Ty Lee. Her whole body was shaking, unable to calm down. The whole built up anxiety and worry of the past days just spilled out of her.

Mai didn't think Azula could show emotions at all. She knew that the princess was with Aang, but would have never thought he was so important to her. Suddenly she felt ashamed of herself for assuming that Aang might have been a political decision. Up until now, she was never really convinced. Just as she wanted to say something, she noticed an elderly man coming rushed towards them. Mai stepped forward to intercept him, before he could reach Azula. She knew the princess was hardly in any condition to be spoken to at the moment.

"What do you want?" she asked in her never changing tone of infinite boredom.

"Who are you?" the major asked confused, he tried to get a look at Azula, but Mai was stepping in his line of sight simultaneously with his movements. He eventually got the hint.

"Your counterpart" she replied dryly. Zuko told her that the major would most likely have objections to their ... sojourn at Kyoshi-island.

"This is illegal! The firenation can't just march into our village. The earthking will hear of this!" the old man was upset. Mai, being prepared for just that problem, reached into her pocket, searching for a piece of paper. When she found it, she handed it to the old man. "Here you go. The authorization of King Kuei" the man took the scroll and skimmed it, his eyes widened "If you'd excuse us, we have work to do" Mai said, before turning the major around and pushing him away.

"Tell me" she began turning back to Ty Lee, who still had a crying Azula in her arms. "When did you sleep the last time?" she asked, now addressing the princess. She sniffled.

"What day is it?" she asked.

oh. Not good.

"You should get some rest, Azula" Ty Lee said, before leading her away.

-/-

Deep in the mountains the princess was leading the search-party. They already have checked half of the difficult and dangerous terrain and were closing in on something. Black IMIS uniforms filled the small pathways looping through the rocks. The earthbending members periodically checked for possible tunnels and underground structures.

"What can you feel?" Azula asked an IMIS member, a former Dai Li agent. After a night of sleep and a decent breakfast she felt way better. She apologized to Ty Lee for her emotional outburst, but the acrobat just hugged her again, saying it was nice to see some emotion from her, and that she didn't need to worry because they are going to find Aang soon. Now Ty Lee and Mai were standing behind Azula, like in good old times. Except this time they were searching the Avatar to rescue him, not to do him harm. It's the details that make all the difference.

"There are definitive tunnels in the mountains and there are people down there" the soldier with green details on his black uniform answered. "I can feel them. They are a lot"

"Can we bend an access point?" Mai asked.

"Not yet, they are too deep. But I am sure we will find an entrance soon." the earthbending IMIS member answered.

"Alright. Let's get moving" Azula said and continued the search. Her mood was getting slightly better now that they had a lead. Not knowing anything for days straight was a hard endurance test for her mental stability. But guru Pathik did an excellent job. He had his reasons for not sending the princess on her way, once he found out about Aang. The guru did nothing without a reason.

It didn't take long until they found the entrance into the cave-system. It was a unremarkable hole in a crag, something one would most likely walk past, if not in pursuit of exactly such an opening.

Azula led the way into the dark and dank tunnel. The floor was slippery and one had to watch one's steps very careful, so no one would skid. Azula and the other firebender created light, so they would see where the journey went. The tunnel seemed abandoned, but suddenly voices were resounding through the corridors. A few more steps and the search party found itself in a small vestibule, apparently meant as a checkpoint for the actual cave-system. Azula, leading the team, sneaked into the uncomfortable looking and only sparsely lit room. She didn't make it far before someone attacked her with a junk of earth.

"You are too late! You will never get him!" the person shouted. There were two of them. One surprised Azula, the other one was running off, loudly alerting everyone.

"Hard contact!" Azula shouted to her group before burning the attacker in a wave of dark blue, almost purple fire. She knew they were spotted now, the element of surprise was gone. "Stop him!" she ordered pointing in the direction the other guard ran off to. An IMIS squadron was right at his heels. Azula ordered the remaining agents to spread out in their respective squads and search every inch of the caves for the Avatar.

She led Ty Lee, Mai and a IMIS-squad into one of the corridors leading away from the checkpoint. The tunnel soon opened up into some kind of bridge, which was spreading over a gigantic cave. Natural green crystals were providing surprisingly good light, as Azula was easily able to see to the ground. A whole bunch of her soldiers already engaged the enemy down at the ground. There were quite a lot of the kidnapers, hiding all over the cave-system. But in this giant cave-hall, one of many as Azula would soon find out, there were close to three dozens of enemy contacts.

While they might had the superiority in numbers, they were badly trained and didn't exactly look like they had enough to eat for the last couple of month. They were hardly a match for the expertly trained, perfectly prepared and highly motivated IMIS soldiers, who made short shrift of the resistance, capturing them by the dozens. Azula smirked watching the fight for a moment, before she followed Mai and Ty Lee down the cave-bridge. They already went ahead.

Azula and her two friends, accompanied by the squadron of IMIS agents proceeded to search the cave system. It was unbelievably huge, complex and extremely random. A gigantic, chaotic mess. Fights took place basically everywhere and the screams and orders resounded over miles through the tunnels, creating an absolutely indistinguishable mess of sounds. It didn't really help that the tunnels were so dark either. Sure, the firebenders created light, as long as they weren't engaging the enemy, but that didn't provide much of an overview and there were so many small, dark corners to hide in. Ty Lee was just thinking about that, when she saw a random shadow running towards what it obviously thought could be safety. Instinctively Ty Lee reached out to chi block it. A outline dropped dead to the ground. Azula lit the area as a waterbender from the IMIS picked up the shadow. It was an elderly woman. "You failed!" she said laughing "You failed!"

Azula rose an eyebrow. "Who are you?" she wanted to know, but the woman did not answer. "Where is the Avatar?" Azula was quickly losing her patience, Mai saw it in the change in the princesses eyes, how they lit up in rage fueled fury. To say Azula was royally pissed would quite possibly be the understatement of the century. The waterbender had the woman in a tight wristlock, and twisted her arm a bit upwards, but she didn't reply. To the searchers luck, she didn't have to.

"That's Antonella Fong, General Fongs widow" the earthbender of the quad said.

"Are you sure?" Mai asked, she was skeptical, as always.

"Yes." The agent confirmed "We protected the generals family before we... switched loyalty" he said. Apparently the earthbender was formerly a Dai-Li agent.

"Traitor!" the old woman snarled, but got ignored.

Azula was just about to decide if she should kill Fongs wife, when she was interrupted by another IMIS agent running towards her. It was a woman with blue detailing on her uniform, another waterbender. She was trying to catch her breath, resting her hands on her knees.

"Princess, we have located the Avatar." she gasped, totally out of breath, before she continued a bit more steady in voice "He is being kept in a small room. We didn't open it yet, so the course of action will remain your decision, princess."

Fongs wife laughed hysterically. "Fools! My daughter will have killed him by now!" she exclaimed. Azula looked over to the soldier, demanding an answer. "He is still alive, but being tortured" she said. The princess cringed on the inside, remembering far too well how torture felt. But of course she noticed the woman talk about her daughter. This could turn out to be one of the most useful information for now, Azula thought.

"Shut her up and take her with us." she said pointing at Fongs wife, before facing the messenger "And you take me to Aang"

-/-

Aang had difficulties keeping his eyes open and staying awake. His vision got blurry and he had to blink hard to get it to sharpen up again, only to have it blur again. Sleep was deprived from him for a very long time. His brain was working slow and felt like it had shut down for the most part, most likely completely overloaded by pain. He didn't even really notice it anymore, it was way too much. How he was still awake was actually beyond him, but somehow he managed. His whole skin felt like it was on fire, the latest idea of Misa. She was skilled with plants and how to make poison out of them, and Aang got to test most of her stuff. Not that he had any choice. She told him the last one would peel off his skin in painful bladders, killing him slowly. That was a few hours ago.

When he was certain that his fight had come to an end and he would be gone soon, the door suddenly burst open in a huge explosion. Aang was relatively certain he started hallucinating at this point. Images weren't really adding up and the voices sounded like spoken from far away.

Azula wore the single most deadly expression ever on her face. She was literally death himself. It took her no longer than a split second after she entered the room to notice three different aspects.

First there was the scent. The room was hot and moist, the distinct smell of iron and blood, combined with sweat heavy in the air. There was something else, a pungent version of tea. It made the princess want to vomit. Even the dungeons under the palace didn't stink so badly when they were in use, and they really had their own charming scent.

Second she noticed Aang. He was somehow being held onto a greenish stone, though there were no restraints. Knifes still stuck to his body, fine lines of blood streaming down from the wounds. On the floor there was already a partly dried out puddle with some fresh dark red fluid on the top. To add up to that, he was bruised badly and his skin was covered with red purulent bladders, his arms and legs were basically full of them, his face partly. Only the Avatars chest and stomach was still mostly intact, but it was starting there as well. He looked dead, if the princess was honest with herself. But his chest was rising and falling ever so slightly.

Third there was a young girl in the room. And Azula noticed her, she was one of the girls bothering Aang on the day she left the island. The princesses first instinct was to zap her immediately, but she noticed the blade she held in her hand. It was pointing towards Aang as if being pulled towards him.

"You will let him go. Now." Azula said, her voice was chilly and absolutely deadly. Mai and Ty Lee were standing behind her. Mais face was stoic as usual, but Ty Lee didn't expect something so gruesome. She wore disgust all over her face. Aang was a nice, gentle person. How could anybody do something so cruel to him? Even when she and her friends hunted him down, Ty lee didn't hate him. and even if she would have hated him and wanted him dead, she would have chosen to kill him fast and quick, because that's how you treat enemies. With respect. Not like a scabietic stray dog. She was so unbelievable disgusted.

"You?" the girl asked stunned, turning around. Azula narrowed her eyes.

"Who else did you expect?" she asked snarling.

"I... One step closer, and he is dead. I'll let go of the knife and the stone will pull it towards it. Aang will die immediately, if you come any closer!" She called. Of course Aang was dead either way, but the princess did not know that yet. Maybe there was a way for her to get out of this alive. Misa wasn't stupid, she took her chances.

Azula on the other hand, wasn't stupid either. And she had handled situations like these before. So she also had invaluable experience as well as a brilliant brain. She had the upper hand in this. Again, like in most other difficult situations, keeping her cool was key. She had discussed that with guru Pathik, when she told him about her fear of showing emotions. He told her that there was a time for everything. There was a time for being cold and calculating, but there was also a time for being warm and understanding. There was a time where showing emotions would be a mistake, but there was also a time where the opposite would be just as bad. He taught her that each situation required a different set of emotion, and that there was no universal emotional status which was able to handle everything just fine. Right now the situation called for cold and calculating. The princess quickly analyzed all the information she had available and set a course of action. Time for lies, misinformation and misconception.

A quick smile crept over her lips, when she came up with an rather evil idea. "Please, go ahead. Kill him. Do me the favor" she said calmly. The expression on Misas face immediately changed to utter confusion. Bingo!

The princess decided to do this the aggressive way. She stepped forwards a small step and began walking up and down in front of Mai and Ty Lee "You see there are two ways for this to end. With him dead, or with him alive." she started. Misa was puzzled, she had the hostage, why the fuck was the princess taking charge all of a sudden? This was not how any of this should work. But she didn't get to say something, because the princess continued:

"Killing him would help me. I would finally be rid of his annoying ass and be the hero who tried to save him, but unfortunately failed. I am so fed up having to hide behind him in order to be left alone by all those ridiculous peasants saying I am a war criminal." she casually wiped through one of her bunches. Intimidating people was something Azula was really good in, it worked like a charm. She noticed how Misa did not comprehend what was going on. She was growing insecure and nervous. Azula would just push a little further.

"Without him my life would be so great!" she lied. "But I guess I'd have to kill you too now, because unfortunately I just told you the truth. So you would kill him, I would kill you. Two people dead and me very happy." Azula grinned her devil's grin and only Mai and Ty Lee and were able to recognize her ruse. But of course they played along.

"Sounds good to me." Mai said and truly sounded like she hadn't left a single flying fuck to give. Well, it was Mai, she always sounded like that. Ty Lee nodded "Yeah, more girl-nights!"

"Or we could go for option two." Azula said. She eyed the kidnaper carefully and liked very much what she saw. Misa was basically freaking out now, that's not at all how the kidnapper imagined that to turn out. She already forgot that Aang was poisoned and would most likely be dead in a couple of hours. She only saw the options Azula was giving her. That's exactly what the princess aimed for and was so unbelievable good at. She manipulated people like no one else. "Which would be much more pleasurable for you. Me not so much, but well, we have to be fair here, don't we?"

"Uuumm...?" Misa tried to concentrate but Azula was so very disturbing. She had an unsettling arrogance on her, an aplomb you needed a gun license for, it threw her off.

Azula carried it off perfectly "You will live and the Avatar will live. All you have to do is give him to us now. Done. You will walk away from this unpunished and alive. No strings attached."

"Why would you..." Misa was now really confused. Azula giggled softly. She seemed so cool, but that was just a facade. On her inside, the princess was boiling with rage. Keep your composure, cool is key.

"You are not nearly important enough for my time. I am here on orders, not on will. What do I care what a earthkingdom peasant did or does?" Azula was really thankful for her ability to come up with very convincing bullshit the second she needed it. She decided it was time for a little decision help.

"But there might be one string attached after all. See, I want to give you an easy choice. So let's alter the deal a bit, make it easier for you to decide. You release the Avatar. You get to live and in addition to that, I will " she snapped her fingers and a second later two IMIS agents dragged a gagged Antonella Fong into the cell. They pushed her down in front of Mai, who pulled a knife to her throat. " not kill her in front of your eyes."

"Mother!" Misa screamed.

"Yes. See, if you kill the Avatar I might be rid of him. But I am going to have to answer to an awful amount of unpleasant questions, and I don't really feel like doing that. So in that event I think I am going to have your mother skinned alive, what do you say Mai?"

"Sounds good. Cut her in at her waist and pull the skin upwards over her head." she said while eying the mother, obviously contemplating where she would cut. Fongs wife was screaming into her gag but all that came out was muffled noise.

"Good plan. She wouldn't die from that. She would suffocate. That was great fun the last time we did that." Azula said to Mai before she turned back to the kidnaper. Her face was ashen now, she looked back and forth between the princess and her mother. Luckily the elder woman was gagged, because she would have told her daughter to kill the avatar for everything he did to their family. Now she was just looking with big eyes hoping her angel would get the hint.

"What's it going to be?" Azula asked, playing the bored spoiled princess.

Misa didn't get the hint.

"Water the stone" she sighted. "It will free him." Misa let the knife sink and stepped away from the Avatar.

One of the waterbending IMIS agents got the stone wet, and Aang crashed to the floor. Azula was at his side the instant his feet touched the floor and guided him into her lap. She didn't dare removing the blades for now, not knowing how much internal bleeding that would cause. His eyes were barely open as she gently brushed over his badly bruised face. There was a hint of a smile on his dry lips, before he coughed up blood.

"Poison... Time" he whispered weakly, before losing consciousness. What he meant to say was, that he got poisoned and his time had come. He wanted to say goodbye and tell her he loved her, but he was too weak. What Azula understood was something entirely different. She heard, that he got poisoned and there was not much time left to do something against it. She gently laid him to the floor before she got up and jumped at Misa.

"What poison was that? Where is the antidote?" she hissed.

"There is none" she admitted now. She forgot about the poison when Azula was telling her the options. Only when Aang already hit the floor, she remembered again. Up until now Misa hoped he would be too enfeebled by all his injuries so he would not say anything. She miscalculated once again in a game against a person where miscalculations comes at the price of your life.

Azula blinked.

Up until now she had planned on keeping true to her word and let the girl and her mother go unpunished. She suddenly changed her mind.

"You know what they say about me?" Azula asked rhetorically, not waiting for an answer. "I only tell lies" Misas eyes widened, as lightning formed on Azulas fingertips and the kidnapper soon turned into ash. Mai had just enough time to step back from Antonella, before she followed her daughter, hopefully into hell. The gloomy girl had to admit that she would probably had done the same, this was... bestiality in its worst form. Ty Lee thought something similar, she was much more emotional than Mai was and imagining her loved ones would be abused like that... the acrobat would have done the same. They all would. Some things cannot be forgiven.

Azula hurried back over to Aang. "Get me a healer!" she ordered, the woman who had notified the princess on the Avatars whereabouts stepped forward.

"I am one of the only ones of the battalion, but I am still in training" she said. There were barely enough waterbender to assign one to each squadron, but most of them were men, trained for combat, not for healing. The few women who were taught in healing had to halt their training in favor of basic combat training. It might have been a bad management decision to do that.

"Do what you can!" Azula ordered harshly. She was still in her calm and deadly mode for now. She would stay that way until she could be certain it was all over. The waterbender knelt down beside Aang and started moving glowing water over his body. Slowly removing one knife after another, she worked her way over Aang. It took her some time until she stepped back.

"I cannot do more for him. He is dying and I have no idea how to stop it. The poison is in his system. All I was able to do, is buy him some time. But if he doesn't see an expert healer in no later than six hours, he won't survive. I am so sorry, princess." the waterbender looked at Azula, she didn't see the hurt and infinite pain in her eyes, that Mai and Ty Lee were so clearly reading. The princess felt like she was about to explode. She wouldn't be able to live without Aang. He was her everything, without him she was nothing. There would be nothing left to live for, no one who would value her presence, no one she was able to make happy. No one she could love and no one who would love her back. No one to laugh with and to goof around. She would break again and stay broken until the end of her days. Her life would be pointless, done and over before she was 20. Her two best friends saw it very clearly in the way her eyes suddenly lost their spark.

"Katara" Azula whispered, before the spark returned. She picked up Aang and hurried out of the cave, Ty Lee and Mai at her heels. The princess remembered how Katara brought the Avatar back to life after she killed him in Ba Sing Se. Her brother told her more than Aang, he felt uncomfortable with that specific topic. But Zuko said, Katara used spirit water to bring him back. Luckily they had spirit water. It used to be for the necklace, but to hell with that plan.

"Mai, get to my flat, there are three components on the bed. I need the vial! Hurry!" Azula called, when they arrived back in the village.

"Got it!" Mai answered before she changed her direction running towards the small apartment Azula and Aang were staying in.

Ty Lee followed Azula through the village. The princess would take Appa back home to the firenation, because he was way faster than any airship would ever be.

Colonel Yamomoto was standing between his two airships, petting the bison. He was a beautiful and graceful creature, very fascinating. The colonel had been intrigued by the airnation and their culture for a long time now. Getting the opportunity to be so close to an actual sky-bison was great. Appa was enjoying the attention and Yamomoto was surprised how much of a gentle giant the bison was. He of course didn't know what happened to Aang up until the moment Azula stormed towards him with Ty Lee following shortly after her. Up to that second he thought the mission was going great, the IMIS agents were bringing back prisoners by the dozens, they were all tied together in packs of four and sat around on the floor to one side of an airship, being watched by the agents. Major Oyaji was there as well, trying to figure out what to do about his citizens.

Appa noticed something was wrong the instant he laid eyes on Aang. He got uneasy really fast. His best friend was in the arms of the princess and he didn't move. Appa was able to read emotions very different to humans. He saw what was going on with Azula, how worried she was, how furious and how infinitely scared.

The princess hurried up to Appa and laid Aang down on the saddle.

"What happened, princess?" Colonel Yamomoto wondered. He caught only a small glimpse at the Avatar, but he didn't look good.

"Poison" was the only answer he got from Azula, before she spotted Mai running back towards the airships. Azula was coming Mais way, who was carrying a small bag in her hands.

"Didn't know if the rest could be important. I brought everything" she said. Azula grabbed the bag and hopped bag onto Appa, ready to take off.

"Princess!" Colonel Yamomoto called. "What about the prisoners?" he wanted to know. Up until now Azula didn't even notice prisoners. She looked over to the huge group of tied up captives, she unfortunately saw major Oyaji as well, who was hurrying over to her, after he heard the Colonel talk about prisoners. He couldn't believe King Kuei agreed to this madness. The IMIS had total command over his village, he didn't get to say anything. How was he supposed to do his work and protect his citizens when a horde of firebenders walked around and imprisoned everyone? True, not everyone of them were firebenders, there were earth and waterbender, and not everyone of their prisoners were his citizens. But some of them were, though they moved here not so long ago. Never the less, he had a responsibility for them, protecting his citizens was his duty.

"Yes, what happens with my people?" Oyaji asked.

Azula ignored him, she had way more important issues on her mind, and she was furious. With everyone who was involved in this. She hated them all, like she never hated anybody before. Even her father seemed human in comparison.

"We don't take any prisoners today" she stated with a shocking coldness in her voice. Yamomoto didn't seem to hesitate. The IMIS was authorized to execute prisoners when specifically ordered to. And the princess just did that, so he would be acting within the legal boundaries of his position. That of course didn't mean he liked it.

"AZULA!" Ty Lee screamed. While she was ok with killing Misa and her mother, this was going too far. Aang spared Fongs foot soldiers when he avenged Azula. Ty Lee was certain, he wouldn't like this and she was certain Azula knew that too. "What are you doing?" the acrobat asked. Azula blinked and snapped out of it. Holy shit, she almost ordered to kill god knows how many people. Aang only killed Fong and no one else. Well Azula kind of did send after his soldiers too, but that might have been a bit over the top. She would not repeat old mistakes again.

"Right." Azula scratched her nose. "Imprison them and charge them with crimes against the crown, crimes against humanity and crimes against the earthkingdom." she said, before turning to Ty Lee "Thank you" she nodded to the acrobat, before she slid down the saddle to Appas head, grabbing the rein. It was time to go, enough precious minutes wasted discussing irrelevant people. But Ty Lee was right never the less, executing them was not the way to go.

"Yip Yip!" Azula called, and Appa took off into the skies.

Major Oyaji turned to Ty Lee. "Thank you for saving my people" he said. The acrobats eyes narrowed, she didn't like the old man. "Don't thank me" she spat and turned on her heel to the next airship. The major was left confused. Mai explained for him, but only shortly. "Crimes against the crown usually end in death sentences" she plainly said, before following Ty Lee. She couldn't stand the major either.

Far above the clouds Azula ran her fingers through Appas thick fur. "Come on Appa, you need to hurry! Aang has not much time!" she said silently, hoping the bison would understand. Azula crawled back to the saddle to pull a still unconscious Aang into her lap. Oh, sprits, let him survive this. Please let him get well again. She started crying.

Chapter Text

The flight back to the palace was Azulas worst nightmare. Aang didn't wake up once and his breathing was getting weaker and weaker the longer they were flying. Appa was doing the best he could, but exhaustion was slowly wearing the gently giant down. While Appa had to find the way back to the firenation on his own, Azula did her best to keep his master warm, hoping a increased metabolism would burn the poison off faster. At least she suspected it would do that, knowing she was able to burn alcohol off, maybe poison would work the same way. Azula was unsure how much it actually helped. All the way she was whispering sweet nothings into his ears hoping he would hear it, praying to the spirits he would stay with her long enough for Katara to save him.

Appa roared loudly, causing Azula to look up. They were approaching the palace and Aang was still alive, though just barely. It gave the princess a nuance of hope back, that maybe, they would stand through all this.

The sky was reassembling Azulas temper. It was covered by almost black dark clouds, clearly on the brink of a very violent thunderstorm. The baleful clouds flashed up from time to time, whenever a heat lightning occurred, as it slowly started to rain. Thick single drops of water at first, but in a matter of seconds it developed into a downright cloudburst. The weather was reassembling closely how the princess was feeling. On the brink of exploding.

The sky-bison touched the ground, and Azula grabbed the bag with the spirit water and tugged it to her now soaking wet armor. She quickly wiped her hair out of her face, so she could see, before picking up Aang and jumping off Appa. Two guards came rushing towards her, not knowing what was going on. The rain was obscuring the vision, so all they saw at first was an unknown shadow hurrying towards them. They were alerted and careful. But as the figure approached closer through the stormy rain, they eventually recognized the princess. Even with red and puffy eyes, sore from crying all the way from Kyoshi-island back to the palace, Azula was still pretty recognizable. A loud cracking of a huge lightning-arm roared thunderous through the skies, as the hurting bright light was reflecting in Azulas eyes in a eerie-cruel way. She carried a limp and lifeless body in her arms, which looked like the Avatar. His head was resting on her shoulder, an arm was hanging off the side, like a dead man. There was an arrow-tattoo on it. A few drops of water were falling off his unmoving fingertips. Oh, wait it was the Avatar! The guards were puzzled. What the hell was going on? They didn't get a chance to ask if they could help, because Azula was already barking orders over the loud swooshing of the heavy rain.

"GET ME KATARA!" Azula yelled with trembling voice, rushing past the guards. "Hurry up you foul slouches! Aang has been hurt!" her whole body was shaking so badly, she feared that she might drop Aang. So she just hugged his limp body closer to her. Spirits, he felt like a wet, already cold corpse.

The waterbender was sitting on Zukos lap in his office. They were making out passionately. What started as working with each other, quickly evolved into working on each other. Zuko had his hand in Kataras blue robe, which was already undone by now. She enjoyed his warm hand on her naked hips very much. Despite everything, Zuko was always so gentle and considerate with her and Katara loved it.

What she didn't love at all, was the door suddenly bursting open, when she was really getting into the mood. Two guards came rushed in. Zuko was quick to pull Katara close to him, so they would not see the exposed skin behind the robe, hanging from her shoulders, widely open. The firelord was forming a hard bollocking, but the guards spoke faster. They didn't even bother with apologizing.

"Princess Azula returned. The Avatar was severely injured. The princess demanded Lady Kataras presence, immediately" one of them said. They were out of breath for good.

Katara basically shot off Zukos lap, slamming her robe closed in the process. "Get me to him!" she barked. Zuko was baffled. Aang was hurt? How? He was just picking up something for the necklace, wasn't he? How did that happen? For some reason he was unable to connect the 'red star rising' request from his sister to Aangs current situation. He stood up and quickly followed Katara and the guards.

Aang was lying on a stretcher in a darkened and nicely tempered warm room in the royal hospital wing. The rain was whipping against the window, but the sound was blocked by it. Only the flashing lightning was able to create a disturbing distraction in the eye. Azula could not care less about the weather or the storm, she was running up and down the rooms length, being almost hysterical. She hated being unable to do anything productive and waiting was hardly productive. Right now she would trade all her precious firebending for healing powers, just to be able to finally do something. Two nurses were standing by in case they would be needed, Azula already had threatened them a couple of times by now, being very short tempered at the moment. When Katara finally entered, after what felt like two eternities and ten minutes, the princess basically teleported to her side. "He got poisoned and badly injured" she exclaimed with croaky voice, so very much unlike Azula. "There is not much time left!"

Katara laid eyes upon the Avatar and almost got to see her dinner again. She pressed a hand on her mouth, both in shock and to keep everything at the place it belongs. Aang looked horrible. She needed a moment to calm down, before she hurried over to him and quickly examined the damage. Some parts were already healed, but pretty badly. And all those bladders. Spirits help her, this was really bad. She glanced over to Azula, who was impatiently hopping from one foot to the other. She was completely soaked, but apparently didn't even seem to notice. She just looked at Katara like she was some kind of magic spirit, capable of effecting marvelous miracles.

"I need water. Lots of it" Katara said to the nurses, recognizing Azula would be of no real help. She was having a minor nervous breakdown at the moment, which Katara found to be perfectly comprehensible. The two firenation-nurses quickly moved to the side of the stretcher and pulled on a hatch on the floor. They pushed the metal cover open and revealed a rather big pool underneath. Azula was quick, picking Aang up and gently placing him in the pond. Despite her looks, she was actually pretty strong and didn't have to much issues carrying people around. Katara knelt down on the edge, when the water started glowing. She closed her eyes and moved her arms back and forth. She frowned.

"It's pretty bad." she said. Azula wanted to jump out of her skin, she didn't make it that far only to lose him now. He didn't deserve going this way. He should either die a million years old in his sleep or in a huge explosion while putting up a hell of a fight.

"I have some spirit water" she replied anxiously, grabbing the bag and searching it for the vial. When she didn't find it immediately, she was close to really freaking out. Luckily the small glass cylinder slid in her hand and she handed it to Katara.

"Where did you..." she started, but decided to ask questions later on. "Never mind" Katara opened the vial and poured the liquid into the pool. The color of the glow changed. "That might work" Katara said.

"How is he?" Zuko asked, only now entering the room. "What happened?"

Azula spun around and quickly stomped over to her brother. Before he could do anything, she slapped him hard across the face, leaving a red imprint on his right cheek. "That's all your fault!" she snarled loudly "If not for you and your stupid...IDEAS" despite being furious and worried enough for a whole battalion, Azula didn't finish her sentence the way she wanted to. Katara was still in the room and she didn't want to ruin the surprise for her. "Get out!" she shoved Zuko out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him.

Knowing his sister, Zuko was sure it was best to let her cool off, before coming back. Whatever had happened, it had to be horrible. He still didn't make the connection between Azulas request and Aangs injuries. Sometimes Zuko was a bit on the slow side.

-/-

Katara pulled the blanked over Aangs body. He had been moved to the bed in his and Azulas suite and was still unconscious. Katara was able to heal his wounds, but the poison and the long time torture left their marks; he yet had to wake up. The princess was sitting on the side of his bed, holding his hand, gently running circles over it with her thumb. She had cried so much today, her eyes were dry and red. Katara felt so very sorry for her, Aang was important to her as well, but Azula seemed like her life depended on him. She sat down beside her, wrapping a harm around her shoulders.

"When will he wake up again?" the princess sniffled. She has been watching Katara healing for the last couple of hours. She had no idea how long it actually had been but it felt like an eternity to her. All that time she didn't dare speaking up, because she didn't want to distract the expert healer. Katara took a deep breath.

"Azula, I am so sorry." she began "But I don't know. He needs time. It might take a few days. But I have to be honest with you" her heart felt heavy and she almost contemplated not telling. But it would be so unfair and if the roles were to be reversed, Katara would have wanted to know. "He might not wake up at all" she said softly. How do you put this nicely? There was no way.

Azula didn't react. She thanked Katara politely and asked for some time alone with Aang. Katara nodded and left the suite. The second she closed the door behind her, she heard a heart shattering scream of pain, echoing through the corridors. Katara contorted her face. She felt with Azula, every little bit of loss and pain. She didn't want to imagine how she would feel, if it was Zuko lying on that bed and she would not know if he'd wake up any moment, or never come back to her. She decided to give the princess some time.

And time she got. Hours turned into days, turned into weeks. Azula stayed where she was, right at Aangs bed. She would only move for obvious bodily functions, but other than that, she would stay where she was. The princess even ordered servants to bring food to the suite so she could stay. She didn't sleep a lot either, merely napped on the same bad Aang was in. The first couple of days were the hardest. She didn't acknowledge anyone. She would not talk to whoever it was, paying a visit. All she did was to hold Aangs hand and talk to him in whispers, as if she could invoke him back to life. This went on for long days and didn't get any better. Now, a few weeks after their return, the condition of the Avatar and the Princess was wearing down on everyone in the palace. Even the servants wore a face of sorrow, and they didn't really know what was going on exactly. But there were rumors.

To have someone on the verge to death was in many ways worse than actually losing someone. When someone died, that person was gone and he or she would be gone forever. It was over in that moment and people would eventually learn to move on. But Aangs state was so unclear. He might not survive, but it was just as likely that he might wake up one day, maybe soon, maybe not. There was no end, no final moment, just an endless array of possibilities and with it came never ending pain for those caring about Aang.

Zuko and Katara were worried. Not only for Aang, but also for Azula. They were at a loss of what to do. No one was able to get the princess to talk again, she just ignored everyone as if they didn't even exist. Zuko tried every day and got ignored. Katara tried just as often as Zuko did, but got ignored. Even Ursa and Iroh tried from time to time, but guess who got ignored?

Uncle Iroh was way too familiar with Azulas pain. He hoped that maybe his experience with his loss of Lu Ten could help her, but she didn't acknowledge him, or any of the advice he gave. And if she acknowledged it, she didn't show it. She was just sitting there, crying and holding Aangs hand, while staring at him like she was a statue.

Iroh talked to Zuko and Katara, telling them that she would need time to adjust to the possibility of Aang never coming back to her. He added that having the possibility of him waking up any second must add an extra amount of stress. But of course he never really understood his niece and had no idea what was truly going on inside her head. She might just as well have gotten insane again, for all he knows.

The adults where clueless of what to do. They talked, and discussed, they even asked the royal doctor, not about Aang, but about Azula. They didn't come to an agreement. The only thing they could agree on, was that it would be a bad idea to remove the princess from Aangs bed.

Who'd have thought it wouldn't be an adult who got Azula to talk again.

Though her mother strictly forbid to see Aang and Azula, fearing the psychological consequences on her daughter, Kiyi did just that. She never really cared about rules so much anyway, she didn't as far as the sparring matches were concerned, and she didn't now. So she paid Aang and Azula a secret visit, once the adults were yet again discussing how to proceed. She slipped into the dark room, finding Azula sitting on the corner of Aangs bed. Her childish mind was unable to fully process what she saw, so she made the best out of it. To her Aang was just sleeping. Such a thing as a coma -luckily- didn't yet exist in her world.

"Is uncle Aang tired?" she asked, grabbing Azulas hand, the one which was not holding on to Aangs and crawling onto her lap.

The moment Azula heard Kiyis voice and felt her small hand touch hers, her mind was pulled from the most distant corner of the galaxy back into her body. Her mind was racing around a highly disturbing thought she didn't want to think anymore.

For the last couple of days -or that's what she thought- she was so focused on Aang and being there for him, should he wake up, she didn't notice anyone visiting. But now Kiyi was sitting in her lap and Azulas mind returned to reality.

"What?" Azula asked, she didn't understand the question at first, so the young girl repeated it again.

"No, Kiyi. He got hurt and now needs to get better, so he sleeps." she sniffled, trying to hide her tears, but failed. How do you explain coma to a six-year old? Maybe it's better you don't explain at all.

"Why are you crying? He will get better, won't he?" she asked innocently. Azula wiped her tears away.

"Of course" she said, but didn't believe it anymore. "I just miss him so much" Azula trembled. She didn't want to cry in front of Kiyi, but she felt so alone and dealing with Aangs health-status was hurting more and more.

"I miss him too" Kiyi said. "But he will get better. He is the Avatar. He can do anything!" she exclaimed, and sounded totally convinced. Which she of course was, to her Aang was almost godlike. Azula smiled weakly, she wished she could be so positive. But all the time she was watching him, he didn't even move. He was breathing yes, but that was it. Katara had to bend soup into is stomach so he wouldn't starve. While doing that, she would always try and talk to Azula, but the princess never reacted to her. She didn't even notice someone was talking to her.

"Besides, he really loves you. He will wake up soon" Kiyi said.

"What makes you say that?" Azula asked. They have been careful to keep interactions with each other at an appropriate level around Kiyi.

"Well he only smiles at you and I have never seen him kiss someone else" Azulas little sister was just adorably jocose.

"Well I better hope he didn't" she answered and sounded almost giggling. Kiyi was cheering her up a bit.

"Everyone is worried about you, Azula" Kiyi suddenly said, rapping her small arms around her stepsisters chest and resting her head on her shoulder. "Me too. I miss you, too. Not just uncle Aang. I know mother said, I cannot spend time with you, but you were gone for so long, and I really miss you. Please come back to us."

"What do you mean?" Azula asked confused not only by the sudden change of topic.

"You didn't come out of your room for almost three weeks now. And you didn't talk to anybody." Kiyi said. Azula rose an eyebrow.

"Weeks? I thought it was just a couple of days" Azula was really surprised.

"Mother said, I am not allowed to visit" Kiyi confessed. "But you are talking to me now!"

Azula was thinking about Kiyis words. It wasn't the fact, that Ursa forbid her sister to talk to her, that much she already suspected, she was more thinking about the timeframe Kiyi mentioned. She was in here for three weeks? And people came to visit? Azula didn't remember anyone visiting besides Kiyi right now.

"Can you come with me Azula? Please?" Kiyi asked.

"I can't Kiyi. I need to stay here with Aang so he is not alone. Someone has to look out for him." Azula replied softly. She ran her free hand trough the little girls hair. "But why don't you go and see if you find aunty Katara. Maybe she wants to come and talk to me as well"

"You promise to not ignore her again?" Kiyi wanted to know. Azula was almost ashamed she didn't notice anyone before. To her she was alone all the time.

"Promised." Azula replied with a forced smile on her lips. She didn't feel like smiling at all, but showing her sadness around Kiyi was something she didn't want to do either. Little Kiyi hopped off her lap and went to search Katara.

-/-

When Katara entered the room, Azula was sitting on Aangs bed, like she did every day for the last weeks. She was holding his hand and looked at him in a painful to watch mix of love, affection, hurt and grief. The waterbender closed the door softly behind her. When Kiyi told her Azula wanted to see her, she was stunned, the little girl yet again defied her mother. But she apparently was able to bring Azula back to reality, which was what's really important.

"Katara" Azula said, when the waterbender entered.

"Nice to have you back, Azula" Katara replied warmly. The princess nodded slowly.

"I'm sorry" she said. Katara sat down beside her, like she did the first day.

"Don't be. This is difficult for you, I understand." Katara was kind and understanding as usual. How Azula was able to once hate the woman just because she was from the tribes and not born a noble, could possibly be one of her worst mistakes. And she made quite a lot of those.

A long silence settled over the room, neither one of the two (well three technically, but Aang was unable to talk) said a word, until Azula spoke up again.

"Katara?" she whispered. The thought that was running around in her head like small insects needed to be spoken out. It was one of guru Pathiks lessons, to talk about what was bothering you, not bury it deep inside, locking it away.

"Yes?" the waterbender replied.

"It's my fault" Azula said, with shaky voice. "What happened. It's my fault. If I wouldn't have left. If I wouldn't have been such an emotional wreck, I would have stayed. Nothing would have happened to him." she was sobbing now. Her eyes were red and puffy again in a matter of seconds. "I did this to him"

Katara felt like someone had punched her in the stomach with a racket. If she'd had guessed Azula could blame all that happened on herself, she would have done something against it way sooner. Suddenly her mental absence made sense. She must have gone crazy over the thought that Aang suffered through this because she left. That nothing would have happened to him, if she just stayed and didn't go back to guru Pathik.

Katara knew what happened, not because Azula told anything. It was Mai and Ty Lee for the most part who were able to shine some light into the dark. Everyone wondered what had happened. Now everyone knew. Zuko was already working on trials for the captured kidnapers. He was actually surprised Azula didn't have them executed immediately.

"No, Azula. It is not your fault" Katara said firmly. "There is nothing you could have done about it. You don't know what would have happened. Maybe they would have gotten you both, so who would have come to Aangs rescue? I know it seems logical to think if you stayed it would have been fine. But you don't know that. It might have been worse. Don't do that to yourself. You did nothing wrong, believe me." She pulled Azula in for a hug. If someone told her, she would be hugging the princess half a year ago, she might have assumed that person might be a bit on the crazy side.

Azula was dissolving herself in Kataras arms. The waterbender was not sure what to do exactly, so she just held the princess and told her it was ok, and that everything eventually will be ok again. It took Azula almost three hours to calm down again. Kataras heart was breaking with each of her sobs, imagining how much the princess had to endure. If this was lives form of punishment for her past crimes, life was an evil bitch.

"Thank you, Katara" Azula said silently, once she had her composure back. Zukos girlfriend nodded slowly, before standing up. She would leave her alone again, because she got the feeling that was what Azula wanted right now. Katara was almost at the door, when Azula spoke up again.

"Could you please tell Zuko that I am sorry for what I said to him? And for slapping him?" she asked. Katara could not help but giggle softly. Zuko had his sisters handprint on his face for almost a week.

"Will do" Katara answered.

-/-

It was three days later when it happened. Azula was alone with Aang and she was holding his hand, as always, when she suddenly felt his grip tighten around her hand. At first she thought she was imagining it, but then he did it again. Azulas heart started pounding in her chest like a wild Komodo-rhino.

His eyes fluttered open, and the first thing he saw was his girl. He smiled weakly, to him, she was more beautiful than ever before, despite her tearstained face. He didn't remember much of what happened, basically the last thing he knew for sure is waking up, stuck to that stone and a girl about to torture him. Everything past that point was gone for now. He had no idea how he ended up at the palace again.

"How are you?" he asked weakly, wanting to make sure his princess was fine. Azula was unable to speak up immediately, so many emotions washed over her like a breaking dam. She started crying again, but had to laugh at the same time

"How am I?" Azula repeated puzzled. His first priority was her. She felt like bursting with joy. "Who cares how I am, how are you, dum-dum?" she laughed crying. It was a strange emotion. Bittersweet didn't even begin to describe it.

He rubbed over his head, grunting.

"Tired. My head hurts" he said, pressing his fingers over the bridge of his nose. "Have I been drinking?" he asked. Azula couldn't help but giggle.

"No" she said softly running her fingers over his cheeks. "You have been poisoned." She leaned forward to carefully hug him. He was a bit surprised, but hugged her back immediately. She smelled like always, the wonderful taste of jasmine and honey, combined with a bit of cinnamon. Feeling her warmth against his body and smelling her long missed scent, he felt better almost instantly.

"I love you, Princess" Aang whispered. Azula smiled.

"And I love you, Avatar" she whispered back, infinitely relieved about him finally waking up.

-/-

It took Aang about two weeks to fully recover from his injuries. If he was honest to himself, he quite enjoyed the time, because he finally got to do all the things he always wanted to do, but never really found the time to.

Right now Aang was at the workshop of the royal blacksmith. A very calm, relaxed and nice old man, who usually did all of the royal ornaments. He might have been more of a goldsmith, but his title was his title. At the moment he was going over the Avatars plans for the betrothal-necklace Zuko wanted to give Katara. Aang had to admit, he liked the man. He was funny and obviously enjoyed his job very much. He sketched a version of the necklace resembling the idea Aang described to him. He showed it to the Avatar, who began smiling. It was exactly how he imagined it.

"Can you do it that way?" he wanted to know.

"Of course I can." the royal blacksmith nodded. Aang already gave him the required materials. He was a bit sad when he found out the spirit water was already used, but on the other hand it was used to save his life, so he didn't really have any reason to be mad about it. He could get another vial someday.

"Excellent. When you finish it, send it to firelord Zuko. He will also pay any price you find adequate" Aang said. Up until now he didn't say who the necklace was for. The blacksmith looked up from his sketch.

"This exquisite piece won't be for your own use?" he wanted to know a bit confused. Aang laughed silently.

"No. I am just running the firelords errands" he replied.

"The firelord is getting engaged?" he asked amazed. He knew some things about the watertribes, including what a betrothal necklace was. Aang didn't have to mention it to be one, the blacksmith recognized it. Though he somehow assumed it would be for the Avatar himself.

"I trust in your discretion" Aang replied nodding in confirmation.

"Why certainly" the blacksmith said.

Aang smiled friendly, before he left the workshop. He was curious to return back to the palace, but decided to go for a nice walk through Caldera. On the one hand because he never really got the chance to do that and he wanted to pick a nice restaurant he could abduct Azula to. She of course wouldn't say a word, but Katara told him that she didn't leave his side for three weeks straight, so he though a small thank you would be nice. It was typical for Azula, she never talks about her own little sweet deeds, just like she never told him she snuck in his room back on ember island. She apparently preferred it when everybody assumes she was cold-hearted. Which she obviously was not.

On the other hand, Azula was currently talking to her mother. About what, Aang did not know. Ursa sent for the princess this morning before Azula left for her day in court and said she would like to talk to her daughter in private. So Aang was basically left alone and decided to pay the blacksmith a visit to get the necklace made and after that search for a cozy restaurant Azula would like. He soon had to realize that, despite Caldera being rather small, the amounts of beautiful restaurants appeared to be infinite. Some small, some big, some with gardens, some with balconies. Each and every single one was beautiful in its own way. Aang checked them all out, before he decided on one.

-/-

In the meantime Azula was walking to Ursas apartment. She didn't like the idea of talking to her mother at all, mainly because she knew, what she was about to hear. bla, bla, bad person, bla bla, horrible character, blaa, blaa, huge disappointment, blaaa, blaaa, don't talk to Kiyi, jadi- jadi- jada. She already knew that same old song. What she didn't know was how quickly the conversation with her mother was about to escalate.

The royal firebenders standing guard snapped to attention once again, when they saw the princess approaching, and just like the last time, she didn't bother with knocking.

"Mother?" she asked when she entered the apartment. Ursa was sitting on the couch in the living room. She knew her daughter wouldn't care about knocking. "Living room" she called. Azula rolled her eyes and made her way to the living room. When she arrived there, her mother was drinking tea, she eyed her suspiciously. What did she want now? Hopefully this wasn't going to turn into an awkward tea drinking session, because Azula had no nerve for that at the moment.

Ursa had talked to her daughter on the day Aang woke up, telling her it was nice to see her well again, but since then they haven't spoken a word. While the mother and the oldest daughter kept avoiding each other, the youngest daughter was actively seeking Azula out (despite Ursa forbidding it strictly). She was really growing on her and Azula was almost certain this was the reason for Ursas invitation.

"Why don't you sit down?" Ursa asked. Azula crossed her arms over her chest "I have been sitting in court the whole day, I'd rather stand. Thank you" she replied. Ursa frowned.

"What do you want to talk about, mother?" Azula asked, she was restless and felt uncomfortable around Ursa. She wanted to skip the chit-chat and come to the point.

"About you and Kiyi" Ursa began "You see, Kiyi is a little girl and I am concerned..." Azula cut her mother off. With that start Ursa caught her daughter on the completely wrong foot. After Kiyi came to Azula when she was watching over Aang, the princess took an extreme liking in the young girl. The topic was no minute old and already started leaving a sour taste in Azulas mouth. She was so fed up with this, she couldn't hear it anymore. Yes, she had her flaws, and she didn't deny it, but she was not that evil. Not anymore at least. And she genuinely cared about her little sister.

"I might make the same monster out of her, you think I am?" she hissed. Ursa placed her tea on the table and stood up as well, walking towards her oldest daughter. They never really spoke with each other long enough to reach this point, and Ursa promised to listen to what Azula would have to say. She promised her son to give her the chance. Had she known what Azula was about to tell her soon, she might have decided differently.

"Azula, please. I am just worried about my daughter" she calmly said. The princess was not really someone to get angry easily, but her mother was just so aggravating. There was something extremely unnerving having to talk to Ursa, which set the anger in Azula off.

"You do realize I am your daughter as well, if you like it or not?" Azula sneered.

"Of course you are also my daughter, but you know how you are. You have always been so..." Again Azula cut her mother off. With every word she spoke, the princess got more furious with her.

"What? Cruel? Cold? Distant? A bit psycho?" she suggested angrily. Ursa sighted, she wasn't really disappointed, to be honest, she expected it to go this way. Her daughter didn't change at all. She was still only attacking people, not listening at all. She was never approachable with words. Oh spirits, was Ursa wrong.

"I was going to say independent, but yes. You have had a cruel side on you. You decapitated and incinerated your dolls, for crying out loud! You played very mean pranks on your brother. You threw stones at young turtle-ducks, you..." Azula had heard enough by now, enough was enough. She would not stand there and let herself being blamed for her childhood. Following guru Pathiks advice on emotions and telling others about them, she snapped loudly:

"Has it ever occurred to you that all I wanted was your attention? Has it ever, even for a single second in your life crossed your mind, that - maybe - I would have loved getting a bit of the warmth and affection you gave so freely to Zuko? All I ever longed for was being loved! But you shoved me aside, like a broken doll. All you ever had eyes for was Zuko. Only Zuko! I was merely a liability! The only way I could get a bit of your attention was when I screwed things up. That's the only time you would even acknowledge me!" Azula yelled. She was so angry, that her mother did not only not care but also not know.

"I...I... never realized you could..." Ursa stammered, this was the first time she heard anything like that and it felt like sharp daggers.

"What? Want to be loved? Why not? Because I was spending time with father?" Azula asked trying to fight her tears back and succeeding in it, at least for now. She didn't think back to her childhood for a good reason.

"Yes, I mean. I had to protect Zuko from him. You were already his, I didn't..." Ursa felt so bad all of a sudden. All the time she thought Azula would like being around Ozai. She chose to spend time with him. Never in her life would Ursa have thought about the possibility that Azula might have actually have been in the same danger than Zuko, but never was protected. That she decided attack might be the best form of defense and just got involved with her father, so she would be too close to him for him to hurt her.

Azula finished her mothers sentence for her "You didn't think I wouldn't like being around him? Have you even a hint of an idea what that man really did to me?" she asked, and Ursa slowly shook her head. To be honest she didn't want to know, but forced herself to listen to Azula. "Sure at first it was nice! He would give me attention and the feeling of being loved, that I longed for so desperately but you didn't give me. It wasn't you, but it was close, so I took what I was able to get. But that feeling didn't last very long. Unfortunately, once I realized what he was doing, it was already too late! I was a small girl, no adult! Why would I have suspected any of his plans!?" Azula was unable to hold her tears back any longer, the memories were horrible. But she forced herself to continue

"I would have desperately needed you, but you didn't even notice I had problems! I would have told you, but I when I realized what was going on, I was already so scared that he would find out. If you just had paid only a bit more attention to me, you would have noticed! But you didn't. You don't have any idea what the monster that my father was did to me!" Azula wiped the tears back with the back of her hand. "You and your precious Zuko... But not enough! One night you were simply gone. You just vanished, poof! Gone! And no one told me what was going on. How dare you say I could have a bad influence on my sister! How dare you stand here holding me lectures?! You just left us in the hands of a psychopath! You have no idea what I had to do to keep Zuko safe!" her lips trembled, before she just said it

"I murdered the first man with eleven years. With ELEVEN! Because my father told me to do so! And every time I didn't do something the way he wanted, he would punish Zuko for it. I was left alone, you were gone and I was afraid to no end. Hell, he started doing that shit to me when I was seven years old! You just didn't notice it! After you left, I had to take care of the bit of family that you just abandoned so carelessly. And all that while that brute kept telling me how worthless Zuko was."

Ursa was pressing her hands to her mouth, unable to speak up, as Azula kept going, spilling out every dark secret of her past. "And you know what the worst part was? By the time he gave that scar to Zuko, I actually enjoyed watching him hurt my brother! He had me that far already. And I am ashamed for both of it until now. I should have been stronger, but I wasn't. But what exactly do you think happens when a father starts abusing his daughter from the age of seven? Or do you think a child will take it just fine, getting to watch other people being tortured, while being told that this was totally fine? I even got a go for myself, and I gladly did it, because I was told this would be completely right and the person I did it to would deserve it! I was maybe nine or so, how do you think that works out for a child? Or maybe murdering helpless prisoners? Or being sent to military training with twelve? Or why not interrogation counteraction training at 13, all while being sent to the royal academy for girls, where I just had do act out the perfectly happy princess? Because all that adds to a normal fucking childhood."

Azula was breathing heavily, catching her breath again. The eyes of her mother were telling a tale of infinite sorrow, words were unable to describe the way she was feeling at that moment. She didn't move an inch, standing there stone still. Azula steadied her breath "Where were you when I needed you, mother? Where were you when he dragged me into that deep black hole that was his idea of a perfect daughter? You could have noticed that, you weren't gone at the time. All I ever wanted was being loved, and all I ever got in return was abuse and pain. How do you think anyone would turn out?! Do you really think I could be normal?! Do you honestly think this was my fault, my choice?! I didn't ask for anything of that! It was not my fucking fault, I was unable to feel anything up until recently! It was NOT my FUCKING fault!"

Azula had to calm her voice down, because it was getting all croaky "And yet here you stand, telling me I would be bad for Kiyi, for my sister. You of all people! Where were you when Zuko got challenged to an Agni-Kai against his own father? Not even here! Where were you, when he got banished? Gone! Where were you when your other children desperately needed their mother? I. Don't. Fucking. Know!" Azula was screaming by now.

"How dare you call me the monster? How dare you tell me I will be bad for Kiyi. She is my sister, I already kept a sibling safe around a true monster of a father, when you chose to leave! I am more of a mother than you will ever going to be! I kept Zuko safe for as long as I was able to, but there is only so much the mind of a child can take before it breaks. What kind of father brainwashes his own daughter? What kind of mother chooses to leave, instead of doing something against it? You have no right whatsoever to tell me what I am doing with my sister and what not. I know, I would never do anything to hurt her, because I have already been there, being hurt, I know how that feels. And yet I am still afraid I might do something bad for her, not because everyone constantly keeps telling me that I would, but because I know now how fucked up I used to be and I am so afraid that it might one day return. But I have done my part, I have made my mistakes and learned from them. You are the only one who should be afraid, because out of the two of us, only one allowed a monster to be created. It took almost two decades, being tortured to nearly death, a trip to medical insanity and the infinite love of a single man to get me to realize how fucked up I was. To realize that I was not normal, that my father made a heartless weapon out of me, not a daughter. But eventually I realized. You still stand here and think you made no mistake. How can you even look in the mirror and stand looking at your face?" Azula yelled crying. It just spilled out of her, she didn't care anymore, if ever, that her words may be hurting or not. This needed to be said and she was way too worked up over the whole topic. She was sobbing now "I wanted you to love me." she pressed out "Look where it got me."

Ursa was standing in front of her daughter. Every word felt like getting slapped in the face. Never did she think that Kiyi could have been so terribly right when she said Azula was just sad. In the easy words of a kid she was right. Ursa wanted to die, she felt so infinitely guilty. And rightfully so. As if that was not enough already, there was suddenly a voice at the open door of the living room. A voice that should not have been there. But it was.

"I love you, Azula" Kiyi said, coming waddled towards her sister hugging her leg. "You are a great sister, even though you came so late. I know you won't hurt me ever, even if you sometimes are a bit scary. But that's ok. I know I am safe with you. You will protect me." Azula swallowed hard, wiping her tears away as good as possible, before picking her sister up and holding her in her arms. She smiled weakly at her. What Kiyi said was a heartwarming testimony of the infinite trust only a child can grace you with and it instantly made Azula feel so much better.

"How long have you been there?" Ursa forced herself to ask, she felt like fainting any second now. Kiyi turned around in Azulas arms, to look at her mother, but immediately turned back again, hugging her sister for dear life. "Does daddy force me to kill a man, too?" she wanted to know, whispering the question in Azulas ear. The princess tore her eyes open in shock. Why did she have to hear all this?

"Spirits! No of course not! Don't ever think that. Nothing of that will ever happen to you!" Azula quickly replied. Kiyi hugged her even tighter.

"Do you want to go for a little walk?" she asked, and felt the nodding on her neck. Azula shot her mother a glare, telling her that this was not over yet and left with her little sister.

-/-

Chapter Text

Aang was on his way back to the palace. He had found a beautiful restaurant in a quiet corner of the city and he was certain Azula would love it there. He had reserved a table for two and told the owner who would come to eat. He also told him, not to address Azula with her title and just threat them as normal customers, knowing the princess didn't enjoy the attention as much as she used to. He was really looking forward to dinner with his girl, just the two of them and no one constantly bothering.

Aang was just entering the palace when he stumbled into Azula. He was a bit surprised to see her with Kiyi.

"Zula" he said giving her a hug and a quick nut passionate kiss.

"OOGIES!" Kiyi exclaimed, causing Azula to roll her eyes. Aang just ignored it, he got used to Sokka running around and annoying people with it. This just proved he was at the same mental level than a six-year old. Somehow Kiyi must have picked it up when they brought Ursa, Ikem and their daughter back to the palace. He turned back to his beautiful princess

"Have you talked to..."

Aang didn't get to finish his sentence, Azula pressed her lips to his again, to shut him up. This time Kiyi said nothing.

"Yes, I have talked to Zuko. Everything is great" she said, giving him an obvious look. He understood and nodded.

"That's good news." Aang said. He crouched down to Azulas little sister, so they would be on eye level. "Hello Kiyi!" he smiled at her warmly. The princess told him this or that about the improving relationship between the siblings and Aang was really happy to see all difficulties of the past year finally turning out for the better. Though he suspected the conversation with Ursa might have been a disaster. Why else would Azula block his question so abruptly?

"Hello uncle Aang" Kiyi replied waving at him. "Are you coming with us?"

"Where are we going to?" he asked, and glanced up to Azula.

"The park" Azula replied softly, while Kiyi nodded eagerly.

"To the park it is!" Aang exclaimed laughing "Onward!"

Kiyi giggled and ran ahead. Aang wrapped an arm around Azulas waist, as they followed her to one of the many parks in Caldera.

Half an hour later Aang and Azula were sitting on a bench in said park, watching Kiyi play with some other kids on the nearby playground. Aang had his arm around Azulas shoulder and she was leaning towards him, resting her head on his chest. She was telling him, what happened between her and her mother and how Kiyi apparently overheard the most part of it. The youngest member of the royal family made a habit of showing up at all the wrong places to all the wrong times.

Azula was worried that she might have ruined the relationship between her sister and her mother, explaining to Aang how obviously afraid Kiyi was the moment she was picked up by Azula.

Aang reassured her that Kiyi would most likely be too young to understand what was said and she would eventually forget the argument ever happened. He suggested talking to her sometime soon, maybe together with Ursa. Spending time with her little sister wouldn't do any damage either. Aang was confident this would turn out ok in the end. He had always been the optimistic one of the couple.

They fell in comfortable silence after they had spoken about what happened between Azula, her sister and their mother. The princess decided to put that matter aside for now and instead concentrate on the moment.

Azula had to admit, this was really nice. They were left alone by the other parents, who either didn't recognize them, or chose to stay away. She was cuddling with the man she loved more than anything and was watching her little sister play. Somehow she suddenly could imagine having kids on her own.

"It's nice, isn't it?" she whispered. "All of this" She was talking about the peaceful atmosphere, their relationship. Them spending time together. She was talking about their love in general and in just that moment. She meant everything around her, around him, around them. Azula would have never dared to imagine it that way. But it was perfection, despite her argument with Ursa.

Aang understood what she was saying and nodded. "It's wonderful." he said. He didn't feel so peaceful for a very long time. The sun was shining on that warm day in the summer, loud laughter and screams of fun and pleasure from the kids mixed with the warbling of some beautiful birds sitting in the trees. It was the perfect atmosphere of this late summer afternoon.

"I have a surprise for you this evening" Aang said. "That is, if you are free" Azula smiled happily, looking up into his eyes. It was all too easy for her to lose herself in the infinity of his grey iris.

"What is it?" she wanted to know.

"Oh, it's a green Platypus-bear!" Aang exclaimed, rolling his eyes. "You do know what a surprise is, don't you?" he teased.

"Nah, I've never been good with those. Just tell me!" she was poking him into his side, but he was shaking his head. "Nope" he said, grinning cheekily.

"C'mon!" Azula demanded. "Keeping secrets from me can be considered high treason!" she giggled.

"You are terrible" Aang laughed, shaking his head. Azula sulked playfully, pushing her lower lip forward and making her best puppy face. Aang couldn't help but laugh, it looked hilarious. He really enjoyed being the only one she ever goofed around with, it made him feel even more special (not in a selfish way, but in the way that he was the one who was with Azula, who loved her more than anyone or anything else).

"Ok, no naughty exclusive princess sexy time for you tonight, Avatar." Azula replied giving him her almost mischievous version of her trademark smirk, before she stood up.

"Ha! Your loss, princess" Aang retorted, and Azula rolled her eyes. Well he kind of was right, his expertise and prowess in the sheets were more her gain than his. She winked at him in a teasing manner before she walked over to Kiyi. If someone told her, she would someday be so madly in love with the Avatar...

Her little sister was trying to turn cartwheels, together with some other girls. Some were better than others, but they all didn't really succeed in it. It was not easy, Azula didn't get the hang of it to this day.

"You should ask Ty Lee for help" she said when Kiyi fell on her bum. She was gleaming at her sister. For so long she had wished to have older siblings. She knew it was impossible, but it was her dream never the less. Now she had an older sister and an older brother as well. And she really loved her sister now. They had a very slow start, for the better part of a year she was scared of Azula, but now, over the last couple of weeks, Kiyi didn't want to miss Azula anymore. She felt perfectly safe around her, knowing that no matter what happens, Azula would watch out for her. Though she didn't know why, but she was certain either way.

"Does she know how to do that?" she asked innocently. Kiyi had yet to meet Ty Lee. Azula laughed softly, she was rather certain the two would like each other. The acrobats playful character was great for kids, and Kiyi was so vivid, just the perfect trait for Ty Lee.

"Oh, she is the best. You know, she spent some time with a circus."

"She did?" Kiyi was amazed. She once visited a circus with her parents. That was before they moved to the palace.

"Yes, she did. I'm sure she would love teaching you one or two things" Azula said softly.

"Can't you show me?" she asked. Azula smiled, but shook her head.

"No, I have never been that good in it. But I can show you something else, if you still want to" Azula smirked teasingly. She knew full well her mother would not like it. But at this point she honestly didn't care anymore.

"Firebending?" Kiyi whispered as if it was a forbidden superpower, as Azula nodded slowly with a smirk on her red lips. Kiyi jumped to her feet and Azula lead her slightly away from the playground so no child would end up as involuntary barbecue.

Aang followed his girlfriend and earthbended himself a chair, while he watched Azula explain the basics to Kiyi. As he was watching his princess interact with the little girl, he knew, Azula would be a great mother. She was just as kind as she was caring and Aang could not see how anybody, yet alone her mother, would say she might hurt an adolescent. She would never let harm come to a child, which might have been due to her own extreme abuse. She knew what it was like growing up in pain, confusion and the feeling of being all on your own. She knew too well and wished this fate to no one. Especially not Kiyi. No, Azulas sister would be absolutely and perfectly safe with the princess. The Avatar was sure of it.

Aang had to smirk at the thought of how difficult it would be for Kiyi to get possible future boyfriends, knowing how they would most likely have to pass Azula before even being allowed talking to her little sister. Aang thought, the idea was really funny, though Kiyi might disagree at some point.

the youngest member of the royal family was doing great and Azula was really proud when she produced her first steady and stable wave of fire. It had a strong orange color and was burning hot. Aang applauded from his stone-chair as Kiyi was grinning from one ear to the other. This was another dream coming true. Her sister was the best, why mother had such problems with her and with bending, was beyond her. This was so much fun!

"Can you show me lightning, Azula?" Kiyi wanted to know, but her sister was shaking her head no.

"Not here." She said with a hint to all the people having gathered to watch. "Maybe tomorrow ok?" It was very uncommon for a six-year old to produce such amounts of fire. Most other kids at her age were hardly able to conjure small flames, no bigger than a that of a candle. It attracted bystanders, which were watching curiously. Whispering, they were speculating if it could actually be the princess and the Avatar teaching a little girl firebending. They of course didn't know who Kiyi was.

"You mean we are going to practice tomorrow as well?" Kiyi was jumping up and down happily.

"If you want to." Azula replied looking at the crowd that had gathered. She didn't like it. Crowds still made her uneasy. A few people Azula could manage by now, but beyond a certain number she still felt nervous.

"Mother forbid it." Kiyi suddenly said, as if she had forgotten, but Azula only laughed softly, affectionately brushing though her little sisters hair.

"Don't you worry about that. Mother will change her mind, trust me." she said, moving her hand from Kiyis head to her shoulder, where she softly laid it down. "Come. Let's go home" she said.

Aang was leading the way, they had Kiyi walking in the middle as they approached the crowd.

"You did an excellent job today. I am very proud of you" Azula commended, in regard of Kiyis outstanding performance. Her sister was overly joyful. She relished in the princesses praise, it meant a lot to her.

As Aang was dividing the people blocking the way and Kiyi followed him, she was getting comments and congratulations to her firebending. Some said she was impressively talented, some said, she would go far. They all were rather stunned. The power of Agni was running very strong in the royal family. Azula had started bending with five, Zuko one year later. But normally the kids trained behind the protecting walls of the palace.

Now that a lot of the bystanders saw them up close, they of course knew it was Avatar Aang and princess Azula who were training the girl. It would most likely start rumors, but for now, most spectators chose to stay quiet.

Azula was slowly getting used to be seen with Aang in public again. She had to admit, now that she passed the crowd, it was not half as bad as she thought it would be. Her fears that people might not understand her involvement with the Avatar were up until now completely unfounded. Being very glad for this, she kissed Aang after catching up to him

"OOGIES!" Kiyi cried again. She had picked it up from Sokka when they returned from Hira'a to the palace. Kataras hilarious brother would always shout it, when she and Zuko kissed, or Aang and Azula. Kiyi thought it was really great fun.

"Remind me to punch that peasant friend of yours in his nuts" Azula murmured, so Kiyi would not hear.

-/-

Aang and Azula have been back at the palace together with Kiyi for some time now.

"You ready to go back to mother and your father?" Azula asked brushing softly trough Kiyis hair. The girl hesitated for a moment, unsure of her own feelings. She overheard a lot of the conversation Ursa had with Azula, and Kiyi was not certain what to make of it. Her sister said some very terrible things and Kiyi did not believe she lied about them. Ursa was only standing there listening, not even attempting to comment on what was said. Apparently it had to be true. She was a bit afraid of her mother, now that she knew what happened to her older sister. But on the other hand, Azula told her, there was nothing to be afraid of. She said, everything Kiyi heard about her and mother was between them and happened a long time ago. Her mother would never do anything like it to Kiyi, the princess reassured her. And Kiyi trusted her sister. If she said it would be so, it was this way. Period.

"your father will want to see you again" Aang added, he was reasonably sure Kiyi would overcome her momentary trouble soon. Ikem was a very caring father and Ursa, though she had trouble with Kiyi after her face got changed, also cared a lot.

Kiyi hadn't thought about Ikem at all. She hadn't seen her father all day and already started to miss him, so she nodded.

"Ok, let's go back." she said.

"I'll walk you, ok?" Azula suggested.

"You want company?" Aang whispered into her ear, but Azula shook her head.

"It's fine. Maybe I can talk to mother again." She gently kissed Aang on his lips. Kiyi was already forming the 'O' for OOGIES! But before she could exclaim the annoying phrase, Azula rose a warning finger, while her lips still were connected to Aangs. Kiyi kept silent this time.

"I'll wait around here somewhere" Aang said, before Azula walked off with her little sister. He looked after them and noticed two things of completely different nature. One was how great family would feel with Azula, the other was much more primitive. Damn, his girl had a fine ass. Not that he was all that much of an ass-guy, but still. Holy.

"That was so much fun today! I didn't have such a good time in a while!" Kiyi exclaimed, happily running around Azula, while the two walked back to the apartment of Ursa and Ikem.

"Yes. Me neither" Azula didn't even have to lie about it. She really had great fun today. Well at least the afternoon was great. The forenoon was rather boring, sitting in court all the time, listening to apparently completely retarded nobles and/or politicians, while they tried to gain something. Azula was short of incinerating them all, but Zuzu didn't really like the idea. As if the whole first half of the day wasn't already bad enough, there had to be the argument she had with her mother as well. It wasn't really pleasant either. But everything after that was, to this point, absolutely great. She was also really excited to finally learn what Aangs secret surprise was going to be. She suspected she might get taken out tonight.

"Will you talk to mother about our training tomorrow?" Kiyi wanted to know.

"I will see how her mood is, ok?" Azula suggested. She was actually looking forward to teach Kiyi. She was already a very powerful bender. But she still had to convince mother, which might proof to be difficult after what happened today.

The sisters approached the guards in front of the door, but didn't get the chance to open the door. Ursa opened it a split second before Azula could reach out for it.

"Kiyi!" she was so happy to see her youngest. Her daughter didn't really share her mothers enthusiasm, though. She was skeptical after Ursa received her new face and just as she was beginning to accept her back as her mother, she had to find out, that Ursa left Azula at an age no year older than Kiyi was now. Azula gave her sister a gentle push on her back, together with a reassuring nod. She walked to her mother.

"Hi mother" she said giving her a noticeable quick hug. "Is daddy here?" she wanted to know. For a second Ursas face dropped and she looked hurt, but then it was gone again. "He is in the kitchen" she said, before Kiyi walked away to search her father.

Azula had already turned around and wanted to leave. She would talk about the bending at a later point, now was not the time. Ursa had a bad mood and Azula did take Kiyi away for the day, without asking and knowing full well her mother didn't want that. The princess initially thought they should talk again, but now it didn't feel like this was a good idea anymore.

"Azula!" Ursa said softly, gently reaching out for her daughters arm "Please wait." Azula shook the hand off her. For a second, she contemplated walking away, but turned around again, only to find her mother standing in front of her, looking heartbroken. Azula gulped, wondering what might happen. She has always been good at reading people, but her mother she never understood. Ursa sighted, looking to the floor as if something there could help her formulate her words.

"I know there is nothing I could say or do, to make up to you, what I have done." she began, before she looked up from the floor again. Ursa had tears in her eyes. "But I want you to know, that I love you. I never understood you and I am terribly sorry how long I just assumed you would be daddy's girl. I was blind and stupid and didn't notice. There is no way I can say you how sorry I am for ignoring you, for leaving you, for everything. I did everything wrong a mother could do wrong. If I had known you needed protection just as much as Zuko, maybe even more, I would have done something. But I didn't know, I didn't notice. This is all my fault and there is no denying it." She smiled weakly at her oldest daughter, gently brushing over her cheek with the back of her hand "You turned out to be such a great woman and I am so proud of you. Despite everything that happened, you still found a rightful and good path, completely without any guidance. You are now just as strong and independent as I always thought you was. I am so sorry I was not there for you, and I am sorry I didn't get to watch you grow into the woman you are now. There is no way I can make up all the wrongdoings I am responsible for. All I can say is that I am truly sorry, and all I can do is to beg for your forgiveness."

Azula blinked a few times, processing what her mother just said. She expected her to be angry with her. To tell her not to abduct Kiyi again, to tell her how much she despised her brazen lies and that she didn't believe a word she told her. Never would she have expected an apology. It felt strange, like another damn of emotion breaking down inside her. Another issue finally being solved. Another old scar finally allowed to heal, after being torn open again and again.

"You don't think I am a monster?" she asked with shaky voice.

Ursa shook her head no "Of course not. Look at you, you are so beautiful" Azula suddenly stepped forward and gave her mother a tight hug. She could not remember when the last time was, that she hugged her mother, if it had even ever happened before.

"I love you, Azula" her mother whispered caringly in her ear.

"This is the best day in my life" Azula replied more to herself than to Ursa. But her mother heard none the less and only tightened the hug.

After Azula stormed off with Kiyi some long hours ago, Ursa broke down in tears. She went to see Zuko and asked him a lot of questions about his sister. He was able to shine some light into what happened and confirmed everything her daughter has told her. Ursa felt horrible, literally like the worst mother ever. She asked his son and his girlfriend if they could tell her what happened with Azula after she left. They gave her the quick sum-up until the point when she and Aang became a couple. From that point on the story got more and more detailed. Ursa was listening, for the first time with attention to what Azula did and for the first time believing she did all this to change and was astonished. It's not like she hadn't heard the stories before, but to be honest Ursa never really listened to them, thinking it was more fictional propaganda to shine a better light on Azula. She always thought Aang might have been more of a political pawn than an actual love-interest. While this theory began crumbling after he got hurt so badly, she still didn't really trust her oldest daughter. She was still her daughter, sure, and Ursa was happy that she was doing fine, but she still suspected everyone around her was bound to be burned sooner or later. Just like it always had happened. But after Azulas outburst about her past and Zukos and Kataras explanations, things began to add up. Ursa began to understand what had happened when she thought Azula was just seeking her fathers attention. She began to see why Azula grew cold and gruesome, she was finally able to look behind the flawless demeanor of the princess, just to see a broken, abused and scared child, which she should have protected, but didn't because of her own blindness. Ursa just felt even more guilty. She decided that it was time to apologize to Azula and finally give her the chance she deserved, just like anyone else did. Up until now, she had yet to disappoint.

And now she finally did, what should have been done long ago. Things were back on the right way for a normal mother-daughter relationship.

"Mother" Azula asked, letting go of her again. "There is something we need to talk about"

Ursa sighted "Kiyis bending" she said.

"Yes. You know, she is extremely talented"

-/-

Aang was sitting on a nice padded bench in the palace, it was a sunny corridor with large windows, which provided a good view over the royal gardens. It was a nice day and he loved the moment of quiet peace, just looking at the beautiful garden. He was just thinking about a short stroll through them, when he heard steps approaching him

"Hey, Aang!" a sweet voice sang from one his left side. He turned towards it, just to see Ty Lee walking towards him. Not bothering with her uniform today, she was wearing the pink cropped combat-suit she used to wear during the war.

She was holding two cones of delicious looking ice-cream. She handed him one of the cones. "want some ice cream?" she asked.

He was a bit confused. Where did she get that from? Why did she have two? He asked her about it, and the acrobat replied that she had seen him sitting here and was on her way to get ice-cream for herself. Apparently she thought he might enjoy some himself, which was why she brought some along for him, when she returned from the kitchen. Ty Lee narrated through it so fast, Aang was sure he missed something. Azula was right when she said Kiyi would like the acrobat.

Aang took the cone and invited Ty Lee to sit with him while he waited for Azula. He told her about his afternoon in the park, how great Azula was doing with Kiyi and how much in love he really was. There were not a lot of people at the palace Aang wanted to talk to concerning this topic. Sure Zuko was his best friend, but Azula was his sister. It felt really awkward. Just as awkward as it felt talking about it with Katara, for whatever reason.

He did write Sokka about it, but the warrior didn't really seem to have the seriousness for it. His replies usually were jokes and while that was funny for a few times, someday Aang wanted to talk about it in all seriousness.

Aang did not know why he told Ty Lee, but something about her just made her trustworthy and easy to talk to. It was probably her friendly, open-minded demeanor, combined with her ability to take conversations seriously, which made it so easy to approach her.

The acrobat was happy to hear that things were going great and was super happy about Aang and Azula. The two of them were fitting together so perfectly. Who would have thought. When Azula got her and Mai out of prison, told them about her and Aang and apologized about imprisoning them, she was skeptical. Not so much as Mai, but she was nonetheless. Now there was no doubt left, how good the princess and the avatar were for each other. Even a blind one would see that.

Ironically the blind girl was actually the first to see it. The Avatar provided balance for the unbalanced princess, while the princess provided the necessary aggression for a otherwise way to tame and peaceful Avatar. They completed each other perfectly. What one lacked, the other had plenty too much of.

Something about Ty Lee seemed off today, though. Aang just wanted to ask, if everything was alright, when Mai found the two of them, sitting on the comfy bench in the corridor. She was holding a carton the size of a shoebox under her left arm, when she approached them. She had been searching for Ty Lee for some time now. A servant sent her this way, telling the grey girl that Ty Lee might have gone in that direction.

"Hey you" she said and sounded just as gloomy as always.

"Hi, Mai!" Ty Lee replied, she sounded happy as usual, but something didn't really fit.

Aang gave the deadly assassin, aka Mai, a nod, he had his mouth full of really delicious ice-cream. It tasted just as good as it looked.

"I have something for you, Ty Lee" Mai said, nervously handing her the box.

Now this was getting really strange, really fast, Aang thought to himself, as he observed Ty Lee taking the box from Mai. While she did this - and was obviously focused on the box - Aang kept his eyes on Mai. He noticed what Ty Lees missed. Mai was running her sight over Ty Lee, almost looking needy and obviously turned on, at least if the way she was biting her lower lip almost unnoticeable was any indicator. Aang didn't know Mai all that good, but even he noticed the change in Mais expression, how she almost smiled when she looked at Ty Lee apparently unnoticed.

The flexible pink girl turned too Aang and asked him to hold her ice-cream for her. While she did that, Mai mustered Ty Lees behind pretty obviously. She thought no one would notice, but Aang did. He always noticed when Azula was checking him out, and she was one sneaky admirer.

The acrobat opened the box. Inside was some kind of very colorful steamrolled rope. Ty Lee reached inside to pull a bit of the rope out and run in through her fingers. It felt very robust. "Wow, what is that?" she wanted to know. The instant her big doll-eyes looked back at Mai, the needy expression on her face vanished and instantly returned to standard-Mai-gloomy. Aang smirked internally as he turned his attention back to his ice-cream. He was chuckling to himself, how Mai though he would not notice. Maybe she didn't even notice herself.

"It's a slackline" Mai replied "They make it especially for balancing on it. You fix it between two points, stretch it and balance over it. I thought you might like it, so you can stay in training. You did say that you missed the high wire in the circus." She said, her voice was not gloomy anymore. Not at all. It wasn't happy either, but it wasn't gloomy anymore. "I got you the smallest size, so you get a bit of a challenge" Mai quickly added.

"Wow, Mai! This is so awesome! Thank you so much! I already know just the place for it!" Ty Lee squealed happily, jumping up to hug her friend.

"Not a problem" she replied and blushed hard. Apparently really ashamed of it, she quickly excused herself, muttering something about Zuko needing her assistance with something, and rushed off.

Ty Lee sat back down with Aang, who wore a smile on his face, while handing her the ice-cream back.

"Can I ask you something?" he began. Ty Lee giggled, softly running her fingers over the slackline.

"That depends. Last time you said that, you wanted me to steal something" Aang shook his head, smiling.

"You won't even need to get up this time" he promised.

"Then what do you want to know?"

"Do you realize that Mai is totally into you?" he asked bluntly. Somehow he suspected Ty Lee was absolutely oblivious to it.

Ty Lee squealed, she felt like jumping up and down. "Oh spirits, I am so glad you ask that. You know, to be honest perfectly with you, I didn't really walk by and just saw you sitting here."

"No?" Aang said and ate some more of his ice-cream. Somehow he wasn't really surprised, he suspected there might be more to it. Maybe Azula was slowly wearing off on him. He was getting curious now.

"No. I actually wanted to ask you for some advice. The ice-cream was a bit of a bribery" she admitted. Aang couldn't help but laugh.

"You wanted to bribe me?"

"Is it working?" Ty Lee pressed her hands together and tried looking cute. Well she didn't really need to try hard for that.

"You know, I don't need to be bribed into giving advice" he said. "That's a part of my job" laughing he added: "though people tend to always forget that"

"Yeah, I know... It's just..." Ty Lee was going to just bluntly say it like the Avatar had asked the first question. "Aang, do you think two girls can work? I mean, as in girlfriends work? Like, relationship work? As in eating pu..."

"I hear you" Aang interrupted quickly. Though he was a bit surprised to hear that Ty Lee apparently considered a girl as a partner, he of course gave it a thought. It's not that he judged her or anything, Ty Lee just always seemed to have such easy access to boys. On the other hand, as far as Aang knew she didn't hook up with any of them. Azula told him the story of Ty Lee chi-blocking a group of boys who were getting to close to her comfort zone. "I don't see why not. Social acceptance is something I would never bother about, at least I never did anyway. What you do in your private life is your business and your business only. I know I would have chosen Azula over my friends, for sure. You have to be sure about it, and I was at the time. To be fair, it all comes down to one very important question: Do you love her?" he asked.

"I don't know" Ty Lee looked at the floor, in a mix of shame and sadness. "She is very nice and I trust her. But she has been my friend for so long, I don't want to ruin that." she admitted. Mai meant a lot to her, and while she had sex with some girls before, it was never love. It was just sex. Suddenly she realized that up until now, Ty Lee had never slept with a boy, it always was a girl. She was unsure if she really loved Mai or if it was just the feeling you get, when a really good friend is around. The acrobat was at a loss, under no circumstances did she want to hurt Mai in any way.

"Do you get that tingling sensation in your stomach when you spend time together with Mai?" Aang asked, helping her out.

"Not only then. Even when I think about her. I do have dreams about her" she admitted. Aang nodded understandingly.

"It was the same back when I was training with Azula. I used to have terrible nightmares about her. But they suddenly turned into... something more pleasurable" he was laughing softly, and Ty Lee joined for a moment.

"I never thought I might be gay. To be honest, it scares the shit out of me. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. I have never been with a boy, and not for lack of interested parties." She said. Aang was not sure, why Ty Lee chose him of all people to tell all this, but he listened to what she had to say. "It's just that, whenever a boy is interested in me, I feel awkward and not at all like myself. My aura gets all spiky and it feels really uncomfortable. But with Mai, it's different. At first I thought this might be because I know her for so long. That was before I joined the Kyoshi-Warriors and suddenly realized I felt this way with a lot of girls. They make me feel comfortable. I didn't realize what was going on, I just kept telling myself that I am not gay, but I'll make an exception for this girl or for that." she paused as if struggling with something.

Aang gave her a supportive smile "You know, struggling with the own sexuality it nothing uncommon. You don't have to be afraid of it, or ashamed as far as I am concerned. Everyone should be free to pursue whoever it is making them happy. Boy or girl, it does not matter. Happiness is something only a selected few people are able to give to you. Everyone else is irrelevant."

Ty Lee sighted and kept on going, she already told him so much, she could add this as well. "I have slept with a couple of girls, it was just sex, but still. I've never been with a boy, whenever they are interested in me, they creep me out and I want to run away. That was when I realized I might be a bit different... in a gay sense. I know I shouldn't care about anyone else, but still. It's scary and I feel so weird about it"

Aang gulped, he was not insecure about sexuality at all, but somehow this felt a bit odd. He couldn't get rid of the feeling that she should be discussing that with someone else. Like, maybe Azula or any other o her close friends. But he wouldn't say it, she surely had her reasons to come to him for this. "Ty Lee, it's perfectly ok to be gay. There is nothing wrong with it. Do you feel better when you are with girls?"

"Yes I do." she admitted and sounded relieved to have finally said it. "with girls it's completely different. They make me feel like I am allowed to be myself. And I didn't ever really feel much for the girls I have slept with other than bodily desire."

"And what do you feel about Mai?" he asked.

"With Mai it is so much more, it ...feels so good. I want to spend more time with her, but at the same time I am afraid she might find it gross, I like her in that way. I am afraid to lose her and at the same time I want to be close to her. This is so confusing" Aang never saw Ty Lee worried so much. Never. "I tried avoiding her, but it drives me crazy, because I miss her so much. I tried being closer to her, and it also drives me crazy, because my desire for her just explodes and I can hardly keep my hands to myself. Please help me, Aang. I don't know what to do anymore."

"I can assure you, she won't find it gross at all. Trust me." Aang smiled as he finished his ice-cream. He still had no idea, why she confided in him and at this point he didn't really want to ask anymore, thinking it might send the wrong signal. He was there to help people. If Ty Lee needed his help, he would help.

"How do you know for sure?" Ty Lee wanted to know.

"Oh, just trust me. You didn't see her check your rear out before. She was literally biting her lower lip. She likes what she sees" he laughed silently. He never thought he might actually give relationship advice to a girl, for a girl. Guess there is a first time for everything

"Really?" Ty Lee gleamed.

"Really. I know this is difficult. It wasn't easy for Azula and me either. We went through a very difficult time, before we finally admitted our feelings. But trust me, that built up tension and anticipation, that dancing around each other is a great part. It's well worth it. Why don't you try it a bit more aggressively. I mean, she did just give you a present, didn't she?"

"Well..."

"Just be yourself, Ty Lee. Because I am sure, that's exactly what Mai is looking for. You. I have never seen her hand out presents to Azula or anyone else. If you want to accelerate it, try and get a little touchy with her, see how she reacts to that. Azula did that with me and it worked like a charm."

"Get touchy?" Ty Lee asked.

"Yeah, sure. What did you do to get your other girls into bed?" Aang asked bluntly. There was not so much difference between the two things. The difference (mostly) followed later on.

"I kind of... yeah" Ty Lee giggled.

"See. It's not all that difficult. Trust me, this will turn out nicely." At least Aang hoped it would. There was still the minimal chance that he misinterpreted Mais mimic. But that seemed really unlikely.

Ty Lee sighted relieved. She felt better. Aang really boosted her confidence and gave very useful advice. "Thank you so much, Aang. Thank you. I can't repay you with all the ice-cream in the world" she hugged him.

"Consider us even" Aang replied.

"Can you please not tell anyone just yet?" Ty Lee asked, still not letting go of him. She was so grateful for his advice. She knew he would understand. She knew Aang was a very wise and understanding person, despite his young age. She was thinking a long time of who to ask. At first she was going to try Azula, but she somehow suspected that the princess might not be able to help her. It wasn't until one night when she, Azula and Mai shared dinner and the princess mentioned how she still struggled with her feelings and how only Aang enabled emotions in her, that Ty Lee decided Azula would have been the wrong choice. Then again, that was before she left to talk to guru Pathik. Maybe she might have been different now. Ty Lee still settled for the Avatar and was really happy with her choice now.

"Of course" Aang promised.

"Are you trying to steal my boyfriend?" Azula hissed playfully, when she found Aang and Ty Lee hanging to him. She wore a happy face. Not her normal smile, but like some heavy burden was lifted off her shoulders.

"Who was talking about trying" Ty Lee teased, before letting go of Aang. "I will leave you two alone now" she said and walked off.

"What was that?" Azula wanted to know.

"She needed an ear and some advice" Aang answered.

"Advice? Ty Lee? What?"

"Relationship-stuff. You know, I seem to be an expert." Aang boasted with a cheeky smile

"Really? How comes?" Azula wanted to know.

"Well, you don't seem to get enough of me. So I must know what I am doing. Apparently I tamed the beast" he teased, as he pulled her onto his lap.

"Oh, you can have beast tonight, Avatar" Azula playfully scratched her nails over his arms.

"I would very much enjoy that, princess" Aang retorted, before capturing her lips with his. They started making out passionately right there in the corridor. Deepening the kiss further, Aang let his hand slide under Azulas shirt and glided up her soft skin. She straddled him, grinding her hips to his as he suppressed a moan.

A/N: Lemons from here:

"If you don't stop this, I am going to do you right here." he whispered and suddenly realized he made a huge mistake. Azulas grin turned vicious as she opened his pants, and pulled his raging erection out of it. Slowly stroking up and down its length she whispered back

"That does sound like a good idea" she snapped the belt on her pants open and pulled them down just below her waist. Aang was leaning back, totally baffled. They were about to shag right here in the open public of the palace. Any second someone could walk by. Hell, Ty Lee and Mai already walked past them, they was no way... Aang didn't get to finish his thought. Azula straddled him again and he felt his length dive into her already wet warmth.

The thought of possibly being caught just turned Azula on beyond infinity. She was already close to orgasm and she almost did nothing. She felt Aang reach for her shirt and pull it up over her breasts. Oh my, she felt so exposed, it was scary and intoxicating at the same time, she would cum any second.

But Aang suddenly denied that. He suddenly pushed her away, so that she was standing in front of him again. Her black pants down a bit and her red shirt pulled up over her breasts.

Two can play the game. She wanted to do this the frisky, public way? No problem! She looked at him in anticipation, as he turned her around. With a quick movement her pants fell all the way to the ground and the front of her shirt was pulled over her head, so it could not fall down again. For a short moment Azula was forced to look out over the royal gardens, before her face was covered with her shirt. Oh sprits, I am already going crazy!

Aang was enjoying this just as much. Azula was standing in front of him, back to him and was practically naked and she was doing that in public. Her juices were already running down her thighs, as Aang cupped one of her breasts from behind. He reached around over her belly and down to her sensitive spot, before he entered her warm and dripping wet folds again, thrusting into her.

Azula hissed in pleasure, this was by far the most exciting thing she had ever done. Within a few more powerful thrusts she reached her climax. Aang quickly moved the hand- until now gently pinching and picking her nipples- to her shirt and pulled it down from her face, before he pressed her mouth shut. She screamed into his hand, as her body contracted violently from the orgasm, all while being forced to look outside into the royal gardens. Some fire-sages were walking by, totally oblivious to what was going on a story higher.

Azulas walls gripped around Aangs member like a vise. Aang pulled it out just in time to unload over her naked, perfectly shaped ass. When he let go of her, she sank to the ground on her knees, totally undone. She was breathing heavily, this was not only the ultimate mindfuck, it was her ultimate fuck. Her brain was shut off, not realizing she was still in a corridor of the palace, a very much public place. And she was kneeling in her own juices, naked, and with the Avatars load all over her butt. She felt so alive. Humiliated but in a very good way.

A/N: End of lemons (you need the next few lines for the plot)

"Wow" was all she said after some moments. Aang gently pulled her up from her knees, giving her another passionate kiss.

"You made quite the mess" he whispered softly, but Azula only shrugged. She didn't care.

"Now for the surprise" he began, and her eyes lit up.

"What is it?" she wanted to know. Her brain was functioning again, and she quickly pulled up her pants over the mess she made out of herself. But well, what should she do, it's not like she could walk back to her suite naked. Although it might give her another kick.

"Not yet" he replied "Let's go and clean you up a bit first. Where we will be going tonight, we will have to dress up a bit." he said and grinned teasingly. She was already excited about it.

-/-

When Aang took the satin blindfold off Azula, she was standing in the streets of Caldera, in front of an exclusive, yet very cozy restaurant.

"What..."

"It's a dinner date" Aang said, as he was leading her in. The owner already awaited them. Just as it was stipulated, he pretended to deal with two completely normal customers.

"Good evening. Table for two?" he asked with a slight bow.

"Yes, we have a reservation. I was here this afternoon."

"Ah, right. I remember. Right this way please." The owner lead the princess and the Avatar to a remote table for two. It was secluded from the rest of the customers without being an extra room and provided an awesome view out of the window and over an artificial lake. The moonlight shimmered over the immobile surface and candlelight was illuminating the private corner. Aang helped Azula, who was wearing a really stunning red cocktail-dress into her chair, before he sat down opposite to her. He smiled widely at her, completely happy. She was beautiful, her skin tight red dress was starting from her neck and completely backless, but reached almost down to the floor. Of course it widened up after her waist and had a slit on one side, so her right leg would always show while she was walking. Aang was almost drooling when he first saw her. She was wearing discrete gold jewelry, gold colored heels and had her hair undone. Her two bunches were the only part that she retained, the rest floated freely over her shoulders like a black satin waterfall. She looked like a true living goddess.

"You like?" Aang asked in remark of the restaurant.

"I do!" Azula replied happy, after having looked around for a bit "I haven't been out in so long"

"I know" Aang replied.

"And no one bothers us" Azula was happy while Aang smirked knowingly. After the war ended, she felt uncomfortable going out without Aang, even in Caldera. And with him she felt like she would involve him in trouble, so she chose to stay at the palace. During the war Azula went out with Mai and Ty Lee all the time.

The waiter was still the owner, he didn't trust his employees to not suddenly burst out with something inappropriate like 'Oh spirits the Avatar' or 'Aren't you the princess! Oh, I can't believe it' so he did it himself. He asked about the drinks.

For the next couple of hours Azula had so much fun. This was literally the best day in her life. And she was a bit tipsy, which might have been the reason why she found the courage to bring this topic up. She had talked to Ursa about it after they made up with each other, because she was feeling very awkward about it. Ursa suggested to just bring it up sometime, when the timing feels right. Right now the timing felt perfect.

"Aang, do you remember the last time we were stargazing?" she asked. Aang smiled softly.

"Of course" he replied. It was before he got captured. And it was a particularly nice memory, one he would never want to forget.

"Do you know what we were talking about?"

"Sure. I was telling you how much I love you and how I would always wait for you" he replied and found his heart beating faster and faster. Was she going where he thought she might be going? Subconsciously he checked if a certain something was at its proper place.

"Yes." Azula replied. "Do you still mean what you said?"

"Of course" Aangs tone was absolutely serious. "Every word of it"

Azula gulped. This was it now, wasn't it? "Well, I am ready now" she whispered.

"You sure?" Aang felt like flying around the restaurant on an airscooter.

"Yes, I am sure. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Like this. Happy and together." Aang was smiling from one ear to another. He got up from his chair as he reached into the inner pocket of his tunic, knowing what he was looking for was still there.

Azula was holding her hand to her mouth. What was happening? She didn't think he would do this now! She thought, he might need some time. Before Azula knew it, Aang was on one knee and had a long box in his hand. He opened it up and presented her with a breathtaking golden bangle. It was still flat as of now, not circular yet, but never the less absolutely beautiful. A fine golden bar, with extremely sophisticated and expertly done chasing. It was rather slender and had a beautiful dark red ruby in the middle. Azula never saw anything like it before, it was jaw-dropping, absolutely stunning. Aang cleared his throat:

"Azula, you know how much I love you. There is no one like you in the world for me. There is no place I'd want to go without you, there is no time I don't want to be at your side. You complete me, you make me who I am. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, because you make me more happy than I ever imagined was even possible. And I vow to do the same for you, to the best of my abilities. Princess Azula, would you want to marry me?" Aang asked.

Azula was no one to be speechless, but right now, she was.

"Yes!" she almost squealed. It sounded adorable "Yes! Of course I want to!" she exclaimed.

Aang was grinning like an idiot, as he attached the bangle to her wrist. It looked like it was made from a solid bar, but it bent around her hand just fine. It even seemed to be just the perfect length. The ruby suddenly started glowing slightly.

"What is that?" she wanted to know. Aang smiled, he took her hand in his.

"Something very special. They were lost for a long time." He pulled his sleeve back. He was wearing something similar to her bangle, though his was not golden, but a very dark silver. It had no gemstones but the same almost impossible complex chasing. He wrapped his free hand around his bangle, before the stone on Azulas counterpart lit up brightly.

She suddenly felt like she was in a dark room, which she of course was not. But it felt like it. There was a ever so gentle breath of wind brushing past her, that felt like Aang would walk by. She felt like he glided past her, flashing her a smile, before he vanished and the feeling of the dark room was gone again. It felt amazing, like being shown the love someone else felt for you.

"How?"

"Those are the betrothal bangles of Avatar Wan. He was the first Avatar ever. Those bangles were forged by spirits in ancient days and have very special properties. You can share your feelings for each other by touching them, among other things. Aang explained."

"How did you get them?" Azula tried to comprehend.

"Well they were passed down from Avatar to Avatar for thousand generations. The male part was passed from Avatar Roku to me, I had it ever since, locked in the sanctuary of the southern air-temple. But the female part eventually was lost some generations before that. Avatar Kuruk lost his wife, Umi, to Koh the face stealer. The bangle was lost in the spirit world ever since." Aang said.

"How did you get it back?"

"Well I went looking for them shortly after the end of the war. I kind of had to get it back from Koh..." he said.

"You fought a spirit over it?"

"Well I wouldn't call it a fight. I outsmarted him. But you know, for you, I would have fought him as well." Aang said and meant it.

"I don't really deserve you, do I?" Azula asked.

"Well, no" Aang replied teasing "But that's ok. Because I don't deserve you either"

-/-

Chapter Text

"Are you fucking nuts?!" Zuko screamed pointing back and forth between his two sisters.

"Language Zuzu!" Azula warned before stating calmly "Besides, I talked to mom about it."

"You talked to... I got off the wrong station" he sighted. "Do you see this?" he asked pointing behind him, where Aang and Katara were fighting an epic battle of waterbending against each other. Just in that second Aang washed Katara off the sparring-ring in a surprise wall of water. She crashed down to the floor rather roughly. "I don't think that's what mother had in mind, when she agreed to you training Kiyi!"

"But it's so much fun!" the youngest of the three interrupted. She was so excited when Azula took her to their sparring match. Or better their training. At first she didn't believe it, when Ursa told her, that she would start training with Azula soon, but now she was really here. It was Kiyis wonderland.

"It's not like she is going to actually fight against someone anytime soon. But I want her to see how it is done." Azula replied calmly. "Besides what are you worried about? She watches anyway, so why not explain things to her, while we are at it. This way she can learn."

"I want to learn" Kiyi said but had an apologetic smile on her lips for her constant secret attending of the training.

"And that's what worries me" Zuko said rolling his eyes. He wanted his sister to learn, sure. But he was not really convinced by the swim or drown method Azula seemed to try. But he knew very well how this would turn out if he didn't give in now. "Fine, If you think it helps. I won't stand in the way. But you and Aang won't blow each other up in front of our sister."

"You are such a bore, Zuzu" Azula teased, before she walked off with Kiyi.

The sparring- arena was a place Kiyi always found fascinating. It was just something about it, the distinct smell of cold sweat and burnt stuff, just as much as the overall feel of everything in it, which made it so unbelievable intriguing. Of course the best part was the people fighting and training here, but Kiyi would have liked it empty as well. Finally being allowed to walk around and watch, not having to hide in remote corners, where she could not see all that good, was really exciting for her.

Azula patted her back, as she led her sister to a smaller field a little bit off the main areal. The arena provided multiple different rings and fields for all kinds of different applications. Some more suitable for one on one fights, some more for groups. Some were designed with training in mind, some with fighting. It was a very variable place and Azula was heading for one of the rings which was designed with training in mind. Looking down at her younger sister walking beside her, she said:

"But seriously, Kiyi. Behave yourself, will you?"

"Promised, Azula" Kiyi replied, as she followed the princess into the ring.

"Alright. Show me what you got!" Azula ordered and Kiyi quickly took her stance, inhaled as she was shown the day before and guided the energy in her towards her hand. She felt the fascinating heat in her hand as her orange flame exploded into the air in front of her. This was so much fun!

"Good. Now watch me and repeat after me." Azula showed her little sister another move, this time not only creating fire but guiding it from the one side of her body to the other. The fire was flowing freely around her. It was a more advanced move, but Azula was sure Kiyi could handle it. And she was not disappointed.

Aang was helping Katara back up.

"Sorry for that" he said smiling apologetic. He didn't really mean to blow her off the ring so harshly. That doesn't mean he didn't like doing it. In the past Aang had always been going easy on his waterbending-master. Not because he thought she could not handle it, but he always thought Katara would take it the wrong way if he just gave her everything he got, just like the way he and Azula were so comfortable doing things in the ring. Today on the other hand Aang felt so incredibly vivid, he had found it impossible to hold back.

"You fought really good today." Katara commended, being pulled back to her feet. "Are you doing alright?" the waterbender asked. Aang always used to hold back for whatever reason, but today he just annihilated her effortlessly. He was very powerful, Katara always knew that, but today his bending reached another level. Water used to be his most powerful element and Katara used to be very proud she was the one who taught the Avatar his best weapon of choice. But that was before Azula showed him into her world, which was the almost infinite power of fire and lightning. Though Katara would never admit it to anyone, she was a bit jealous that Azula managed to take that claim away from her, but she also had to admit that Aangs firebending simply was astonishing. He did it with an elegance and perfection to it, which only his teacher was able to best. Watching them bend was poetry for the eyes.

"I never felt better" he said smiling like an idiot. Not even hesitating with telling her, he just added: "I asked Azula to marry me yesterday" The Avatars eyes were all bright in excitement, the grey of his iris was almost glowing.

Katara joined him in smiling. That of course provided a good explanation why he so vivid today.

"Really?! Wow, that explains your mood!" Katara exclaimed being really happy for her best friend. Realizing he didn't tell her the answer he got, she quickly added in a more serious tone: "She did say yes, didn't she?"

"Sure did" Aang laughed. Katara didn't know about the conversation he and Azula had back at Ember Island after their first night together. She didn't know that Aang just waited for his princess to feel ready for marriage.

"Ohh, Aang. Congratulations! I am super happy for you!" she gave her best friend a hug. Wow, honestly who would have thought that? She would have never expected the princess of all the people being the one to make Aang that happy. He always was a buoyant person, but Azula was adding a bright spark to him. Whenever he was with her, he was in complete balance, there was nothing which could have thrown him off, other than someone being stupid enough to do something to his Azula (the consequences of that were burned pretty permanently into Kataras memory) And everyone could see that. Katara was really happy for him, happy that he found a person he wants to spend the rest of his life with. If someone deserved this, it was Aang. Though she never thought it would be Azula who plays the other part, but well. Zuko wasn't that different at the beginning. He started evil and realized his mistakes somewhere along his way, before he joined the Avatar. The same rights to everyone, if Zuko could change, so could Azula. Katara had no intention of saying anything against her best friends relationship with the princess. She did end up with Zuko, didn't she? And her happiness wasn't exactly low either.

Aang chuckled "Yeah, it's almost too good to be true" he said, after Katara let go of him.

"Don't say that. You deserve to be happy, and anyone can see how happy she is making you. And besides..." Katara turned Aang around and pointed towards the princess training with her little sister. It was a sight for the gods, Azula would demonstrate a stance or a form, and Kiyi would immediately copy it. She was like the miniature version of her sister. One could see a mile away how much fun both of them were having, it was just too cute. "... I think she is going to be a great mother"

"Hey! What are you two conspiring about?" Zuko yelled as he approached them, still standing in the ring.

"Nothing!" Katara laughed "Come here and let me kick your ass!"

"Ohh, you're on!" Zuko replied stripping his shirt off and tossing it out of the ring.

Two very exhausting but extremely fun hours later Zuko and Katara were sitting on a bench, Kiyi in between of them. Aang and Azula of course defied the firelords orders and were at the moment violently blowing each other up. Like they would ever go easy on each other...

Zuko was shaking his head in disbelieve. He had no idea who actually could enjoy anything like that. He was all for competition and challenge, but his sister and the Avatar were close to murdering each other. How can that be any fun? He always gave his best, but seriously there was a line between training and an actual Agni-Kai. This was more the later than the former and it let the fight he fought against his sister on the day of Sozins comet more than a year ago look like child's play. Seriously, what is it with the two? For a tiny fraction of a second Zuko noticed him thinking they should probably just go and have violent sex instead, but he quickly realized he didn't want to think about how sex looked between the two at all and tried hard to forget his thoughts immediately.

Katara was periodically holding her hand over her eyes so she would not see what was going on exactly. Having to hear it was bad enough. Asking herself all the questions Zuko was wondering about, she had to add the fear, that they might actually succeed in killing each other. She learned from Azula that there have been injuries in the past and the burn she had healed actually was one of the less severe ones.

She didn't believe her ears at the time.

It was a miracle none of them had suffered any permanent damage, but Aangs healing was obviously good enough for it (He did save her life on that one fateful day in the forest). Katara had no idea how a relationship could possibly work if both partners seemed to enjoy attempted murder. On the other hand, Aang and Azula seemed to have an otherwise completely normal and healthy relationship. Sure, they had the occasional fight, but now with Azula more and more confident about leaving the palaces with Aang, there didn't seem to be an awful lot for them to fight about anymore. And honestly, which couple never argues about anything? Apparently they were doing something the right way.

Kiyi was apparently the only one enjoying what her sister and uncle Aang were doing. She was sitting on the edge of the bench and paid close attention. Azula had such a perfect flow of movement and seemed to be able to change from one stance into the other without a second thought. It all was flowing together in a beautiful and absolutely stunning display of true performance. But not only Azula was moving like from another planet, Aang didn't lack prowess either. No wonder they were fighting so aggressively, if they'd hold back, they might very well fight until the first one of them starves. Kiyi was soaking up every little move and each detail of the fight. One day she wanted to be as good as her sister.

"Aunty Katara?" Kiyi asked, her eyes still glued to Azula and Aang.

"Yes Kiyi?" Katara replied, not sure if the princess made the right decision in bringing her sister along. But Kiyi obviously enjoyed watching very much. Much to Zukos dismay, this could not be good for a kid. There was no way... Gosh, he sounded like his mother. He was all for training his sister, but he also was a fan of walking before learning to run. And Aang and Azula were currently flying.

"Do you think I will one day be as good as Azula? Or uncle Aang?"

Katara gulped and wanted to reply with something like 'hopefully not' but she knew that wouldn't be an appropriate answer. Kiyi was very talented, even Katara was able to see that without being a firebender herself and during the training Zuko remarked a few times how good Kiyi was doing. He seemed to be proud of both of his sisters. Though he still couldn't get used to the idea of the youngest of them watching their fights.

"If you keep training, I don't see why not." she said. "But Kiyi?"

"Yes?" Kiyis eyes didn't leave the fight.

"You have to promise me something, ok?" she said strongly.

"ok" she said. Katara sighted, why was sparring so compelling to the young one?

"Promise me you will always be careful with firebending and not use it to hurt someone with it, ok?" Katara was very serious about it, and Kiyi understood that immediately. She hadn't thought about it at all. To her bending fire was just something she wanted to be able to do. If she thought about it, she never really considered using it for anything else, other than fun.

Zuko was nodding approvingly, he liked Kataras idea very much. Azula used to be a very powerful bender in her childhood and she didn't really turn out all that good in her teens. On the other hand, Kiyi had a family of loving and caring individuals, where Azula only had her psycho-dad. Could one even compare them? Probably not really.

"Yes, I will..." Kiyi was interrupted, when from the tips of Azulas fingers her infamous lightning sprung to live. She guided the sizzling energy gracefully around her body. The hall was willed with the sound of the powerful bending-form, when she shot the deadly beam towards Aang. He stepped to his right, pushing two fingers into the beam, as he guided it around his sacral region before shooting it back to Azula. She didn't exactly expect that move, quickly jumping forward, the lightning crashed into the floor behind her and the blast wave sent her flying towards her fiancé, crashing into him shortly after.

"Lighting" Kiyi gaped. Lightning was just infinite coolness to Kiyi.

"Those two are just nuts" Zuko said in disbelief and Kiyi looked at him equally unbelieving, not understanding how anyone could not think that was awesome. Though, when Kiyi looked back to the ring, her fascination was reduced to zero. Aang and Azula were yet again making out.

"OOGIES!" Kiyi exclaimed disgusted, causing Katara to suddenly burst out laughing. Her own brother seemed to infect everyone with his stupid sayings.

Someone cleared his throat behind Zuko "Excuse me, Lord Zuko"

Zuko turned around to see someone in a familiar black uniform standing behind him

"Colonel Yamomoto. What can I do for you?" Zuko asked, a bit surprised to see the IMIS commander.

"I was told the princess would be here. But I see she is currently... occupied." Yamomoto said raising an eyebrow at Aang and Azula rolling on the ring, obviously having fun. "I shall return later" he said and had a dryness in his voice only military personal could ever muster.

"No no. That's ok. Stay." Zuko said to him, before turning to his sister currently sparring a different kind of match.

"ZULA!" he roared "stop snogging for Angis sake and come down here! There are minors watching!"

Azula looked up to see Yamomoto patiently waiting as well as Kiyi wearing a pretty disgusted face. She smiled at Aang and helped him up, before leaving the ring with him.

"You know, she likes people watching" Aang teased, only to get punched in his side by a playfully and almost snake-like hissing Azula.

"I did not just hear that" Zuko decided out loud as he pointed to the colonel. "Azula, Colonel Yamomoto needs you" he said. Nodding the princess left with the commander of the imperial military intelligence service.

Zuko was looking at Aang. "I need to talk to you as well" he said turning to take the Avatar with him.

Katara shook her head. Sometimes her boyfriend was an airhead, why did he leave her standing here? He could have said something. But he had a lot of stuff on his mind, it was the downside of being firelord and sometimes she just had to stand down for whatever it was currently occupying his mind. She did understand of course, which was one of the many reasons he loved her so much. Because Katara always understood.

"You want to go and get some ice cream?" Katara asked Kiyi.

"Yeahh!" Kiyi was an uncomplicated girl. She liked simple things. Like ice cream for example. Or dolls. And of course firebending, which was probably the only thing she liked which was not exactly simple.

-/-

"Well, Colonel, you successfully interrupted our training."

"I am sorry princess, I didn't realize..." he started, but Azula just dismissed it with a wave of her hand, coming straight to the point.

"What is it you want to talk about?" Azula asked as she was walking with the commander of the IMIS towards no specific direction. She liked him, he was very professional. And professionalism always had its place in Azulas sympathy-spot.

"We need to make changes to the structure of the IMIS" he said matter-of-factly.

"We need to? What did you have in mind?" Azula asked. She already knew by the way the colonel formulated his request, he would most likely have done all the necessary surveys and tests to back his idea up. Never the less Azula was going to question her way through it.

"I have spoken to the squad-leaders and officers and we all came to the conclusion, we need one more member per squad." he said. He had spent a lot of time evaluating the overall performance of the troops and obviously some situations could have been handled better. He had the statistics in a portfolio, which he was carrying with him. Searching for the needed documents he skimmed over a pile of papers included in the briefcase. There was a report prepared for exactly this.

"That shouldn't be a problem. Do you want to add an extra bender of one fixed element, or do you think shuffling will be better?" Azula asked. A fixed bender would provide a certain continuity making it easier to plan, but a bender of a different element extra to every squad would provide a good variation. She was curious what Yamomoto came up with.

"Actually we weren't thinking about an extra bender" Yamomoto said.

"A non-bender?" Azula asked confused "Why?"

The colonel finally found the statistics he was looking for in his portfolio and handed it over to the princess. She took it from him and started reading the dossier, while Yamomoto explained:

"We were experimenting a lot lately and realized that non-benders will provide an additional and very much needed perspective to basically everything. We realized each bender of each element tends to approach issues a different way. Due to the different mechanics of how bending the respective elements works, an earthbender is solving issues differently to a firebender, who is doing it differently to a waterbender. The perspective of a non-bender is likely to give us the advantage in many situations. A lot of non-benders have mastered forms and styles of combat, which a bender would never concentrate on. They solve problems according to their particular set of skills."

"Is that so?" Azula asked.

"Yes, princess. If you'd turn the report to page 16, you will see the interpretation of some very interesting statistics. I took the freedom to analyze the strategies and tactics used by the firelords personal security-force. The Kyoshi warriors always play their enemies to their own best advantage, forcing them into situation bending is almost useless and beating them in that forced environment, because of their training. It's an exemplary technique, which we would like to incorporate into the IMIS"

"I see" Azula said. Just as she expected it Yamomoto had thought this through very carefully. Really wishing for more people of his competence, the princess handed the report back to Yamomoto.

"Also I want to point out that bender are dependent on their bending. Take it away and..."

Rising her hand, Azula silenced him immediately. "Yes, I understand. I trust your evaluation is correct. What exactly do you need?" There was no need in discussing this further, she was already convinced.

"On the one hand of course the official order from firelord Zuko." Yamomoto said.

"Consider that done, and?" There had to be more.

"Suitable recruits won't be the problem, we already have our eyes on a couple of possible candidates, but to be honest with you, princess, instructors are troubling us at the moment" Yamomoto confessed. Most non-benders were peasants, who have never fought in their whole life. The first idea was to ask Suki, the leader of the Kyoshi warriors, to be the instructor, but then, who would command the firelords security-force? So, that was unfortunately impossible. The next plan was to ask master Piandao, the expert swordsman, but he was already affiliated with the white lotus, and would not train soldiers and agents. Obviously the world severely lacked skilled fighters who were non-benders. They really lacked suitable candidates.

Azula was suddenly hit by an idea. "You know, I think I got just the perfect people for you, Colonel. I will speak to them and send them your way." she said with a smirk. She also had, among someone else, a Kyoshi-Warrior in mind, but she was confident Ty Lee could be convinced to switch her profession.

"Thank you, princess"

"You just take care of suitable recruits." Azula ordered

"As you wish" Yamomoto bowed and left the princess alone in the royal gardens, where they somehow ended up walking to. He liked talking about those things to the princess more than to the firelord. He never seemed to have the tactical vein his sister seemed to be born with. She had a cold and calculating prowess, which was the trait that saved soldiers. In the end the cold-blooded commanders tend to save the most lives. Not the ruthless, of course, but the calm and calculating ones. Like she had demonstrated on numerous occasions, Azula was always calm and calculating, when the situation called for it. Hell, she took down Ba-Sing-Se with three people, where General Iroh was sending whole divisions of good soldiers to the slaughter, just to breach through one wall. If that wasn't life-saving master strategy at work, Yamomoto didn't know what would be.

Azula returned to palace to search for her two former best friends. Or maybe her best friends, she wasn't sure yet. They were starting to get along better and better again. Maybe they could pick up the broken pieces of their friendship again, Azula would really like that. The whole idea of expanding small circle of friends a little bit was slowly starting to sound good.

Mai didn't have a room in the palace, she lived at home, but Ty Lee did have a room. So Azula would start with her. She knocked at her door and nothing happened. Just as the princess wanted to knock again, the door opened, but it was not Ty Lee, it was an unknown Kyoshi warrior. Azula rose an eyebrow at her. If she was glaring, she didn't notice it.

"Princess!" the warrior said surprised.

"Hello?" Azula said in an asking voice. "What are you doing in Ty Lees room?" the princess crossed her arms over her chest and stared the warrior down. She was not amused.

"Oh, I ran out of white make-up, Ty Lee said I can have some of hers" she said turning her face to the right, revealing the halfway applied make-up of the warriors.

"Did she tell you where she is?" Azula asked.

"Of course, she wanted to go to the library. I don't know what she needed, though."

"Thank you" Azula replied coolly and turned around to head to the library. That was so typical for Ty Lee. Almost hearing her sing-song Azula was talking to herself, impersonating the acrobat "Why sure you can have my make-up. Just come in, I'll just be in the library, ok? Feel like home." She sighted, having to cross the whole palace to the other side again.

The library was a truly marvelous collection of ancient scrolls and books. It held some of the rarest pieces in the world and was, with the exception of Wan Shi Tong's Library, the most extensive library in existence. Its shelves stretched around a round central piece like a star and were sorted in categories. A huge glass cupola provided enough light for the room

When Azula opened the door to the library she felt like something was off. It was almost silent. A strange kind of silence, with just the hint of a noise in the room, so silent one would easily overhear it. She walked a few steps into the middle of the round reading-compartment that defined the center of the star and listened carefully. Azula definitely heard something, almost inaudible. A sound which she was sure did not belong in a library. She listened carefully and stepped closer towards the direction the sound was most likely coming from.

From where Azula was standing she could not make out what the sound exactly was, but she was sure, it had nothing to do with books, or scrolls or anything paper-related. The princess picked up the scent now and followed the muffled sound into the library. Snooping through the tight aisles, the sound was getting more and more dominant. It was getting clearer and more distinctive with each step forwards. Something told Azula it might be a better idea to not search for the origin of the sound, but curiosity took the better of her. Ty Lee should be around here somewhere after all and she had to talk to her.

The princess changed aisle and immediately realized why the sound seemed like it was being hushed. The answer was just as easy as it was unexpected. It was hushed, because it got hushed.

Azula looked down the corridor formed by two shelves, crammed with books and scrolls, and where normally only paper should be, two things were added.

Apparently the princess could skip the trip to Mai today.

The gloomy girl was leaning to the left shelf, with Ty Lee pressed to her. Mais long skirt was lifted up and the acrobat had her hand pressed into Mais crotch, while the assassin was willingly spreading her legs for her lover. They were kissing passionately and Mais face blushed in a deep red. She was running her hands rather clumsily over Ty Lees body.

Azula could not help but smile, never in a thousand years had she thought her two best friends would ever find their way to each other. She had known about their affection for each other for a long time, but always chose to keep her mouth shut about it. Some things didn't concern her, even if she was the princess. She didn't use to be the person to discuss relationships with and from her current perspective she understood perfectly well, why no one ever brought this subject up in her presence. She didn't seem very understanding towards same sex relations at all. Though that was something she actually never opposed. Azula just didn't care at all. Whatever makes you happy, makes you happy. Easy as that. Not that she'd cared for the better part of her life.

Ty Lee was moving her hand softly back and forth and Mai was moaning into her mouth, hence the muffled strange noise Azula heard. It looked too cute what they were doing, because Mai was obviously very new to this and Ty Lee wasn't. For a second Azula thought about just leaving them, but her inner little devil took over against all reason, before she could walk away. Some things just had to be done, even if they were wrong.

Azula cleared her throat, but neither one of the two lovebirds heard her. So she did it again, this time very obvious. It worked, Ty Lee left Mais lips alone and turned her head towards the sound that should not have been there. Mai followed her now girlfriends look to see Azula standing in the aisle, watching. She was wearing her smug grin of doom again and Mai instantly felt like dying. She was still feeling Ty Lees gentle touch on her other lips. Holy spirits she was so infinitely embarrassed.

The acrobat was running on autopilot, she didn't realize she should have stopped drawing gentle circles over Mais nether regions.

"Ty..." Mai whispered blushing again, but Ty Lee didn't hear her, she was still staring at Azula. Where did she come from? Why was she smiling like a perv and why hadn't she exploded by now?

"Ty!" Mai tried to hiss, but is came out more as a moan. That at least got her the acrobats attention. Azula had to concentrate not to giggle right now, but that proved to be really hard. She felt the corners of her mouth twitching upwards and had to force them down again. This wasn't just really happening, was it? Mentally Azula was rolling on the floor, laughing her ass off.

"Could you please stop doing that in front of Azula" Mai asked, her voice was really wanton and just sounded extremely sexy, not only Ty Lee could hear it.

the flexible acrobat blinked, looking down to her hand still buried under Mais lifted skirt, back at her lovers face, to Azula, just to return to her hand. She repeated that two more times in quick succession before quickly detaching her from Mai, hiding her hand behind her back, while stepping back.

Azula couldn't help but giggle now. She felt so bad for interrupting, but her inner devil thought it would be funny. And it somehow was funny. For Azula. But she needed to take the awkwardness out of the situation. Ty Lee was even redder than Mai was and looked like she was about to storm off any second.

"Don't worry you two lovebirds. Aang did me in the sun-corridor yesterday, so that's ok. I'll leave you two to it. Just come and see me when you are done, I have a job for you." She winked at them playfully "have fun!" she said and meant it.

"You don't mind?" Mai wanted to know confused. She'd had taken any bet, that Azula would freak out any second.

"What? You two getting it on in my library?" Azula chuckled "No, not at all. As I said, just have fun. Oh, and just so you know: I am not sorry for interrupting, you should work on what to do with those pretty hands of yours, Mai" she winked teasingly at the assassin and left the two alone.

As she was walking away she heard someone crashing into a shelf, followed by another muffled moan. She laughed silently to herself, somebody was in dire need for attention.

Well at least now the two finally realized their own affection for each other. It had taken them forever. Suddenly it made sense what Aang was talking about, when he said Ty Lee needed relationship-advice. Seems like his advice isn't all the worst.

-/-

Aang was sitting in Zukos office. He was admiring the work the royal blacksmith has done. The necklace was awe-inspiring. While the back was made from the dark red dragon scale and had the symbols of both the watertribes as well as the firenation engraved into it, the front was made from the now immaculately polished glass-crystal. It allowed to see the narrow red frame the scale provided as well as a golden ring in the middle. The ring was meant for the pendant of Kataras current necklace, so the heirloom would always be with her. It could be clicked into the only slightly larger necklace from a port on the backside. Originally the inside of the pendant should have been filled with the spirit water.

"I have to say, I didn't think it would turn out that great" Aang said. Zuko laughed, watching his best friend study the necklace. Truly, it was a remarkable piece.

"Yeah, me neither. When you said you had just the thing for her, I didn't imagine it would look like this. I am forever in your debt for bringing me this. And everything you had to suffer through to acquire it" he said.

"Don't mention it." Aang said handing the necklace back to Zuko. "Sorry the spirit water is missing."

Zuko was shaking his head "Please, now that I know where to get it from I am sure we will work something out."

Now it was Aang shaking his head "Have you thought about your trip to the tribes? Your mother still wants you to ask Hakoda for permission, doesn't she?"

"Unfortunately so" Zuko confessed, he was putting the necklace back into the dark red wooden box it came in. "I'll be leaving in exactly two weeks." He didn't like the idea at all. Good thing he actually knew Hakoda a bit and genuinely liked him. Never the less Zuko had the nagging feeling Kataras father might not be all that excited to learn the firelord wants to marry the chiefs only daughter.

"What is it?" Aang asked. His best friend looked worried, he had been in a tense mood for some time now and Aang never found an opportunity to confront him with it.

"I don't know, it's just a bad feeling I guess" he forced himself to chuckle, as he stood up from the chair behind his desk and walked over to the large window. It provided a breathtaking view over Caldera. It was evening, and the sun was already sinking below the horizon, shimmering a dark yellow, almost orange light into the firelords office.

"You want company?" Aang asked. "I need to talk to Zula first, but maybe some moral support would help"

"You would come along?" Zuko wanted to know, looking over his shoulder to Aang.

"Sure, why not? But seal hunting is your job. We won't help you there, just so you know" the Avatar said. He could use a bit of time off the palace in peace this time. And Azula would surely want to come along again. At least he hoped she would. She would like the snow, he thought. Did she even ever see snow in her life?

"Agni, that's such a stupid tradition" Zuko complained. The time to tell the firelord was just as good as any other. Aang cleared his throat.

"You know, speaking about traditions. I don't want to upset you now, but..." Aang started.

"What is it?"

"Well I know I kind of disregarded yours yesterday... I asked Azula to marry me" he confessed. Zuko didn't really seem to be upset.

"You did?" Zuko asked with some excitement in his voice.

"Yeah. I mean, we had that conversation a long time ago and she said she would tell me when felt ready. Yesterday she did tell me. So I proposed to her" Aang was rubbing his thumbs together.

"Wait, You didn't have ring?" Zuko rose an eyebrow. He didn't give a rats ass about not being asked for permission. With Ozai locked away in prison for the rest of his days Zuko was officially the head of the family, but to be honest he had given his blessing to their relationship a few days after he had learned about it. Ozai would never see it that way, but luckily no one cared about how Ozai was seeing things anymore. Zuko was perfectly fine with it. Just as fine as he was with not being asked. This was their affair, not his.

What did seem a bit odd was proposing without a ring. Or a necklace, or any sign of the engagement.

"A ring? No. I had the betrothal bangles of Avatar Wan" he said and showed Zuko his dark silver jewelry on his wrist.

-/-

There was a knock on the door and Azula asked the knocker in. She was sitting on her couch flipping through the pages of a book, not really all that interested in it anyway. Just as the princess had expected it was Ty Lee followed by Mai who were entering the room.

"Had fun?" Azula asked playfully, not looking up from the book.

"Erm... yes?" Ty Lee tried. This was way to awkward.

"Who needed to get laid now?" she teased in remark of Mais comment more than a year earlier.

Mai rolled her eyes "Said the one who got tamed by the Avatar" she shot back with a slight smile on her lips. Ty Lee was really bringing emotions to life in Mai.

Azula closed the book and put it on the side table right next to the comfortable dark red couch. She had a genuine smile on her lips. "Listen girls. Let's get one thing out of the way right from the beginning. I do not judge you at all. You are happy, I am happy. It's absolutely fine with me, really. You don't need do act all ashamed around me now. To be honest with you, I have known for some time now, I just never said anything."

"You knew?" Mai asked, she was back to gloomy again.

"Of course. It seems you two were the only ones who did not realize" Azula was walking over to a desk she and Aang shared in their suite. The left side of drawers was hers, the right one his. She opened one and pulled out a dossier.

Mai and Ty Lee exchanged a look, and the acrobat magically hovered closer to Mai.

"And you are ok with it?" Ty Lee wondered.

Azula shrugged. "Sure, why wouldn't I? You two like pussy. Nothing wrong with it." she said bluntly. Ty Lee almost choked, hearing Azula not mincing matters.

"This is... unexpected." Mai sated. "But great" she pressed a kiss on Ty Lees cheek, the acrobat blushed slightly.

"Listen, let's keep snogging in mind for later, right now I have business to discuss with the two of you. Here take a seat." Azula pointed at two chairs standing in front of the desk. Mai and Ty Lee moved to sit down opposite to the princess.

"What can we do for you, Azula?" Ty Lee asked. Azula passed them the dossier she searched for earlier.

"What I am about to tell you is absolutely classified information and will under no circumstances ever leave this room. Understood?" Azulas friends nodded. "Good. We need instructors for a top secret military project. The IMIS. You will train recruits in all forms of non bending combat from chi-blocking to knife throwing. Whatever you see fit. Salary will be handsomely and you will get everything you need for it. Interested?"

-/-

two weeks later:

The royal airship was belayed on its port and was ready for departure. Today the firelord would head out to the south pole to ask Kataras father, Hakoda, for permission to marry his daughter. He was on edge the whole night, because his girlfriend didn't know anything about this. To her it was just some official responsibility he had to take care off. She didn't even know he was going to the south pole at all. Zuko never lied to Katara and he felt so bad having to do it now. To make things easier Zuko gifted her a week long holiday in one of the firenations best spa-resorts and he had invited Toph over to join her, so Katara would not be alone. Zuko really thought his plan through this time and was relatively sure his girl didn't have a clue. Should she suspect anything, she certainly didn't show it. Katara took Appa to pick up Toph and then head to the spa-resort yesterday.

A group of people was standing in front of the majestic airship, the loading-ramp was still lowered and the crew was preparing the last details for departure. Zuko was bringing some of the more difficult to obtain things to the tribe, he had asked Sokka to send him a list of all the stuff they would need. Some of the dock worker helped with loading the last containers of goods into the airship.

Aang managed to convince Azula into coming along for the trip to the south pole. She was reluctant at first, but he had some convincing arguments for her, well deserved holiday just being one of them.

"Have fun on your trip" Kiyi said hugging Azula, Aang and Zuko. In that order. Ursa was there to say goodbye as well, Ty Lee and Mai showed up, too. The sight of the two of them both in their brand-new black uniforms with silver detailing (which was now the color of non-bender) was, though really badass, a bit unfamiliar. Especially the vivid acrobat seemed so out of place in the dark and rather threatening getup. Mai on the other hand... well dark was her color, wasn't it?

"Ty Lee, one more thing" Azula said and walked over to her friend. She had introduced her to Kiyi the evening after they discussed the training-program and just like she expected things to go down, the two liked each other very much. Ty Lee couldn't get enough of the young girl and Kiyi already had found yet another aunty to add to the family. Someday Azula had to explain the concept of uncles and aunts to Kiyi, but as long as she liked adding family-members Azula could live with, she was ok with it. "You know Kiyi wants to learn some of your acrobatics, right?"

Ty Lee smiled nodding. "Sure, she didn't talk about anything else for the last weeks! I hope I can show here something with that new job you got me into!" she smiled widely. Ty Lee was actually really looking forward to the position as an instructor. It was something she never did and bossing people around to her own liking sounded like a lot of fun.

"I am sure you will. They are soldiers not infants, you won't have to spend every wake minute with them." Azula explained. She was curious how things would turn out, either she would come back to find recruits on the brink of mental breakdown from being bossed around all day or she would find them sitting around drinking tea while wearing pink pajamas. "While I am gone, you can use the training schedule I created for her firebending training, ok?"

"Sure, sounds great!" Ty Lee smiled.

"Alright. And Ty Lee?" Azula was ticking points on her mental checklist.

"Yes?"

"Don't you snog Mai in front of her, ok? She is six, she won't understand yet" Azula looked almost worried and Ty Lee giggled "Azula, I will take good care of her, ok? We will only train for a few hours a day, I won't make out with Mai in front of her and I also won't turn her into a lesbian, promised! She will mostly be in school or with her mother, so don't you worry about it!"

"Oh agni, school starts as well. I won't be here when she attends the first time. What if she needs me?" Azula mused

Ty Lee had to laugh "Azula! She is your sister! Not your daughter! She will do just fine, just look at her! She is the miniature version of you, just without that nasty sadism of yours" she teased turning Azula around on her shoulders and pushing her towards the airship. "You have enough time to worry about those things once you are a mommy. No go and enjoy your vacation!"

"Ty Lee?" Azula turned around again.

"Yes?"

"Don't you dare getting her in trouble" Azula suddenly had her serious voice enabled, but Ty Lee chose to ignore it.

"Azula, off you go now! They are waiting" She pointed towards the open loading-ramp.

Azula looked back one last time before boarding the royal airship, and saw Kiyi waving, so she waved back. If not for Aang, Azula would have stayed. But she really did understand why he wanted her to come along. On the one hand, it would most likely be great fun, on the other hand, she wouldn't want to listen to Zukos whining all day on her own either. And there was the promise of certain things one could do to pass time more quickly, which required a partner.

"What took you so long?" The firelord asked, eying Azula as the loading-ramp was being closed and the airship prepared to launch.

"I had to take care of unfinished business" Azula stated coolly.

"Miss Overprotective had to make sure Ty Lee won't turn Kiyi into a pink loving, cartwheel turning, overly joyful lesbian" Aang translated dryly. Azula smacked her fiancé on the head, while Zuko almost lost his balance and not because the royal airship was lifting off.

"What?!" he asked confused.

Azula rolled her eyes. Seriously, it wasn't like in the past two weeks most of the palace learned about the intimate relationship between the two girls. There were only a few people who didn't know by now. Mais parents being the only ones Aang was aware of. Apparently Zuko didn't know either. Even Zukos bodyguards knew by now. It was just so obvious. That and Ty Lee might have been unable to keep her mouth shut about it in front of the Kyoshi warriors.

"Ty Lee and Mai are together. I just told Ty Lee not to make out with her girl in front of Kiyi. That's hardly overly protective" Azula stated dryly. She knew Ty Lee since they were barely able to walk, you always had to tell her the obvious stuff.

"Ohh, you are such a softie" Aang teased his fiancée. Zuko just turned to head up into the airship.

"Seriously?!" he exclaimed being followed by his sister and her fiancé.

"What, don't tell me you never noticed the sparkling tension between the two. The last weeks it was basically visible with the naked eye"

Zuko just grimaced. "You do realize I am the firelord, yes? There are some minor issues that need my attention from time to time, but nothing important. Sure I noticed Ty Lee and Mai fall in love with each other, how could I miss that?" he quite possibly never sounded so sarcastically ever before and it is safe to assume he wouldn't ever again, at least not in the foreseeable future.

"Azula, I am drowning in work, I hardly find the time to propose to the love of my life in a halfway decent way and you ask if I noticed pinky and madam gloomy going from gay-ish to full steam lesbian? How should I know? I have to arrange the trials for Fongs former soldiers, for all the accomplices who were somehow involved into that gigantic mess that was Aangs capture and for all those who are deemed innocent to be transfered to the earth kingdom. Speaking of which, I have to keep King Kuei at bay who is still going crazy over Yu Dao, even if that should have been settled like a decade ago. I have to fend off request after request after request to hand you" He pointed his finger at his sister "Over to the earth kingdom, so they can charge you with war crimes and whatever else they can come up with, just to have you executed, because those stupid knuckleheads just don't understand the meaning of 'changed sides before the war ended' and 'girlfriend of the Avatar'. And they apparently don't seem to realize what happened to the last unlucky bastard who tried and do something to you, either. So of course, being the armada of completely retarded nutjobs they are, they keep trying their luck for whatever reason. Apparently they are pissed you managed to take down their precious Ba Sing Se with three people, because otherwise that would make no sense whatsoever."

Azula wanted to remark that it indeed was an excellently planned, prepared and implemented operation. She was proud of it herself. Zuko didn't let her come to word, though. "But that's not enough, no. I have a massive household deficit do compensate for, because everyone seems to want a piece of firenation money-cake after the war and I have to somehow keep taxes at a tolerable level while not busting our funds completely. I have like a million problems, and in that list even my girlfriend is ranked so far down, I am ashamed to even mention it. Do you actually think I have even seen Ty Lee or Mai for the last couple of months, apart from the two minutes I ordered them to Kyoshi-Island? Let me answer that for you: No. I didn't" Zuko just exploded.

Azula looked at him, he was still breathing heavily. She knew he had a lot to do, but she somehow thought he might talk about this with Katara. Apparently he preferred to let it all eat into him. She rose an eyebrow "Feel better now?" she asked.

"Yes." he sighted. Maybe a week off running though the wilderness would do him some good after all "I need a drink" he muttered.

-/-

Chapter Text

The view over the south poles landscape was stunning. Azula had her long legs in Aangs lap, while gazing out of the large windows of the airship into the endless white. The winter-wonderland was just amazing, a whole different world and Azula was merely looking out of the window. She could not wait to finally get out there and experience the feel of snow and ice for the first time. Never in her life had she been anywhere remotely cold enough for the breathtakingly beautiful white powder. The landscape below was an inhospitable, rough ice-desert, with some wide, dark blue crevasses spread between chippy rocks of ice. It had a cruel beauty, which Azula found so intriguing.

It was well worth the couple of days she had been locked in that airship now. Her fiancé had to work some special extra hours to keep her distracted from the oppressive narrowness of the ship. Not that he really minded, but he was getting a bit sore by now.

Aang was giving her a phantasmagoric foot-massage, which his fiancée was enjoying very much. She reached over to a plate of cookies and began to feed him one, so he would not have to take his warm and gentle hands away from her feet.

Zuko was standing not too far away from the dark red sofa Aang and Azula were sitting on. He was also looking out of the windows, his arms crossed behind his back. For quite some time now, he hadn't said a word and just looked out into the endless white, as if he tried to count the fluffy big snow-flakes, which were gently gliding to the ground. The glass of very much necessary scotch helped to calm him down a bit. He wasn't usually the one to drink, so the alcohol had a very relaxing effect on him.

Just as Azula wanted to tease him with his almost Mai-like gloominess, the heavy metal door into the observation-room got pulled open with an almost painful squeal.

"Excuse the interruption, Zuko, but we are preparing for landing procedures. ETA in three minutes"

The firelord looked over his shoulder, nodding once.

"Thank you Suki." he said. "I will join you in the hold in a minute"

Suki nodded and turned to leave.

"And Suki?" Zuko added, causing the Kyoshi-warrior to halt.

"Just so we are clear. As soon as we leave this airship you are relieved from duty until further notice. You have orders to go and spend as much time with your boyfriend as possible. I don't want to see you around me, am I understood?" he ordered her to spend time with Sokka. Suki was very conscientious and Zuko knew full well, she would probably not spend all that much time around Sokka when still on duty. He gave her a gentle smile.

"But..." Suki began, she would love to, but her job! She was the personal bodyguard of the firelord. Her duty was to accompany him wherever it was he went. Even within the safe walls of the palace she was following him around most of the time. With some exceptions, of course, like the sparring or in his private chambers, obviously. But when in court she would always be around, together with a team of three other warriors.

"No discussion, Suki. This is the southern watertribe, no one will harm me here, except for the cold maybe. I should have sent you away on vacation for some time ago, but I always forgot. I do have to make up for that, don't I?"

She returned Zukos smile a thousand times wider. "Thank you, Lord Zuko" she said and bowed to him, before rushing off.

It's not like Suki wasn't looking forward to it. It was true, she hadn't seen Sokka in a while after he left to run the tribe with his father and vacation has been some time ago as well. But she loved her job and Zuko was covered with work enough for two firelords, she understood he forgot about her vacation.

Azula was watching the scene with her trademark smirk on her lips. She wasn't sure if he sent Suki away to her boyfriend to do something nice for her, or if he just didn't want her to see how miserable he would do while hunting seals. The princess was reasonable sure he would be of no use in it.

"The firelord is ordering his bodyguard to spend time with her boyfriend and yet you call me the softie?" Azula asked Aang rising an eyebrow.

"Apparently there are two now" he teased, while gently pinching her calf, causing her to shriek.

-/-

"Sokka! Sokka! Sokka!" a young boy running towards the warrior screamed. "Come quick!" he panted, pulling on Sokkas sleeve.

"What is it?" he asked, when suddenly the tolling of an alarm-bell banged over the village. Sokka immediately sprinted towards the watchtower on one corner of the village. He was crossing men running towards the armory and some already returning. What the hell was going on here? He quickly climbed the tower and looked out for anything which could have prompted someone to toll the bells. He didn't spot the issue immediately, but to his far left he finally saw what was causing the commotion.

"Give me that telescope" he said to another soldier, a few years younger than him. He handed Sokka the device, lying on a tray.

Magnified a few times, Sokka recognized the airship immediately. It bore the royal firenation insignia all over the hull and its bow was bright golden. This had to be Zuko.

"Give the all-clear-signal!" he ordered, handing the telescope back, before leaving the tower again.

He barely touched the ground when his father was approaching him, he was trying to dress in his armor while walking. By the time he got to his son, he had successfully put on maybe short of half the armor-plates. Obviously the bell woke him up from his nap, before he came rushed to see what was happening.

"What the hell is going on, Sokka?" he asked, visibly pissed, while he tightened the loops on his vambraces.

"False alarm, dad. It's Zuko, his airship apparently scared the officer of the guard" he shrugged, maybe they should have told someone that Zuko would stop by. The peace with the firenation still hadn't sunken into the minds of most people, despite the passed year.

"Zuko? He isn't supposed to arrive for another two days" Hakoda replied, scratching his head.

"Well, I know, but it has to be him. It's the royal airship. I already ordered the all-clear-signal to be given"

-/-

"What the...?" Aang asked, more to himself than to anyone else. The airship has landed in a large enough spot in the middle of the village, the loading-ramp was already lowered and the board-personal had begun to unload the cargo. The first thing Aang noticed upon leaving the gentle giant of the clouds was the hectic ado the people of the village were in. Most of the men were wearing their armor, some were currently stripping out of it and a few already got rid of it. It looked liked general mobilization was in full progress, when suddenly someone stopped it in the middle of preparation.

He looked over to Zuko, who just shrugged. "I don't know" he replied as he was walking down the airships ramp. His sister and Aang followed him. It was pretty obvious most citizens of the watertribe were not used to the firenation at all. The looks they got were almost hostile, like a deep buried hatred was superficially covered, because someone said it would be necessary.

Azula did notice, of course, but she didn't really care. She was way to mesmerized with that wonderful white stuff that was snow. She set her foot on the floor and it made a scrunching noise. This was great on so many different levels, it felt so very unfamiliar compared to standing on earth, but it was great. She resisted the urge do just pick some of the snow up, mainly because that would look extra stupid for a princess to do first thing off an airship. Aang shot her a smirk, he wasn't really surprised to learn that his fiancée never saw snow in her life before.

"Sorry for the chaos" a familiar voice said out of the crowd, just a moment before Sokka and his father stepped into sight. "You gave us a good scare" he chuckled

"Yeah, we were wondering..." Zuko replied with a smile on his lips.

"Well, you are a bit early" Hakoda laughed.

"Indeed we are." Zuko replied "Chief Hakoda, we need to discuss something of grave importance. Can we talk somewhere in private?" Zuko suddenly got serious and the chief just nodded.

"Follow me" he said. A few moments later he and the firelord were gone, leaving Aang, Azula and Sokka behind.

"To be perfectly honest with you, I didn't exactly expect him to go straight to business" Sokka said, stroking his chin. Azula smirked her famous grin of doom.

"You see your sister as business? Interesting" she said coolly.

"What?! No, I..." Sokka stopped himself "You are a terrible person, princess" he said.

"People keep telling me" she replied. "But why don't you go inside our ship, Zuko brought some more business for you along" Azula was really good in grinding Sokkas gears.

"Relax, Sokka. It's Suki, she is somewhere in the airship, coordinating spirits-know what." Aang resolved and pointed into the huge metal stomach of the vessel.

"SUKI!" Sokka exclaimed and bombed off.

"Well, that leaves the two of us" Aang shrugged. "Come, I'll show you around"

While Zuko was about to ask Hakoda for his daughters hand, Aang was showing Azula the village. Since most of the men returned from war, it had grown quite a bit. Sure, it was nowhere near as large as the northern tribe, but at least it now reassembled more a small city than a tiny village. To be honest, it was really cozy, despite the cold. While igloos still made up the largest portion of buildings, there were larger structures as well. For example a town hall, where all communal affairs were discussed.

Azula really liked the architecture of nothing but snow and ice. It was simple and yet so elegant. The modest forms without any scrollwork to them seemed so pure, it was truly beautiful. Not that blue was even remotely her color, but this was simply great. And it was all made from nothing but frozen water and snow. Even despite her hate for water, ice had something fascinating about it. The princess just ignored the fact that it was basically just very cold water. She was able to stand on it, so it was fine with her.

Just as she wanted to ask Aang if they could walk a bit away from the village so she could finally touch the cold powder, Aangs face suddenly turned white. Someone tossed a snowball straight into his face. The distinct smack of snow against skin was followed by child-laughter. A group of kids came running towards Aang and Azula.

"Aang!" they exclaimed wildly jumbled. He knew the kids a bit. When Katara and Sokka brought him to the tribe the first time after he was freed from his ice-sarcophagus, he played with the kids, who didn't really like Sokkas war-training all that much. They wanted to have good old fun and Aang was just the man for that.

"Will we build a snowman?" one asked eagerly.

"Can we have a snowball-fight?" a girl wanted to know, her enthusiasm not shorter than anyone else's.

"Where is Appa?" another asked. They were all just asking things simultaneously, causing Aang to laugh, he had lost track of who asked what pretty quickly. Those were the only three questions he was reasonable sure he understood correctly.

"Slow, slow. It's good to see you all again." Aang said "one after another"

"You get that a lot, don't you?" Azula whispered.

"Oh, you have no idea" he replied with a smile. "So. Who wants to build a snowman?" he asked, the kids cheered loudly. They basically all wanted to. "Alright! Let's go!" he said and followed the crowd of kids to their playground. It was basically a huge empty fields with lots of snow. It had artificial snow-hills and some trenches to hide in. This had to be the best place for kids to romp around in, ever. If Aang would have been a couple of years younger, he would have loved to play here as well.

"Who is your friend, Aang?" a girl and a boy wanted to know. They seemed like siblings.

"I'm Azula" the princess said with a soft smile. The kids looked at her, gulped and looked straight back to Aang.

"Why does she look so scary?" the girl wanted to know. Aang gave his girl a look.

"I told you, wearing that armor is not a very good idea" he whispered.

"Hey! I love my armor, it is comfy, it has lots of pockets, it's stylish, is reasonable warm and I feel safe with it" she defended her beloved protection. It was a great piece of craftsmanship. Very lightweight and extremely durable, Azula got so used to wearing it that she found it difficult to dress in anything else whenever on a mission or something alike. Aang just rolled his eyes, this was so very Azula.

"Yeah, and it scares kids" he added, before crouching down to the siblings laughing softly. "Oh she doesn't look scary" he said. "She is just a bit insecure. You know, Azula has never built a snowman before and things she does not know always make her a little uneasy" he explained whispering. Azula pretended not to hear, what Aang was saying to the kids. They eyed her again with a suspicious look. To them never having built a snowman was just plain odd.

"You never built a snowman before?" the boy asked in disbelieve. Azula shook her head

"No, I haven't. Today is the first time I have even seen snow." she admitted

The siblings exchanged a look, as if they'd be contemplating something in silence. "Come on, we will show you!" they said at the same time. "It's fun!" the girl grabbed Azulas hand and raced off with her. Apparently Aangs explanation why Azula was looking a bit scary had worked just fine.

And so it came to be that suddenly all the kids wanted to show Azula what various fun things could be done with snow and Aang just got to watch. He could basically hear Katara like she'd stand right beside him, saying just how great a mother Azula would one day be. Aang could not wait for it, he was really looking forward to having kids someday.

He watched as his princess heated up the arm of a snowman, so it would stick to its body. The kids were amazed and asked her if she was a waterbender. She laughed and told them, her element wasn't water, but fire. The kids were fascinated as she showed them a small sapphire flame in her hand, before continuing to built the snowman together.

Aang could not stop grinning, until suddenly his face turned white once again. He wiped the snow away to see Azula standing a few meters away from him with a mischievous smirk. She cleaned her hands by clapping them together two times and crossed them over her chest. The kids were all standing behind her, facing Aang. They looked like a army of miniature soldiers, it was really cute. At least at first.

"I think I have some candy for the one of you, who brings me the Avatar!" Zula exclaimed pointing at him. Aang opened his eyes wide, as the horde of children came rushing towards him, tossing snowballs with deadly precision, while yelling not identifiable words. Aang just started to run. They all laughed and giggled as they chased him around the playground. Azula had great fun watching, as Aang was trying to evade and avoid all the snowballs being tossed at him.

"I hate you, Zula!" Aang exclaimed, dodging one snowball after another.

"I love you, too, Avatar" she replied.

-/-

"I have to express my gratitude for all the goods you brought so generously along" Hakoda said, sitting down next to a table in his office within the city hall. "They aren't exactly easy to come by here" he added. Zuko was running back and forth.

"Anytime" he said nervously. At the moment he didn't give a rats ass about the goods. It was just a small gift. Nothing all that great. His mind was somewhere else and Zuko had no idea how to address this properly.

"Something is bothering you, isn't it? Spit it out, son" Hakoda encouraged.

Zuko cleared his throat. Sometime he had to say it anyway. So he could do it right now. Damn, why was this so difficult to him? He loved Katara more than anyone or anything else in the world. He shouldn't have any trouble asking for her hand. But it was a nagging doubt Hakoda would not be overly joyful of his daughter marrying the firelord. This and he also wasn't really looking forward to seal hunting. He actually quite liked seals. "You know that your daughter and me have been a couple for quite some time now, don't you?"

"Of course. She writes me about it in every letter I get" Hakoda replied. It was true, Katara always told him how happy she was with Zuko and that her life was infinitely better than she would have ever dreamt it could one day be.

Zuko nodded, he of course knew that his girlfriend wrote her family about her relationship. Though, he had no idea what it was she wrote exactly. But judging from the smile she always had on her lips when writing, the things Katara told her family had to be positive thoughts or memories.

"I want you to know, that she is the best thing that ever happened in my life. There is nothing I would not do for her. She is my whole world, my safe haven, my most trusted advisor, my everything. She makes me so infinitely happy and I do think I also make her very happy. At least I try my best to do so." Zuko said. He had repeated this sentence so many times on the trip to the south pole, he actually lost count how often it was exactly.

Hakoda had a gentle smile on his lips. He could see how nervous the firelord was and he was also pretty sure where he was heading with his speech. But he didn't interrupt.

"To me there is only one person I'd want to spend my life with and she seems to feel the same way about me. I have talked to your son about the traditions of the watertribes concerning the topic I want to discuss with you. Chief Hakoda, I humbly wish to ask your daughters hand in marriage. When I understood correctly, it is custom to let this request being followed by a specific challenge. Would you do me the honor of accepting my challenge to seal-hunting and subsequently agree to my proposal to Katara, should I be able to acquire more seal-skin than you?" Zuko had to catch his breath. This was probably the hardest request or proposal he had ever given. Normally he was used to speeches in court, but this was so very personal. He felt his heart beat in his neck, which was extremely unnerving. Calm down, Zuko. It is just her dad. You freed him from prison, didn't you?

Hakoda chuckled softly "You asked Sokka about our traditions?" he asked.

"Why of course! Why would I not?" Zuko was confused.

"So he told you about the seal-hunting tradition if you want to marry the chiefs daughter?"

"Yes, he did" Zuko confirmed. If Sokka had been messing with him, he would have his head on a pike.

Hakoda laughed now. "First of all, Zuko, I have to admit that I am incredibly impressed by the way you brought that forward. It was very honorable. And of course I will allow you to marry my daughter, should she want you."

"I hear a but around the corner."

"But... The seal-hunting, while being tradition, wasn't seriously done in quite some time now. This and you won't even become chief of the tribe." Hakoda said kindly. Zuko frowned confused, this was starting to get very different from how he expected it to be.

"Soooo... no seal hunting?" The firelord asked.

"Well, we could do it just for the traditions sake. Just for fun, not for my permission to your marriage. How does this sound? We still need meat for the upcoming winter, after all" Hakoda suggested. He didn't expect Sokka to chew this ancient tradition back up. He wondered where his son even knew from.

"Sounds great to me. I have to admit, I was really worried about that. My hunting is... rather unspectacular"

"I can imagine. Why don't you and your friends join us for dinner tonight and we celebrate a little before we go out hunting tomorrow morning?"

"We'd love to."

-/-

Dinner was something very special for the tribe. Normally large banquets were only held during very special occasions. Today apparently one of this occasions had to be the reason for the dinner in the city hall on a long table, with everyone seated around it. Not a lot of people knew the reason for sure, but it was rumored that the firelord asked the chief for his daughters hand.

Hakoda presided at the head of table, with Zuko to his left and Aang to his right. Besides Aang was Azula and after her Kataras grandmother, with Pakku following. On Zukos side Sokka followed with Suki next to him. The other people where citizens of the tribe or personal of the airship, who all were invited to come along.

Food was a very traditional watertribe dish. Steamed seaweed with fried whale-skin sounded disgusting on so many levels, but was actually quite tasty. Especially the whale-skin had an interesting texture and Azula really liked the taste. It wasn't fishy at all but more like some extremely tender blend of komodo-rhino and pig-chicken. She was loving it.

Aang of course only had the seaweed, being a vegetarian and everything. He also liked it very much, despite its rather slimy appearance.

"You don't eat meat at all?" Hakoda asked. To survive in the cold for longer periods of time the kitchen tended to be a bit on the fatty side.

"No. Nothing that once lived." Aang replied with a smile. He didn't get asked about it all that often. Most people didn't even notice.

"Why is that?" Hakoda wanted to know. He didn't know a single vegetarian, except the Avatar.

"The air-nomads believed all life is sacred. So a lot of us chose to be vegetarians to value the life of animals equally to the life of humans. It was a spiritual choice." Aang explained.

"Impressive. So you never have eaten anything with meat?"

"No, not that I can remember." Aang confirmed.

Zuko saw his sister was up to no good, when her smirk turned into the smirk of doom. "Well, he does like some cat from time to time" she stated coolly, but not very loudly. Kanna got the implication and was laughing into her hand, she might have been old, but she surely wasn't prude.

Zuko almost chocked on his whale-skin. His sister was incorrigible, why did he even bring her along?

Aang just turned a very deep shade of red.

Sokka blinked, he didn't understand. "What? since when do you eat cats? Like.. roasted or..." he was confused.

Suki was pressing her hand to her mouth so she wouldn't laugh loud. Her boyfriend was an eternal airhead.

"You have chosen a good girlfriend, Avatar Aang" Kanna, or gran-gran like everyone called her, said to Aang, who still hadn't regained his normal color. She liked the princess very much, her mix of seriousness and usually dry, but occasionally pretty dirty humor was just great. And while Aang would normally agree without hesitation, he was just ashamed at the moment.

"No seriously Aang, what does she mean? Cats?" Sokka asked confused. He didn't really make it any better for Aang.

"Sokka" Suki giggled. "Azula wasn't talking about animals" she said, pressing a quick kiss on his cheek.

"What? What was she..." he stopped himself to look at Aang, still red as fire and to Azula, who was softly touching Aangs lower arm, smirking mischievously. At least his penny dropped. "I am such an idiot" he said ashamed.

"Precisely" Azula replied.

"I am terribly sorry for my sister" Zuko apologized to Hakoda, who was just shaking his head.

"Don't you worry about it. I raised a girl and a boy, we are used to this, aren't we?"

"Dad, stop it!" Sokka exclaimed. Hakoda just laughed, but decided to change the topic.

"Zuko, before I forget it. You can bring someone along for tomorrow. Bato will accompany me, so you can of course bring support, too" he said.

Zuko looked at Aang, who was just shoving some seaweed in his mouth, but suddenly stopped to raise an eyebrow.

"Don't even think about it" he mumbled with his mouth full of green slime, before he swallowed it. "I don't eat meat, you can't reasonable expect me to hunt animals for fun."

Zuko frowned and moved his gaze one step to Aangs right. Azula just looked between Aang and Zuko back and forth.

"You gotta be kidding me?"

-/-

"I can't believe I actually agreed to this" Azula complained, lying on her stomach in the cold snow, peeking over the ledge of a ice-dune. Down below them on a flat ice floe a colony of seals were currently sunbathing.

"C'mon, it's not that bad. This will be fun" Zuko said. Azula just sighted heavily.

"While you may have experience with those silly swords of yours, I do not." she repositioned the lance on her side a bit "You should have asked your bodyguard to come along"

"No, I promised her vacation." Zuko stated.

"Great, so what about my vacation? I'd like to shag my fiancé the whole day as well"

"Thank you for that insight, Azula. As always it was much appreciated"

"Oh don't you act all prude. You aren't fourteen anymore." Azula teased. It was always great fun to tease Zuko with this kind of stuff. She had no idea why he had such difficulties talking about something so natural.

"Right, whatever. How about we concentrate on the task at hand?" Zuko suggested, he was getting a bit cross.

"As you wish, firelord. So, please tell me your cunning battle plan." Azula didn't stop teasing. "I don't suppose we can blow the whole colony up?"

"Well at least you ask now, instead of just doing it."

"Yes, yes, I can behave if I want to. So. How do Hakoda and Bato do these things?"

"If I knew, I'd tell you."

"So you have no idea yourself?" Azula asked, and Zuko just shook his head. It's not like he actually wanted to hunt seals, they were just so cute.

"Alright" Azula had heard enough and got up, she left her lance behind as she slid down the other side of the ice-dune towards the seals, who were now curiously watching that strange thing approaching them. She would not wait in that perishing cold until she'd be frozen to the ground for Zuko to come up with a plan, which would most likely be rubbish anyway. The tribe needed seals to eat them. She had no problems providing them.

"Azula!" Zuko tried to stop her, but she was already gone. He shook his head and followed her down the dune.

A few miles away from where Zuko and his sister were currently hunting seals, Bato and Hakoda did the same. Or to be more precise, they were already done. It had been a good day for the two, who managed to cull five exemplary large seal-bulls. But now the other members of the seal- pod were to alarmed for the skilled hunters to continue their venery. It was a successful raid, the caught seals would feed the tribe for a couple of weeks until they'd need to move out into the forbidding wilderness again. Bato was tying the rear fins of two seals together, while Hakoda was fixing another pair to their dog-sledge. The prey would be towed behind the sledge.

"How do you think the greenhorns are doing?" Bato asked. He was genuinely interested, because on the one hand he took Zuko for one who would just lack the necessary determination for a hunter. On the other hand, he had difficulties with his sister. She had something about her, which made Bato wonder. Maybe it was that almost evil glare she had in her unnatural golden glowing eyes.

The chief had similar thoughts, though he knew Zuko a little and at least talked to Azula once before they arrived at the tribe (this, and he had the dubious honor to witness her in combat first hand). Also his son had told him this or that about the two of them. So Hakoda actually had more to base his opinion on than assumptions and hunches. "Well, I don't know about Zuko, he always seemed a little bit too hasty and edgy to succeed in hunting. But his sister on the other hand..." Hakoda stroked his chin.

"Have you seen her fight?" Bato asked. He imagined the princess like someone who makes short work of anyone opposing her, it's not like he hadn't heard stories.

"I damn have. She isn't exactly what you'd call squeamish." Hakoda shook his head. He did get to experience an example of Azulas combat style during the escape from the boiling rock. It wasn't until quite a time later that he found out the princess was at the time actually on the same side with him. He didn't notice at the time that she obviously had to be holding back and even then she was absolutely deadly. Even he as an experienced and battle-proven soldier and warrior had to admit, that Azula was very well and with almost ridiculously little effort capable of inducing fear among her enemies.

"Yeah, I heard she took down Ba-Sing-Se with only two more people." Bato tossed in, but sounded like he didn't actually believe it.

"She did." Hakoda confirmed, while he tested one of the two knots strength on the sledge. "Yet this was probably her cleanest coup. Have you ever heard of Ku-Roah?" he asked before moving on to the other knot. Four of the five bulls were now tied to the sledge, the fifth still had to be loaded on the dog-powered vehicle.

"Ku-Roah? Rings a bell, but I don't really know." Bato shrugged, while he was dragging the smallest bull to the side of the sledge, so they could load him onto it together.

"Ku-Roah used to be a city in the earth kingdom. A few years ago, the firenation conquered it fast and with very little effort and established their usual system. But the citizens weren't all that happy with their new masters. A few month passed and some day there was an uprising. Contrary to their defense during the siege, the uprising was both very well planned and carried out. They retook the city in a matter of days. The firelord obviously didn't like the news from Ku-Roah, so he sent his daughter to take care of matters. She cleaned up the mess. The casualty figures were astronomical, she wiped the whole city out of existence. Only very few were able to escape the inferno she mounted. She even had those who surrendered executed. It was the last time a uprising occurred in a conquered city. It was a hell of a message" Hakoda told the quick sum up of the events that occurred in Ku-Roah.

"So we were having dinner with a mass murdering, yet deadly gorgeous killer?" Bato asked dryly.

"Well. I do trust the Avatar in that matter. She did seem different to all the stories you hear." Hakoda shrugged. They all knew what the princess did to rescue the Avatar from his captivity. Though the royal family tried their best to cover up the story, once word reached the public it spread like a wildfire.

"And I trust in your decision for that matter" Bato shrugged. As long as Azula wouldn't threaten anyone of his people, he didn't really care what she did in the past. People can and will change from time to time. Everyone deserves a chance to do just that. He had needed his second chance as well, some embarrassingly long years ago. Who was he to judge?

"Let's just get back to village and see how they did" Hakoda decided

-/-

Ty Lee was just returning from one of the first training-lessons she was teaching to the IMIS-agents, together with Mai. They had two separate classes, which they would teach in turns. One day the one would teach class A, and the other class B, the next day it was the other way round. The last couple of days have been rather interesting for both the acrobat as well as the gloomy assassin. The soldiers and agents of the intelligence service were not a bit how Ty Lee expected them to be. Somehow she thought they might be a bit more... individual. But they weren't. Whenever she said something should be done this way or that way, they did it exactly like it. It wasn't at all how she prepared her lessons and she had the nagging doubt her ideas might not be the ideal way of teaching them anything.

Mai on the other hand seemed to be doing a lot better. In comparison to Ty Lees method, the ever so gloomy woman was more of the untouchable drill- instructor. She was leading them with an iron fist, which might have had a bit of resemblance with Azulas methods. Mai might also have copied that a little. But it was working way better than what Ty Lee was doing. The acrobat would change her approach tomorrow. Apparently soldiers needed orders barked at them in order to learn. Who would have guessed?

"Something is bugging you, Ty" Mai said, while the two were walking down a beautiful pergola on one side of the royal gardens.

"It's nothing. Just thinking about training." Ty Lee shrugged "I think I have to toughen up on them. Though I don't like the idea. They are humans after all, aren't they?"

"Don't worry about it. They are first and foremost elite soldiers. The best of the best. You need to be tough with them, so they will outgrow themselves. One day they might find themselves stuck in a situation where normal men would break. But they might just say 'Hell, this is nothing compared to that shit Ty Lee did to us!' It's for their own best." Mai said, she even disguised her voice to sound like a grumpy old soldier in that last part and smiled at her girlfriend. She never expected to be that happy one day. Things were going great.

"I guess you are right" Ty Lee replied giggling softly, Mai was always cheering her up when she needed it. When they were alone, the assassin lost most of her gloominess she was so well known for. It was their little secret.

Suddenly some flames of bended fire, coming from within the royal gardens, caught Ty Lees eye. There was also a voice and some yelling. Ty Lee recognized the voice immediately and she also knew full well, that something was wrong here. Very wrong.

"Do you hear that?" The acrobat asked.

"Sure, someone is bending" Mai shrugged, she didn't see the problem. People were bending all the time.

"Not someone. That's Kiyi, just listen." Ty Lee strained her ears.

"Possible. I don't know her all that good. Remember, you have to hide me from her." Mai replied. She didn't mind not knowing Kiyi that good. Kids made her really uncomfortable and Azula was probably right when she told Ty Lee to not go full lesbian in front of a child. "Why don't you go and check on her?" she asked. Ty Lee shot forward, and gave her girlfriend a passionate kiss, wrapping her arms around her.

"I love you" she said, pressing her lips to Mais once again, like a signature, before she left her standing.

"And I love you" Mai whispered, watching Ty Lee leave towards the bright orange fire periodically exploding in the gardens.

Ty Lee quickly found a gravel square surrounded by a beautifully trimmed box-hedge. In always the exact same distance light red roses were planted within the hedge. The scent was almost a little bit too sweet, but then again also so very flowery. One might have been able to find inner peace at a place like this, if not for the two people standing in the middle of the square.

One of them was a royal firebender, currently defending himself against an ferocious attack of the other person.

Which was Kiyi.

"What are you doing?!" Ty Lee exclaimed. The royal firebender spun around immediately, and Kiyi froze, obviously surprised of being busted.

"I beg your forgiveness, Ma'am, but Lady Kiyi asked for a training-partner." he stated. To him, he didn't do anything wrong. As the daughter of Ursa, the mother of the firelord, Kiyi had all right to give orders to the royal benders. He also heard of the training the youngest family-member did with her sister. So he thought it might be good for his bodily health to do what Kiyi asked of him. She didn't even order him like he expected her to do. She just asked him if he'd help her train a little since her sister was at the south pole. Had he known he shouldn't have done this, he of course would not have.

"You decided it was a good idea to train with a six year old?" Ty Lee hissed, Kiyi just stayed quiet.

"I am sorry, Ma'am, but Lady Kiyi mentioned she would normally train with her sister, who is currently not available. I didn't wish to upset princess Azula in any way." the bender replied. Ty Lee could not see his face through the mask, but he sounded genuinely sorry. At least she understood his motivation. If Ty Lee had thought she might upset Azula with anything by not doing this or that, she generally did it anyway, even if it was something the acrobat wasn't that comfortable with. Or at least that's how things used to go down, the princess had changed quite a bit. But Ty Lee didn't expect that change to have advanced into the ranks of ordinary guards.

"It's not your fault." she said. There was no point blaming a royal bender, who just did as he was told. "Dismissed!" she added.

"Ma'am." he said to Ty Lee before turning to Kiyi "Milady" The royal firebender bowed and left the square.

"Since when are you allowed to boss the royal firebenders around?" Kiyi hissed. It was so absolutely nothing like anything she ever said. The little girl was always happy and candid. She was basically smiling all day long. But not today, Ty Lee could see her dark grey and spiky aura, like a mix of Mais indifference, Zukos rage and Azulas cruelty. Ty Lee was shocked to see the young girl like this. What happened to her? This were feelings she had never seen in Kiyi before and though she didn't know her all that long, she knew from Aang and Azula that the girl was never in a bad mood.

"Well I am, but that's not important, is it?" Ty Lee replied firm, but not without her friendliness.

Kiyi just snorted. She was so very angry at the moment.

"I can see something is bothering you, isn't it?" Ty Lee crouched down to Kiyi.

"I'm fine" she spat.

"You don't look fine to me. Why don't you tell me and then we will get some ice-cream? Or do you want to train for a little bit?" Ty Lee suggested in her ever so happy demeanor. She was beginning to worry a little, but didn't show it.

"I said, I am fine" Kiyi shouted as reply, suddenly the formerly beautiful hedge behind her was on fire.

"KIYI!" Ty Lee screamed, pointing at the hedge. "That is surely not what Azula taught you. Bending fire is not attached emotion, she always sais that!" the IMIS-instructor admonished. Kiyi turned around to see the fire, she was startled to see the hedge was blazing fiercely, because she honestly didn't notice doing that. With a concentrated wave of her hand she put the flames out.

"When is Azula coming back, Ty Lee?" she asked feebly.

"In a couple of days." the acrobat replied, softly laying a hand on the little girls shoulder, who wasn't facing her. "What's going on Kiyi?"

"Nothing" she shook the soft hand off "I don't want to talk about it" and walked away from Ty Lee.

What the hell was this about? Ty Lee was baffled and just sat on the gravel in the middle of the square. She had no idea what to do. Maybe she should go and talk to Kiyis mother? Or should she wait for Azula to return? Kiyi did ask about her, didn't she? Spirits, Ty Lee had no idea what to do. So she got up and searched for Mai, to ask her what she would do.

-/-

"You are an airhead, Azula" Zuko complained.

"Why do you constantly have to nag about everything, Zuzu? They wanted seals, it's what they'll get" his sister shrugged. No one had said anything about how much. Also Azula failed to see how more food could be a bad thing in any way.

Zuko pointed towards the mountain of dead animals, stacking behind the sledge "I am fairly certain this is not what they had in mind. It was about hunting for food, not about committing genocide of the local seal-population!" he exclaimed.

"Details" Azula shrugged. "Besides, it's not like the tribe wasn't big enough to eat this. And the cold will conserve the seals nicely. Also genocide is a bit over the top, don't you think? Most of them got away, didn't they?" She really did not understand her brothers problem and it showed in her voice as well as on her face.

"It's not about that, sure they will probably eat it someday. It's about how you do things!" Zuko yelled.

"What's wrong with how I do things?" Azula asked innocently. Well she might actually understand a little bit where her method could have possibly been slightly over the top. But she wanted this to be over with. She wanted to get back to Aang (despite the fact that they were only apart for half a day or so.) and she was cold. Creating her own heat was just useless when she had to lurk through the snow the whole day.

"You can't just blow up a whole seal-colony with your lightning. Sure, it worked and I don't deny it. But that's not how this is supposed to work!"

"Well, then the way it's supposed to work is rubbish. This was quick, effective and got the job done. I don't see why you are making such a fuss about it. It's done now, we have successfully hunted seals. Now would you kindly tie our prey together and attach them to the sledge? Or do I really have to do all the work by myself?" she stemmed her hands to her hips.

Zuko frowned, but did as his sister told him. There was no use in taking that discussion further. Azula had a point and her merciless pragmatism was preventing her from seeing what Zuko wanted to tell her.

When they returned to the valley a couple of hours later, Bato and Hakoda had already arrived. They were currently sitting in the spacious main room of the town hall, celebrating the hunt. The men of the tribe were congratulating them on their successful raid, when Bato saw Zuko and Azula approaching them.

"I see the greenhorns have returned. You look beaten" He teased, even if they didn't really look beaten at all. Well at least Azula didn't. Her brother on the other hand... "How was your hunt? Caught anything?" the elder hunter wanted to know.

"Ah well, It was ok, I guess. How many did you get?" Azula asked and Aang, who was waiting together with Sokka and his father, immediately realized his girl was up to no good. She had that specific tone in her voice, which told him she was playing with her opponent. And Bato would probably stumble right into the trap. The princess glanced over to Aang, and winked at him for a short moment. Aang couldn't help but smile. He was curious what she had done this time.

"It was a good hunt. We caught five rather large bulls." He said proudly.

"Very impressive. Congratulations" Azula replied. Zuko didn't say anything, he was trying to come up with an excuse for his sisters misdeeds.

"Thank you, Princess" Hakoda said "But tell us, how many seals did you catch?"

Azula shrugged. "Why don't we go and you see for yourself? They are right in front of the hall" she suggested. At that Aang was at her side.

"You've been naughty haven't you?" he whispered into her ear, wrapping his right arm around her waist and pulling her close to him.

"maybe a little bit." She replied with a shifty grin. She watched Hakoda follow Bato out of the hall to the little square in front of it, where Zuko and Azula parked their sledge. And probably two dozen or so dead seals.

"SWEET HOLY MOTHER OF…" Bato screamed. He had hunted a lot so far and considered himself both skilled and experienced. But never in his life had he seen such a massive amount of dead prey. The fact that it was all on one pile and from no more than two people made it even more jaw-dropping.

Aang and Azula also stepped out into the cold and Aang was now also able to see that mountain of dead animals. "I am going to marry a lunatic" he stated dryly, before adding "You are just bonkers."

"Well we found a whole colony and I might have underestimated my lightning a little" Azula lied, she didn't even try to make it plausible. Aang knew her inside out.

"Ohh don't you even try." he laughed "You wanted to show off, didn't you?" Aang sussed her immediately. She would never underestimate her own powers ever. It would just not happen.

"Well…" Azula smiled in played the innocent little princess. Somehow Aang thought it was funny how he predicted Azula would blow up a colony of seals a few moth ago.

Zuko was at Hakodas side. "Chief Hakoda, I have to apologize for my sisters behavior. Her methods tend to be a little extreme. I am sorry she disrespected the ways and traditions of seal hunting in such a blunt manner" he said, but the chief was just laughing loudly.

"Nothing to be sorry about, son. This is great!" The work of long and exhausting months done in a couple of hours. Hell he would invite Azula to come over each season if this was the result.

"It is?" Zuko asked confused. Somehow he expected Hakoda to be really mad about this.

"Why sure it is!" The chief replied, he was always rather pragmatic and thought honoring traditions was fine as long as it didn't interfere with everyday's life. "This will cover our food supply for the whole winter!" He turned to Azula who was now just smiling like proudly. "Tell me princess, how did you do that?" he wanted to know, while Bato was poking the meat-mountain with a lance. He could not believe his own eyes.

"Well we stumbled upon a colony." She said. "From there on it was just a matter of producing enough lightning" she explained plainly.

"You tell me you killed 26 seals with a single blow?" Bato asked baffled

"Sure, the rest of the colony was bombing off faster than you can say Agni's name." Azula shrugged. It wasn't really that big of a deal. The whole thing was done and over within a couple of seconds.

"I officially retire" Bato said "You know I had my doubts about lots of the stories people tell about you. But not anymore." He added plainly.

Azula rose an eyebrow "I will try and take that as a compliment" she said.

"I am beginning to think I gave my daughter to the wrong sibling" Hakoda joked. Zukos face lost all color. Azula just laughed and reached out to Aang, to pull him into a hug.

"You…" Zuko stammered.

"Relax Zuko, he is joking." Aang said. "Despite, I could impromptu name at least three people who might have a problem with Hakodas plan"

This evening they all enjoyed dinner together once again, before The firelord and his friends had to return to their home. Suki said goodbye to Sokka, who promised to visit soon. It had been a nice couple of days for the friends, the south pole was just magnificent. Though Zuko felt a little awkward, everything turned out nicely. Now it was time for their journey back to the firenation, which would most likely take them a few days longer than they needed for their arrival. The winds weren't in their favor at all.

Aang was sitting in his room, which he was sharing with Azula, who was currently talking to her brother. The avatar made himself comfortable in a soft armchair next to a window and was watching the clouds dance outside in the sunrise.

The door opened and his fiancée entered their room with a tray of tee.

"Good morning" she said. "already awake?"

"Sure, I woke up with someone missing right next to me" he smiled at her. She was wearing her dark red nightgown, which was loosely tied together over her hips. Her beautiful ebony black hair was undone and flowing freely over her back and shoulders like a silken waterfall.

She put the tray down on a small side table, before crawling into Aangs lap and snuggling to him. He wrapped his arms around her warm body and just kept smiling.

"What?" she asked.

"You look gorgeous" he replied with a sheepish smile. "hell, you are gorgeous."

Azula beamed at him, before she pressed her lips to his.

"Charmer" she chuckled, while Aang passed her a cup of tea, before getting one for himself.

Azula sipped on her cup. "I have talked to Zuko about his wedding" she said.

"Really? What does he say?" Aang wanted to know

"Ah well, you know. It's going to be the full royal ceremony, with all the nobles and representatives invited and everything, but that's not the point. I have been thinking about our wedding." she said.

Aang rose an eyebrow "And to what conclusion did you come?"

"I want to marry in private. With only close friends. No one who isn't supposed to be here. Only you, me and a hand full of friends." she said and sounded really demanding. Aang got used to that tone a long time ago, besides, he would liked the wedding to be small as well.

"Sounds good. So who do we invite?" he managed to say, after almost burning his tongue with the tea.

"Well you need a best man" Azula started.

"Zuko" Aang shot back immediately. "There is no way I am going to entrust Sokka with something like that. Besides he is my best friend."

"Fine with me" Azula replied, sipping at her tea.

"And you?" Aang asked, damn his tongue was hurting now.

"What about me?"

"You will need bridesmaids. Who's it gonna be?" he mumbled, trying to favor his tongue a little. His girl just suppressed a giggle.

"I want Ty Lee and Mai. We are growing back together again and they are my oldest friends. And Katara as well, obviously."

"Sounds good. Kiyi will be the flower-girl, am I right?"

"Of course she will. She would hate us for the rest of her life, if we didn't allow her to do that."

"So, what about the other guests? Sokka and Suki I suppose? What about Toph? Or the rest of your family?"

"Toph for sure. My mother as well, so Ikem will come along as well. And Iroh? I don't know, we can invite him of course, but I have no idea if he will show up. We were never what you'd consider close or anything."

"Mhh. I kind of hoped he'd lead the ceremony. I really don't want a fire sage do it."

"No! Forget about that. Sorry, but I won't live through that. Anyone but not Iroh, please." Azulas reaction was so immediate, Aang chose not to ask any questions about it. If she felt uncomfortable with her uncle leading the ceremony, nothing he would say could change that. Aang just accepted it.

"Well, who else?" he asked.

"Why don't we ask guru Pathik to do it? He knows us both pretty good and I think he would be able to do this nicely." Azula suggested, though she had no idea if he would agree to it. But asking had never hurt anybody, had it?

-/-

Chapter Text

When Azula returned to the palace together with the rest of her friends, Kiyi was really happy to see her sister again. She was at school when the princess arrived but as soon as her father told her, that Azula was back, Kiyi stormed away to search for her.

The princess was having tea at the salon with Ty Lee and Ursa. The acrobat was telling her friend about her encounter with Kiyi in the royal gardens. She broached her concerns about Azulas sister as well and asked if Azula could talk to her, since Kiyi had asked about her sister. Not only once, but a few times really. Ursa was also saying that Kiyi indeed did behave strangely since Azula was gone and that she was really worried about her youngest daughter. She asked her a couple of times what the matter was, but Kiyi never wanted to talk about it. She always said it was nothing or just ignored the question.

"Azula!" Kiyi screamed when she found her sister in the salon. She ran towards her and hugged her tightly. Now that her sister was back, things would be alright again. Hopefully.

"Hey there. You ok?" Azula asked. The things Ty Lee and Ursa told her didn't exactly put her at ease. Not at all. Everything she heard was nothing like her sister at all. Kiyi was never angry or bad-tempered at all. Something was not right.

"Now I am" Kiyi sighted.

"Missed me that much?" Azula asked with a smile, as she stroked through Kiyis hair. The little girl just nodded as she held on to her sister. Azula eyed both Ty Lee and Ursa, who were exchanging a look. They shrugged. Maybe Kiyi just really missed her sister?

And indeed Kiyis mood was almost back to normal in the days after Azulas return. But it got worse soon again. Azula of course noticed, but decided not to ask her about it. If Kiyi wanted to talk about it, she would have done so. Ty Lee and Ursa were more than enough to bother her all the time about what was wrong.

It was during one of their training-sessions when Kiyis bad mood showed more than usual. This day was the one before her seventh birthday, but she didn't seem happy at all.

"Where comes the benders strength from, Kiyi?" Azula asked.

"from the breath." Kiyi replied after a form didn't really work out the way it was supposed to.

"So you do know. Then why do you ignore it?" Azula wanted to know, crouching down to her sister. "You have been doing so great up until now. Why are suddenly emotions in play?"

"Sorry" Kiyi said and inhaled deeply. She pushed her thoughts and worries aside and repeated the form her sister showed her. This time worked almost perfectly.

"See" Azula said with a proud smile. "better isn't it?" Kiyi nodded.

"Do you already know what you want to do for your birthday tomorrow?" Azula asked, changing the topic. She hoped that maybe her birthday would cheer Kiyi up a little. Honestly she had absolutely no idea what was happening with the young girl. She was a little too young for puberty, wasn't she?

"Nothing, I guess" Kiyi shrugged.

"You don't want to invite friends from school over?" Azula asked curiously. There was a time when she wouldn't have loved anything more than to celebrate her birthday with Ty Lee and Mai, but of course she wasn't allowed to. She had to sit in court listening to the nobles congratulating her. It was torture.

"No" Kiyi replied. I don't have any friends at school. Or any friends at all, for that matter. "Azula?" she added.

"yes?" Azula replied, she had a really bad feeling about this all of a sudden. There was a tone in Kiyis voice which she couldn't quite classify. Which was really unusual for Azula, since she normally had no problems reading people.

"When will you teach me how to produce lightning?"

Azula frowned. What question was that? Sure, Kiyi was always very fascinated by lightning, but still. Lightning was a extremely complex, really difficult technique and Kiyi was way too young for it. Especially now that she was struggling with her emotions at the moment, which would be really dangerous for creating lightning. Generally lightning was not to be underestimated, the danger to the bender could be possible fatal if created incorrectly. And unfortunately there were dozens of techniques, most of them created an absurdly long time ago when lightning still had to be wholly discovered, which were simply not working. Most of them would just blow up in the benders face.

"Kiyi, I can't teach you yet. It's too soon, ok? Lightning is really dangerous and extremely difficult. You need to master your flame perfectly before trying to advance." Azula replied

"When did you learn?" Kiyi wanted to know. She really needed to know how to do it. She wanted to create lightning and she wanted it soon.

"When I was fourteen" Azula replied

"That's twice my age" Kiyi stated and sounded beaten.

-/-

It was a week after Kiyis birthday, which indeed had been celebrated within the family circle, when Azula and Aang were lying in bed together. It was a nice evening, the sun was setting and the air smelled like fresh cut grass with a hint of autumn-leaves. A balmy wind was coming in through the open windows of the bedrooms, causing the curtains to softly swing back and forth. Aang was reading a book and his fiancée was staring at the ceiling.

"I am really worried about Kiyi" she suddenly said. Aang put the book down and looked at her.

"Everyone seems to be" he replied. "Her mood isn't as it used to be."

"Do you think she has no friends?" she asked. Her mind was racing around the short conversation they shared during training. The way Kiyi just said no, she was still struggling to understand what her inflection meant.

"She is a nice girl. I can't think about a reason why she wouldn't make any friends. Especially now that she is in school" Aang replied. Suddenly Azula turned around to face Aang, her eyes lit up, like she finally got a lead.

"Do you think this has to do with school?" she asked.

"I wouldn't know. How is she doing?" Aang shrugged. He obviously hadn't the great overview over Kiyis life. He was the Avatar after all and there were things he had to take care of from time to time.

"Fine, I guess." Azula replied. She really didn't know, but Kiyi wasn't stupid. She felt like she was so close to discovering the connection. The feeling she got that her little sisters mood was tied to school was really strong and Azula could almost smell the problem.

The princess was suddenly pulled out of her thoughts by a way too familiar bang in the gardens. The sound of an explosion like it was only creatable by lighting. And since the only two people in the palace capable of bending lightning were currently lying in bed next to each other, there had to be something wrong. Azula started to listen attentively, when she very clearly heard a girl scream.

"Kiyi!" she gasped and jumped off the bad. Aang was directly behind her.

"Shit" he muttered when Azula pulled the glass door onto the patio open and stormed out into the gardens, the Avatar at her heels.

The closer they got, the louder Kiyis screams became. She was yelling for her mother and for Azula at the top of her lungs. Azula was basically sprinting now, her mind was coming up with one horrid image after the other of what could have happened. Was she getting abducted? Was someone hurting her? Azula had a talent for making up pretty bad horror-stories.

When she found Kiyi lying on the grass, alone, she wasn't really relieved at all. There was blood everywhere and it smelled like burned flesh, when Azula slid towards her sister, dropping to her knees in the process.

"KIYI!" she screamed in panic, a second later Aang arrived as well. He exchanged a brief look with Azula and immediately could tell all of her emotions. She didn't handle situations like these too well. It was when the princess was closest to breaking apart again and she would feel like bursting.

"Azula! I'm sorry!" Kiyi stammered crying loudly and gasping for air. "It... hurts" She was cringing badly, rolling from one side to another. Her sister tried to hold her, so she would stop moving.

"Aang!" Azula yelled, despite him kneeling right next to her.

"I'm here, I'm here" he said looking at Kiyi. "Let me see, ok?" he gently touched her arm, but Kiyi screamed even louder. She was in so much pain and her arms felt like they were on fire. The right one not so much, but the left one.

"It hurts!" she cried again.

"I know, Kiyi. Don't worry everything will be fine again" Aang said as calm as humanly possible, he looked around for water, but there was none in reach.

"What did you do?" Azula asked, she tried to sound calm and collected, but Aang heard the panic in her voice with little effort.

Kiyi tried to compose herself, but her brain just would spit out useless bits and pieces. She had a severe shock and could not concentrate for a second.

"I tried... But didn't... there... I..." Kiyi choked, looking over to a spot in the grass, where an ancient book was lying on its face, so the wind would not flip the pages. Azula reached for it and turned it around, only to see one possible theory behind lightning and some more simple forms explained. She recognized it as one of the compendia containing mostly bollocks. That's why you don't try to learn lightning-bending from a random piece of ancient literature.

"You wanted to learn this from this book?!" she asked loudly, while Aang was examining the damage, which was severe for a seven year old.

"I will get Katara immediately" he said, before he sprinted away.

-/-

Kiyi was in the same pool Aang was in, after he was injured. The water was glowing brightly as Katara and Aang did their best to heal the young girl. At least she was conscious. It was a wonder, she wasn't dead and everyone knew that. The best thing about all this was that Kiyi was still pretty young. Young bodies can regenerate themselves more easily than adults can.

Zuko and Ursa were sitting on two chairs in the room, the son holding the mothers hand, trying to calm her down. Ikem was standing behind his wife, pressing her shoulder, while she was crying uncontrollably. Aang was helping Katara with the healing procedure, pushing and pulling the water around the pool in perfect synch with the master waterbender. Azula was cowered next to Kiyis head keeping her mind occupied and trying to talk to her. She felt her heart beating in her chest, louder and faster than any time before. Even when Aang got hurt, she wasn't so upset. Maybe this was because Aang was a grown man and Kiyi was nothing but a young, innocent girl, who happened to get herself hurt by a single silly mistake.

Kiyi looked terrible. She had tried to bend lightning like the book described it. What she didn't know was that the dusty ream was really old and contained methods of bending which didn't work. When she tried to bend, the lightning exploded immediately. To her eternal luck, she confused some of the instructions, or otherwise she would be dead now. But the accident will leave its marks. The explosion had blown off the little finger on her left hand and the fingertip of her ring finger. From both her hands lightning shaped scars were running up her arms and over her shoulders, down her chest, originating from a heavily burnt spot on her stomach.

"Just tell me why, Kiyi! Didn't I tell you this was too soon? That this was too dangerous?" Azula asked. She was sick with worry.

Kiyi was despite her pain, really upset. She wasn't able to keep quiet about her anger any longer. She thought that maybe, if she just waited for a while that things might get better again. It was all because of school. Everyone hated her. All she wanted was to be normal, accepted and liked. That she would find friends and that school would be just the fun everyone promised her it would be. Up until now it was nothing but pain and torture. She hated it, she hated everyone in it.

She had waited long enough for things to get better. They didn't change in her favors at all, quite the contrary. Day by day it got worse. When Azula came back home, Kiyi hoped that she could forget everything that happens around her if she'd just spend enough time with her sister. But even the infinite love she was receiving from her could not make up for the emotional pain the girls at school were giving her. Countless of times Kiyi wanted to tell Azula how much she hated school, how much she hated everyone and how much she regretted promising Katara to never hurt anyone with firebending. Otherwise she would have burnt that place down a dozen times already. But whenever she thought about telling her sister, she didn't do it. She knew Azula would worry about her and she didn't want her to worry.

That didn't work out too well for her now, did it? Kiyi couldn't keep her mouth shut anymore. She had to say it.

"Because I wanted to teach them a lesson!" Kiyi answered loudly but totally out of context for everyone else.

"Who?"

"That stupid girls in school! They hate me! I hate them! They are so mean to me all the time!" Kiyi screamed. She wanted to kick around, but her body was unable to move, fixed in the water by Katara and Aang. She should have never promised aunty Katara to never use firebending to hurt someone. Those stupid bimbos should have burned in hell from the first day on.

Azula felt a string being pulled around her throat, as she tried to swallow that sour knot down.

"What are you talking about, Kiyi?" she wanted to know, but was afraid of what the answer might be. She looked over to Aang who was also worried. Ursa got up and walked over to the pool, so she would hear what Kiyi had to say about all this.

Kiyi was crying again, and everyone was reasonably sure it was not from physical pain.

"The stupid girls at that stupid school. They say I am worthless. They say daddy is filthy peasant. They call me names. They call him names. Say I am stupid, say I am ugly, say I am not worthy of being at their school. They do mean things to me, because they don't like me. They call me a nerd because I can bend already. I wanted to teach them a lesson! If I could bend lightning, they would be scared of me, just like people used to be scared of you, Azula! Then they would finally leave me alone!" she yelled.

"They said what!?" Azula couldn't believe her ears "Don't they know who you are?"

"They don't care. They say I am of no importance, since daddy is a peasant. They say you and Zuko wouldn't care about me."

"Kiyi, you didn't believe any of this, did you?" Zuko interrupted, jumping up from his chair. Ursa was just crying even more. Her sweet baby girl was bullied in school and she didn't even know. Why did every daughter of hers have to have issues in her childhood she is completely oblivious to? Was she such a bad mother? Why didn't she notice? She was blaming herself for everything of it. Maybe she should have talked to Kiyi more often about what it means to be part of the royal family. Maybe she should have... but she didn't do anything of the things she thought up now.

Kiyi averted her gaze.

"No. But it hurts. They are so mean. I want them to suffer for it." the girl was screaming, because she was angry and not because of the already easing pain. Katara and Aang were sure she still hadn't quite wrapped her head around the consequences of her accident. The scars would probably follow her entire life.

"Oh, they will" Azula replied. "They will"

-/-

It was a month later, when Kiyi was well enough again to go back to school. She might have been physically able to do so a lot sooner, but she was pretty anxious to go. Azula understood, as did everyone else.

Somehow the princess expected her mother to blame her for Kiyis accident, but she didn't. Ironically, just like Ursa blamed herself, as did Azula, at least kind of. Maybe if she'd just had shown her, she might not have blown herself up. But no one knows what would have happened. She could have made matters worse.

"We are late" Kiyi said, as she stepped out of the palanquin, followed by her older sister. It was her first day back at school and Azula offered to bring her.

Azula looked around the schoolyard, not having fond memories of that place herself. She hated to play the happy princess at a time she was anything but happy. At a time when all she wanted was to break down and cry her soul out, but simply couldn't. "You are the firelord's sister. You are my sister. It is no one's business when you arrive somewhere. You simply show up when you feel like it and everyone else has to deal with it." she replied with a warm smile, as she was walking into the building. Ursa had started telling Kiyi about all the things any member of the royal family would take for granted, so she would understand how royalty and their relation to their subjects works. Azula picked up on that some days later. They of course tried not to make her seem arrogant about it, but also made clear that sometimes it was necessary to show the own greatness. So far Kiyi was doing well in the lessons, just like she was doing well in basically everything.

Azula followed Kiyi to her classroom. The little girl hat gotten over her injuries way faster than she managed to cope with the psychological scars her classmates gave her. This morning she was standing in front of a mirror and looked at herself. She was wearing a sleeveless shirt and inspected the meanwhile dark red lightning shaped scars on her arms.

"I kind of like them" she told her mother "They look badass"

Ursa just looked worried and hoped that one day the marks would fade away. She never talked about her daughters injuries as long as Kiyi didn't bring them up. Surprisingly she would ignore the fact of a finger and a half missing completely. To the youngest sibling of the three there were only the scars. She ignored the rest.

Now a few hours later Kiyi was leading her sister to her classroom. Azula carried Kiyis backpack for her, not because her sister couldn't carry it by herself, but simply because the princess wanted to do it.

"This is it" Kiyi said, pointing at a dark red door. Azula nodded

"In you go" she said and Kiyi took a deep breath, before she reluctantly knocked and entered. The classroom behind the door was just as Azula remembered them to be. The sun was shining through the large windows lighting the room brightly, despite the dark red walls. It smelled like a school. Like a classroom. There was no other word for it, that strange mix of wood and stale air, it was unique to a school. Three rows of tables allowed for two students to sit on each one of them, while the teacher's desk was at the front with the educator was obviously right behind it. It was an elderly woman, currently writing something on the blackboard. She noticed the door opening and turned her head towards it.

The pupils did the same and silent snickering rushed through the rows when they saw Kiyi entering. Azula stayed behind for a moment, so she wasn't seen yet.

She was already getting angry when she had to hear the snickering. Even that sounded mocking.

"You are late, Kiyi!" the teacher admonished. "And you were also absent for quite a long time!"

The pupils snickered again.

"Sorry Miss Ju" Kiyi replied rueful.

It was the moment Azula also entered the classroom, when it got so silent, one could confuse the atmosphere with the one on a graveyard. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop onto a cotton ball.

"Princess Azula!" Miss Ju gasped, as she got down on her knees. The pupils were not as fast, but they also got up from their seats to kneel down in front of the princess. No one expected her to show up.

"Why don't you go and sit down Kiyi?" Azula said to her sister, handing her the backpack she was carrying for her. The princess didn't allow anyone to stand up yet. She had talked to Zuko about the people bullying Kiyi and had brought up a couple of times just banishing them all together. But Zuko thought this was to extreme.

Azula waited for Kiyi to take her seat before she allowed everyone to stand up again. "You may stand" she stated coolly. Everyone got up and took their seats again. Miss Ju didn't exactly know what to do next.

"May I inquire the reason for your surprising visit to our school, princess?" she asked.

"There are some things I need to address here." Azula said. "First of all, Kiyis absence was due to a severe training accident she had. And secondly, but even more important:" Azula walked in front of the class, she would just give them hell. Not by yelling, no. The icy princess had her methods of scaring people and these were merely kids. Her coolly spoken words would leave the desired effect for sure.

"If I ever have to hear about someone of you little rats talking badly about my sister or her father, you all will suffer the consequences. I have no idea what got in these little peanut brains of yours to insult a sibling of the firelord and the crown-princess, just because her father is untitled. You all pride yourself on daddy's precious titles and his glorious ranks, but you forget something. It costs me merely the swing of a pen to take that all away from you." she glared into the room, no one even dared to blink.

"Kiyi and I are very close and if I have to hear about anyone of you little prats is causing her trouble in anything, I don't care what that is, even the tiniest little something, I will have your whole family striped from titles and ranks, disowned and banished. So you all will truly be filthy, ignominious peasants. And you can all consider yourself lucky if that happens. Insulting a member of the royal family can be considered high treason and is punishable by death. Agni, my father had people executed for lesser crimes. Have I made myself understood?"

"Yes, princess" the pupil murmured in shock. They were scared. And they better should be, if not for Zuko and Ursa who had reasoned that children were just... well children who made stupid shit, Azula would have most likely done something more severe than a philippic in front of the class.

"Good" Azula said, before she turned to Kiyi "And now you go and have fun at school, ok?"

"I will. Thank you Azula" Kiyi replied.

-/-

Three month later everything was perfectly fine again. Kiyis mood got better and better and she was back to the way she used to be, before people in school started bullying her. With all of her concentration back and the joy returned to her life, the things she liked to do the most were even easier for her. Her firebending training with Azula was going great, the lessons she was getting from Ty Lee were so much fun and in school she was doing excellent. Azula of course knew that, her sister was not stupid. Just like she wasn't. The two siblings shared a lot of traits and somehow Azula suspected her life could have been a lot brighter and way more fun if she'd been allowed to have a normal childhood. But she didn't have one and that was something she could never change. She realized that a long time ago and on that day promised herself she would do everything so Kiyi will have a nice, joyful and fun childhood. So far things were going great, except for Ursa who sometimes got the feeling Azula was spoiling her sister pretty badly. But that was a nice problem to have, wasn't it? There were no real worries anymore.

Kiyis injuries however are meant to stay. The scars didn't get any lighter and of course her missing finger and the one which was missing a piece would never grow back. Though she didn't really notice it all that much, since it was her left hand, the accident taught Kiyi a very important lesson. Some things need time. Some things need a lot of practice. Some things need both. Only with patience a goal can be truly reached. Rushing things always screws you over, one way or another. She learned her lesson, for the future she would be more thoroughly, patient and obviously would listen to the things Azula told her. The princess wasn't the best firebender on the planet for no reason.

It was the week before Aang and Azula were about to marry and preparations for the event were already in progress.

Aang had sent the invitations away some weeks ago, so everyone would have plenty of time to arrange their schedules if necessary.

He didn't however expect some people to already show up. It was Iroh who travelled all the way from his teashop in Ba Sing Se back to the palace to witness the wedding of his niece and the Avatar. To be honest, he didn't expect them to marry so soon and he also didn't expect to be invited to it. He always thought Azula didn't particularly fancy his presence and sometimes wondered if he should have tried to lead his niece onto the right path. But apparently she found it all by herself. He was really surprised when he had found the exquisitely thick rose colored envelope with a beautiful bright white card in it in his mailbox. If the wedding was half as impressive as the invitation was, it would be a day to remember.

He was currently helping Ursa with the -admittedly pretty easy- seating plan, while Aang was talking to Zuko about some political issues. To be more specific it was about the further whereabouts of general Fongs former men. Aang tried to convince Zuko to pardon the simple soldiers and everyone who just got dragged into that mess. He argued that "Violence always spreads more violence. Death just brings more death. You witnessed that circle first hand, as did I. The world has been at war for a hundred years. It is enough, I do not want to see more death because of me. Fong hurt Azula, I killed Fong, his daughter hurt me, Azula killed his daughter and his wife. This needs to stop. Who are we going to upset next if we execute all those prisoners? I don't say we shouldn't punish them and obviously the higher ranking officers need to face trials in the earth-kingdom as well, but all those foot soldiers, they were just following orders. Let them do community service and be done with it Zuko, please."

It had taken Aang a while to feel ready to talk about this matter at all. And when he was ready, the timing was pretty bad. Zuko had a lot to do, was constantly working and seemed stressed out pretty badly. Now with Zuko having proposed to Katara, who of course gladly accepted, and some other things also resolved, the time to discuss this seemed to be the right one. Zuko scratched his chin.

"I see what you are saying. But to break free of that circle you mentioned we need more than blind obedience. Everyone is a human being, everyone is capable of their own thoughts and decisions. They all chose to do wrong even if they were ordered to. It is their fault they followed Fong and after him it was also their fault to follow his daughter." he argued.

"That's an odd point to have for the firelord, don't you think, Zuko? You are basically saying each and every one of your soldiers had a choice during the war and that they all killed and murdered because they wanted to, not because they were told to. You say they could have just left and Ozai couldn't have done anything about it?" Aang argued.

Zuko frowned hard, he hated it, when his father was brought up. Of course Ozai would have done something about it. And it wouldn't have been flowers and farewell-wishes.

"Well... But that's not the point now, is it? It's about the people who meant to hurt you. Hell, who did hurt you!"

Aang shook his head no.

"It's a philosophical question, because as you well know, those who actually hurt me, are dead. Azula killed them. So what do we do with those who just stuck around? I would like to see them go on their lives without being punished too harshly. As I already said, they should get some form of punishment, but don't overdo it." Aang said peacefully.

"Community service." Zuko repeated the Avatars words but with a slight hint of sarcasm in his voice.

"For example. I know this is your decision, but I would like to see that resolved as peaceful as possible" Aang said.

"I will think about it" Zuko nodded. In the past Aangs approach to things usually worked and this time he was literally the only one who was affected by that whole matter. Well technically there was Azula as well, but she chose to stay out of it. She made her peace with what had happened during her stay with the guru. If Aang wanted to solve this the forgiving and peaceful way, if he thought this was the path to take, Zuko was pretty sure he would comply to the Avatars wishes.

"That's all I ask for" Aang replied.

Zuko wanted to change the topic to something a little more lightweight and a little more urgent, to be precise he wanted to ask the Avatar how wedding preparations were going, when someone knocked on the door.

"Come in" Zuko said. A guard entered the firelords office.

"Forgive the disturbance, Lord Zuko, but there is an old man at the gates who wishes to talk to you and the Avatar. We tried sending him away, but he insists that he got invited. He has some paper saying something about the Avatars wedding? He does look like a homeless person, though." The guard scratched his head, confused. He was pretty sure the old man was just delusional and made stuff up.

"Guru Pathik!" Aang exclaimed as he shot up.

Zuko nodded. "Thank you. We will greet him personally." he said and the guard nodded. Was that crazy old man talking the truth? Was Aang getting married to princess Azula? It wasn't his business of course, but even though he knew the two were a couple he never really thought it could possibly been serious.

"Oh and one more thing" Zuko said to the guard "You will forget anything about that wedding immediately, understood?" While the wedding wasn't really secret, Zuko didn't want to take the risks. His sister and Aang wanted a quiet event only with those they trusted. One could never be cautious enough.

"Of course, Lord Zuko."

When Zuko and Aang arrived at the front gate, guru Pathik was sitting cross legged in front of another guard, who was eyeing him suspiciously. He didn't see the firelord approaching, but he heard him, once he spoke up.

"Guru Pathik. I am so sorry for the inconvenience. But my guard was not in the know about your arrival." Zuko said.

The guru got up and bowed to the firelord. Not because he was the firelord, but because he bowed to everyone. "It is not a problem." he said, before turning to Aang "Hello my friend."

"Hello, guru!" Aang exclaimed. He was happy to see him again.

Zuko let the guru into the palace grounds and they started walking back to the palace.

"Isn't there someone missing for a marriage?" Pathik asked and Aang chuckled.

"Yes, Azula is getting measured for her dress" he replied. He wondered how she might look in it. He didn't get to see it yet. Stupid traditions.

"You have chosen your bride wisely. She is someone very special. And I am sure she will look stunning, no matter what dress she is wearing" the guru mused. He may have been old, but he wasn't blind. The princess was a beauty by nature and it was a known fact that wedding dresses generally enhanced a women's beauty exponentially. He had seen this often enough, this wasn't the first ceremony he would conduct.

"Oh you have no idea" Zuko laughed. He had seen the early stages of Azulas dress and was absolutely mesmerized.

"Gahh, I hate you. I finally want to see it!" Aang said frustrated.

-/-

Somewhere in the palace, in one of the many dressings rooms Azula was standing on a small stool, which was actually more of a wooden box. The dressmaker and her two assistants were eagerly working on Azulas truly stunning dress, while Mai, Ty Lee and Katara were sitting around watching, as they were sipping champagne.

"I thought you wanted to keep things simple?" Katara asked, while she was playing with her betrothal necklace. It was absolutely perfect, she knew Zuko had Aangs help with it, but it never the less was such a sweet idea.

Azula snickered "I said I wanted to keep things small. I did not say anything about simplicity. I am not a simple girl, am I?"

"Not really" Mai answered.

"What about you Katara? Have you thought about your wedding already?" Ty Lee wanted to know. The waterbender sighted, she didn't say anything to Zuko, but if she'd be allowed to decide she would probably do it like Azula. Nice and small, only with family and friends. But it wasn't going to happen. Zuko was the firelord and he had to live up to some expectations. Like the wedding of the firelord traditionally being a huge event.

"Ah well, I won't have Azulas luck and get a small private wedding. It is going to be the full royal ceremony with all the nobles who can't stand me and all the sages who don't like the idea our children could be waterbenders and all the guests of honor and all the everyone." Katara had to laugh "I don't really want to think about it now"

"Am I not a luck girl that I get to marry the Avatar and not the firelord? So I won't have to put up with all that stuff you have, Katara" Azula said. She could never stand through such a big event with her in the middle. She simply felt not up to it.

"If you'd marry the firelord, Azula, that would be incest" Ty Lee giggled and Azula just rolled her eyes, as the dressmaker changed something on her truly marvelous dress. It was red, obviously, but had from certain angles a slight golden shimmer to it, almost like the color of the sunset. The seams were kept in a dark black, matching some small detailing here and there, all while being very discrete. The red silken fabric was high-necked and didn't show any cleavage, nor was it back free. If one thought it may have looked prude, that person would have been gravely mistaken. The lacy silk was skin tight and complemented Azulas delicious curves perfectly. Also the expensive fabric was see-trough on her arms, chest and back. Her bodice was tooled with brocade fabric - the base red just like the dress itself, the embellishments black - which covered all the parts you didn't want to have something see-through on. The fine silk ribbons lacing the delicate bodice together on the back were black as well. The fabulous red artwork of a dress spread into a long train on which's end the golden insignia of the firenation was incorporated.

Azula looked like a true goddess of another world. Ty Lee felt her mouth water over and over again.

"We have to get you something sexy to dress as well" she whispered to Mai

"Oh, you don't like me in Uniform?" she asked playfully. There may or may not have been some role-playing in the recent past. Mai had a smug grin on her face.

"I do, but I would love to unwrap you from something like this" she kissed her grin gently away.

"Girls please" Azula rolled her eyes "Get a room"

"You jelly?" Ty Lee teased

"Hardly. I have my own." Azula replied dryly.

"What? Room?" Mai asked innocently but not without a small teasing smile on her pale red lips.

"Well of course, what were you talking about?" Azula returned smirking.

Katara was shaking her head "You guys should wait until you see the dresses for the bridesmaids" she said with a smug grin on her face.

"Wait you already have?" Ty Lee wanted to know

Katara shrugged playfully "Maybe" she said before she sipped on her champagne flute.

Azula gasped "Is it allowed to breath in this thing?" she asked the dressmaker, who just tightened her bodice a little further.

"I am sorry princess, but you will look breathtaking afterwards" she said.

"Yeah, my breath is already taken" Azula replied not at all convinced.

"Aww, Azula can do almost anything, including fighting the Avatar, but she gets beaten by her dress. Isn't that cute?" Ty Lee teased

"Oh, hush now!"

-/-

one week later, at the wedding:

To say that Aang was nervous wouldn't even have begun to describe what he was feeling. He felt like going crazy any second now, running up and down in a small side-room of the throne room in an futile attempt to finally calm down a little. He was nervous when he woke up this day.

On a couch.

In Zuko's and Katara's living room.

He had to stay there, because some idiot in the firenation once thought it would be a good idea to not allow the groom to spend the night before the wedding with his bride. Who thinks stuff like this up, seriously? Now he wasn't only nervous as fuck, his back also hurt like hell and was all tense. Damn that couch!

Zuko was just shaking his head, as Aang was asking one ridiculous question after the other. He never did that usually, but Zuko could tell how very nervous his best friend was. Had he known that when Aang asked him to be his best man, he might have considered declining. But in a sense it was somehow funny. He was sure in a few years he will tell the story about the day Aang almost freaked out before the wedding and everyone will laugh. Zuko had to smile when he thought about it.

"You sure that you have the rings?" Aang asked with shaky voice.

Zuko sighted, it wasn't like Aang hadn't asked it for at least a thousand times now. "No, I am sure I lost them somewhere between now and the last time you asked, 20 seconds ago." he replied, shrugging. He moved from the spot he was leaning onto a wall to a small cupboard, opening a door of it.

"Sorry, I am so nervous." Aang stammered.

"Really? I almost couldn't tell" Zuko retorted, sarcasm dripping from his words.

"Seriously?" Aangs eyes lit up. At this point he was way to occupied with other things on his mind than he would have heard sarcasm.

"No." Zuko replied, as he was going through the shelves of the cupboard. Aang could hear glass clinking as Zuko withdrew a bottle filled with dark brown liquid and a glass. He poured a slug into the fine crystal glass before he handed it to Aang. It was a fine whiskey, which Zuko liked to drink from time to time, whenever he felt like being close to freaking out for good. The Avatar eyed the liquid carefully, it smelled quite exquisite, yet the scent of alcohol was pretty dominant. He looked at the firelord with an asking expression on his face.

"Down with it, and don't ask why" Zuko ordered "It will help you calm down"

Aang frowned, but did as he was told, downing the whiskey in one gulp. The fiery booze burned down the Avatars throat down into is stomach, where the heating sensation of the whiskey started to spread immediately.

He grimaced badly before the warmth washed over him and he slowly started feeling a little better. Zuko walked over to him and put the glass out of his best friends hand, placing it on a desk. He straightened Aangs Air-Nation necklace of his most official orange and yellow attire so it would be centered before he placed both his hands on the Avatars shoulders.

"You will do fine. Trust me, everything will be great. This is your day and the day of Azula. Just enjoy yourself, no one else needs to have any fun here. It is all about you. Those people out there are your friends and family, they just want to see you happy." he told him firmly, while giving him a slight shake.

Aang sighted. "I know, I know. Aaargh, I wasn't so nervous ever before."

"She is important to you, it's only natural to be nervous." Zuko smiled at his best friend. He was really happy for him. Not that he claimed to totally understand Aangs affection for the firelord's sister, even after all the passed time, but he was in no place to judge. They made each other happy and that was all that counted.

"Since when are you the one to give the calming advice?" Aang asked maybe a little bit on the mocking side. The whiskey was starting to have his merry effect. Normally he would be the one to give advice and wisdom, while Zuko would listen to it (most of the time), though today's roles seemed to be reversed.

"Since you are the groom today and apparently have no nerve left for being calm." Zuko laughed.

There was a knock at the door, the moment later Ursa entered the room.

"We are ready for you two" she said, before Zuko slapped Aang on the back.

"Let's go, pal" he said and Aang started walking towards the door.

"Do you have the rings?" Ursa asked, and Aang couldn't help but laugh.

"He does. At least he did the last thousand times I asked" he said, walking past Ursa. She rose an eyebrow and turned to Zuko

"Has he been drinking?" she whispered to her son.

"I gave him a glass of whiskey" Zuko shrugged "For his nerves, he was freaking out a little." he explained. His mother didn't look like she really approved. Aang wasn't used to alcohol, was he?

In another room near the throne room Azula was getting the last fine tuning for her big day. The dressmaker was lacing down her bodice and the princess didn't look to happy about it.

"Remind me to banish you, should I faint sometime today." she snarled.

"But you look so beautiful, Azula!" Ty Lee chirped. She was so excited for today. And Azula did look marvelous. More than that. There was no word Ty Lee was aware of, which would describe even remotely what she was seeing. Azula's hair was done now, the hairdresser, who just had to be gay, had truly outdone himself. He retained her trademark bunches, but other than that, it was nothing like anything Azula ever had done with her hair before.

Not even close.

It was no topknot, but it wasn't falling freely either. Instead the hairdresser, or better the hair-artist, achieved a beautiful composition of braided hair and small rubies incorporated into the dark black hair of the princess, all while the bridal veil retained its function without interfering with the amazing job he did with the hair. It looked truly stunning, like everything about Azula was, this day more than ever.

"I know" Azula stated, looking at herself in a mirror. She said things like that all the time and everyone always knew it was mostly some sort of friendly meant arrogance, but today Azula had a almost sad seriousness in her voice, like she tried to look pretty just for Aang and no one else. She looked at herself and didn't know the person she was seeing. Azula knew she was easy on the eyes, true, but today she looked different in the best way imaginable. This would be the most memorable day in her life, for sure.

Katara could only smile, she somehow knew exactly what Azula was thinking. She could almost feel her happiness and her unbelief about her luck. "You definitely deserve this, Azula" she said. There was a moment of quiet.

"I am not so sure sometimes." Azula replied truthfully. Katara was very well aware of that. She had no idea why, but Azula sometimes told her the deepest worries of her heart, which she didn't seem to entrust Aang with. Once she spoke about her nagging doubt that she didn't really think someone like her would ever deserve someone so nice and genuinely caring like Aang. Katara had to spend quite some time convincing her otherwise.

"Quit whining, can't you just accept that some things turn out to be good?" Mai asked. Despite never been told explicitly, the assassin was capable of connecting hints and short comments to a bigger picture. She knew Azula for a long time after all. Some things she just knew about her.

"Well, I suppose you are right" Azula shrugged.

"This is your wedding day, for Agnis sake, you shouldn't be making long faces" Mai shook her head. Why was Azula always thinking? She should just enjoy her wedding like every other woman did, not worry about her deserving it. She was marrying the Avatar, for crying out loud. There was no reason for being in any other mood than overly joyful.

Azula felt so many emotions boiling up inside of her. This was all of a sudden getting so very real. Yesterday the marriage still seemed to be in a far distant future, but now? From one second to the next, it became reality. Her reality. Not a dream for another time in another life. Not something she would postpone again and again, because of her silly doubts and fears. Aang wanted to marry her, today. In a couple of minutes, they would be husband and wife. She was excited and scared at the same time. Would things change a lot from how they were now? Hopefully not.

"Yeah, I know" she replied, still lost in thought.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door, a few minutes after the time Ursa picked up Aang and his best man. However the door wasn't opened yet.

Azula's dressing room was a little bit further away from the throne room than the one Aang was waiting in with Zuko.

Katara rose a suspicious eyebrow looking towards the still closed door, hopefully everything was ok. She went to answer the door. It was Iroh, in his best dark red dress-robes. To him, it felt strange to wear formal royal firenation attire again, he somehow hoped it would be unnecessary for the rest of his days. The occasion today on the other hand, was something he gladly changed his mind for.

"Good evening, Katara. I didn't want to just come in." he said warmly, Katara understood what he was saying. He didn't want to come bursting through the door with the possibility of Azula maybe not being dressed completely.

"Come in, Iroh. A good evening to you as well." she answered smiling and stepped aside to let him pass. Katara really liked her soon to be uncle in law, he was always so considerate and listened to the thins other people had to say.

"Thank you. May I offer that you look beautiful." he said stepping into the room. "All of you. The dresses are stunning" he added when he saw Mai and Ty Lee standing near each other, looking at him. He only saw Azula's back at first, so he didn't comment on her dress yet. The bridesmaids dresses indeed were something special. They were in a matter of fact a simplified negative version of Azula's dress with some changes here and there. Black with red detailing, they lacked the bodice of course and were made from 'simple' silk, without any see-through lacy to it. Somehow Iroh thought it was a little decadent to speak of simple when referring to something so exquisite like silk was, but well, that was the curse of royalty was it not? The beautiful dresses also where shorter than their example was, the skirt only reaching to the knees instead of to the floor and they weren't high-necked either, but halterless.

Azula was turned around by the dressmaker and Iroh laid eyes on his niece for the first time in her wedding dress.

He had to swallow, completely blown away.

"Azula you look..." he couldn't think of a word fit to describe what he was seeing.

"Thank you, uncle" she replied with a shy smile on her lips. She never had that good connection to him, which Zuko always had. They had their differences, which was mostly the reason she didn't want him to conduct the ceremony. Most of her life, Iroh was away and whenever he was around he chose to spend time with Zuko. Not that Azula had minded, he was way to peaceful for her hot temper back in the days and his lectures would just unnerve her. But just like she wished for her mother's love, she wouldn't have minded a little more attention from her uncle either, apart from the pretty ridiculous gifts he was sending. But at least he was thinking of her, was he not?

"I wanted to ask you a question" he started after clearing his throat carefully.

"What is it?" Azula asked as the dressmaker stepped away from her. Everything was complete. Iroh extended a hand to help her step down of the wooden box the princess was once again standing on. She let her soft and delicate fingers glide into the old but strong hands of her uncle, who helped her down.

"Since my brother will not be here today for... obvious reasons" Iroh exhaled, it didn't really feel right to talk about Ozai, so he made it short. "Would you let me walk you down the aisle today? I know I am just your uncle and we haven't been very close, but it would be..." Somehow he felt very guilty about his absence from her life. Ursa has told him a lot of the conversations she had with Azula, how she told her, that all the princess desired was being loved and cared about. Ursa was only talking about her own wrongdoings, but Iroh could not help but notice his own mistakes. He had stayed away from Azula as well, thinking she would not like his presence. Maybe he should have known better? He promised himself to make it up to her, should she want him to.

Azula cut him off "I'd love to" she said with yet another little insecure smile. Somehow her icy demeanor has molten away the second she got stuck into her wedding dress. She was almost like a child doing something it never did before and being both excited and a bit scared at the same time about this. It just rose her beauty to infinity and beyond, while she tried to hide her nervousness.

She didn't think Iroh would ask her to be allowed to give her away. Maybe she made a mistake when she turned him down so harshly, when Aang suggested he could conduct the ceremony. But then again he wouldn't be walking her down the aisle now, would he? Azula once thought her father would one day do this. Obviously not exactly this, but that he would walk her to the altar, where her to be husband, whoever got picked, would wait for her. But now she could not bring herself to imagining that ever again. It was disgusting on so many levels. He would just marry her off to someone he saw fit. She would have never been happy with him around. She would have never gotten...this. All of it. it would all never have happened.

"Thank you." he said with a sincere simile on his lips. "I also came to tell you that it is time. We will start shortly" Iroh was calm on the outside, but his inside was full of joy. He helped with a great portion of the preparations, but up until a few hours ago he didn't feel any different to any other day. That had changed pretty suddenly. He looked forward to this and sincerely hoped that this would be the first functioning family in a line of miserable disasters. He prayed that Aang and Azula would have their well deserved happy ever after.

"It's time already?!" Katara, who kept silent and watched the heart-warming interaction between the over the years grown apart niece and her uncle together with Mai and Ty Lee, squealed. "Oh spirits! I need to get Kiyi in place! Hopefully she has everything she needs! We have to go! Come on girls, hurry up!" she shooed Mai and Ty Lee out of the room.

"See you in a bit" Ty Lee managed to say to Azula, before Katara shoved her out of the door.

Azula smiled wearily after them.

"You look exhausted, Azula. Are you alright?" Iroh asked. She just put it off with a wave of her hand.

"I am fine, don't worry. It was just a long, long day with lots of standing and dressing and... uff" she sighted.

Iroh chuckled softly "I can imagine" he said sympathetically.

"Uncle?" she looked Iroh in his old eyes full of wisdom.

"Yes?" he cocked his head slightly.

"I am sorry" she said, almost whispering. Iroh rose an eyebrow

"What for?" he wanted to know.

"Everything. We haven't been what you and Zuko shared." she said and wanted to say so much more, but couldn't put it in words, like she was able to do with her mother. She didn't have so strong negative emotions, or any negative emotions for that matter, connected with Iroh than she had with Ursa. He was just more around Zuko than her and she didn't really blame him. Azula wasn't very nice to her uncle in the past.

"There is no need to be sorry. What hasn't been, can be made up in the future. It is I who has to apologize for all the time our relationship wasn't the way it should have been." he smiled at her supportively. His niece was a troubled mind, she always was. Yet he didn't notice for a long time. Her brain worked differently to everyone else's and she always was thinking about something. He wouldn't stand in the way of her making her peace with her past. She was slowly working through the persons, who once may have cared about her, but got hurt by her, or those who should have cared about her, but terribly misunderstood her, trying to set things right. He would not sit by and watch while she did this. He should have been there for her, just like he was for his nephew. But he was not. He failed to see what was troubling her, he failed to see her trouble at all. The mistake was his.

"Aang wanted you do conduct the ceremony today, but I was against it" Azula just spluttered. Iroh just nodded slowly, stroking through his beard.

When Azula disagreed with Aangs suggestion of the master of ceremonies, she felt like it would be close to blasphemy choosing her uncle. Now she felt like she'd hurt him again for turning him down without even asking.

"I am glad you were." he chuckled softly "Who else would walk you down the aisle now?" he extended an arm to his niece, who slowly tucked her arm into his. She had to smile and tried not to cry at the same time. Damn, why was she so emotional all of a sudden? It was horrible, thank the spirits they had only friends and family attend the wedding. She could never go out in front of a crowd of strangers being so emotional. But she guessed it was appropriate for her own wedding, was it not?

Uncle Iroh once again confirmed her own thoughts "This is your happy day, Azula. It's ok to show how happy you are. No one will judge, everyone is here because they are happy, together with you." he offered. She remembered once again guru Pathik's words, telling her that every situation has a own set of emotions. This was her place to be happy now. Aang would want to see her happy.

"Shall we?" Azula asked, after catching a breath. Iroh lead her away into the corridor leading to the throne room, where the Avatar would soon marry the princess. As she was leaving the dressing room, she wrapped her hand around her wrist, touching the golden betrothal-bangle.

Aang was shifting from one foot to another, trying to focus on the flame he was holding in his hands in front of him. "What's taking them so long?" he asked Zuko, who was standing next to him. facing Mai, Ty Lee and Katara on the other side of the altar's long angle they were waiting in front of.

"Calm down, it hasn't been so long" he said.

"But..." Aang was suddenly interrupted. His mind was pulled away from reality into a dark black room far away. There was nothing at first, but then around him dark blue, almost purple fire began to softly light up. He could feel the heat radiating off the ring of fire, before out of a cloud of gray smoke Azula stepped into his arms. Her hair was swaying back and forth softly in a gentle breeze. He felt her soft touch against his chest, as she whispered into his ear

"I will always love you" she purred and he felt her soft hand brush over his jaw line, before she was fading away again. All that remained before Aang's mind was slowly pulled back to reality was her scent of jasmine, honey and cinnamon.

"What's wrong?" Zuko asked. Aang just relaxed, adjusted his hands which were fueling the bright blue flame in his them, and smiled softly

"Nothing. I am fine" he said, completely calm now. He looked over to guru Pathik, who was waiting behind the beautifully prepared altar in the firelord's throne-room. The fire curtain behind the guru was burning bright orange, being powered by Zuko at the moment and lighting up the room in a warm light. The guest were seated to both sides of a red carped leading up to the altar.

Guru Pathik was adjusting a ancient book, which actually might have been even older than himself and a clay bowl which was definitely much older than him for sure. It was actually one of the oldest relics of the firenation. The bowl of eternal fire, what exactly made the fire eternal no one knew, since it did not contain any fire.

He cleared his throat as the door in the back of the throne room was pulled open. Soft music started playing, performed by musicians hired for this. All the guests, who's numbers were extended a little bit by Ursa and Iroh, for example by Lo and Li, turned around to see the bride.

The first one to enter was not Azula, though. It was Kiyi, wearing an adorable light red dress, she was carrying her sisters flame in her hands. Azula might have helped make that happen, since Kiyi was unable to sustain a purple flame.

"Why is Kiyi called the flower girl? She isn't throwing any flowers!" Sokka asked confused, Suki slapped his head.

"Hush, it's their tradition, not ours. Who cares, this is so cute!"

Kiyi was walking a few short meters in front of her sister, who just now entered the throne room on her uncle's right side. People started to murmur and whisper when they saw her enter. She was perfect.

Aang almost lost control of his flame, when he saw his to be wife. She flashed him a bright smile through heir bride's veil and he beamed back at her.

The music played while Azula was slowly lead to the altar by her uncle, with each step towards the designation the fire curtain turned more and more blue. Once Azula arrived, the music stopped and the burning flames were purple. Iroh was now standing in between Aang and Azula, separating them.

Guru Pathik cleared his throat to start the ceremony.

"We came together on this momentous day to celebrate the union of two very special people. The crown princess of the firenation and the Avatar wish to enter the sacred bond of marriage together." He looked at both Azula and Aang in a long pause. This firenation ritual was ancient, but very sacred. The guru was pretty sure that he was the first outsider to ever be allowed to perform it.

"I hereby ask you, Azula, princess of the firenation, who is it that giveth you away?"

"It is me" Iroh said. "Iroh, son of Azulon and Ilah, first of my name, retired general of the royal armed forces and former crown prince of the firenation. I am here to give my niece away into the capable hands of Avatar Aang"

"And it is your deepest wish and desire to enter the sacred bond that is marriage with the Avatar, princess Azula? You are aware of all the rights and duties accompanied by that promise?"

"I am" Azula replied firmly. Guru Pathik nodded

"Who is here to bear witness to that decision and may always be there to remind of the promise given on this day, should it ever be deemed necessary?"

"It is me" Katara said "Katara, daughter of Hakoda and Kya, first of my name and the chief's daughter of the southern watertibe. I bear witness." she said

"And it is me" Ty Lee was next "Ty Lee, daughter of Dara and Ah Cy, second of my name and in proud service of the imperial military intelligence service. I bear witness." those rituals used to take forever. At Ozais wedding there were around 50 bridesmaids and groomsmen, this was actually pretty fast.

"And it is also me" Mai said, still pretty gloomy "Mai, daughter of Ukano and Michi, first of my name and also in proud service of the imperial military intelligence service. I bear witness."

Guru Pathik once again nodded as he turned to Aang

"And is it your deepest wish and desire as well, Avatar Aang, to enter the sacred bond that is marriage with princess Azula. Are you aware of all the rights and duties accompanied by that promise?"

"I am" Aang answered calmly. He was absolutely sure. Nothing would separate them ever again.

"And who is here to bear witness to that decision and may always be there to remind of the promise given on this day, should it ever be deemed necessary?" the old guru asked.

"It is me" Zuko said "Zuko, son of Ozai and Ursa, first of my name, brother to princess Azula and best friend of the Avatar. Former crown prince of the firenation and now proud, benevolent and just firelord. I bear witness" He originally was reluctant to incorporate that firelord part, but unfortunately Azula and Aang wanted to stick to the traditions.

"Very good. Is there any mortal who opposes the marriage of princess Azula and Avatar Aang? He who has objections may speak up now or keep silent till the end of days. You may speak up now!" Guru Pathik looked into the small crowd, of course no one said anything.

"Very well then, since there are no mortal objections, we shall see if the spirits content to this union in similar clear fashion." The guru flipped a page in the ancient book before he pushed the clay bowl forward.

Azula reached down to Kiyi who was still carrying her flame and took it out of her hands. She held it in front of her, like Aang did with his all the time.

"Princess Azula, I ask you to place your flame, the pure and true symbol of your life and love into the bowl of eternal fire." he held the bowl out into Azula's direction. She put her purple flame into the bowl, where it continued burning. He handed it over to Aang, repeating his words with the Avatar's name. Aang also placed his flame into the bowl.

Once the bowl was placed back on the altar, it suddenly grew large, shot into the air and exploded in a bright and colorful cloud, every color of a rainbow was filling the ceiling before the fire vanished again.

"It seems Agni, spirit of fire, is inclined to accept your bond as well." Pathik smiled warmly, as he gestured Iroh to step aside. Azula said a short thank you to him, as he handed her over to Aang, both of them still facing the guru, as Iroh was symbolically giving her away.

"You may now present the bride with her ring" the guru announced. Zuko reached into his pocket and passed Aang a simple gold ring. It had nothing on it, other than a inscription on the inside.

They turned to face each other and Aang lifted Azula's veil so he could see into her eyes without anything obscuring them.

"Azula, though our past was not the brightest, our future will be even more so. Not a single day passes where I do not relish your love and affection. You make me who I am, without you I am nothing. I can always rely on you and I promise to always be there for you to rely on. I promise I will stand by your side in dark times as well as in light ones. I will support you in each and every decision you make and will never question your motives. Princess, I love you from the bottom of my heart." he said as he slipped the ring on her finger.

Azula had tears in her eyes as she reached out to take her ring for Aang from Zuko. It was almost the same ring, but had a different inscription on its inside.

"Aang" she said trying to not start crying "You know me better than anyone. You saw who I am when no one else did. You are my bastion of calm, my anchor whenever I feel like drifting away. I know you will always be there for me, no matter what happens. I promise to never doubt your loyalty, I promise to always support you in your role as the Avatar and will stand behind you unconditionally. My life without you would be nothing. Love does not even begin to describe what I feel for you, Avatar." she said slipping the ring on his finger. They stared into each other's eyes. Dark grey meeting glowing gold and Azula was losing herself once again in his infinite galaxy reflecting in his grey orbs.

"By the power given to me..." guru Pathik started, but Aang and Azula didn't bother any longer. Their crashed together, hot and eager lips pressing on hot and eager lips, as they shared their first kiss as married couple.

"I declare you husband and wife, you may now kiss the bride, jaddi jada" guru Pathik rolled his eyes. He never got to the point like it was meant to be.

"Oogies!" Kiyi exclaimed and Azula broke away from Aang for a moment.

"Hush!" she said smiling, before she kissed Aang again. The guests were cheering and clapping, being really happy for them.

They were now officially married.

The princess of the firenation and the Avatar. Married.

Who would have thought?

-/-

Chapter Text

one year later:

The biggest feast the world has most likely ever seen, took place on the evening of firelord Zuko's wedding with his now firelady: Katara. The press of nobles was enormous and public interest also had to be unmatched. All eyes were on the firenation this day, not only because it was the firelord's wedding, which naturally was huge, but also because he married a peasant. A watertribe peasant to be precise. The mere idea sounded absurd to basically everyone, not only to the firenation-citizens. Everyone of (however dubious it might have been) distinction wanted a chance to witness this once in a lifetime spectacle in person and tried to at least get an invitation for the ceremony itself. There was a huge banquet afterwards as well, but getting invited to that was almost impossible. It was rumored the firelord and his wife handpicked the guests. That was actually not true, Ursa and Iroh did, but either way, getting an invitation was still difficult.

The ceremony alone was of epic magnitude, performed by the head fire-sage in front of guests from all over the world. It wasn't conducted in the throne room like Azula and Aang had arranged their wedding, though Katara would have liked it there as well. But they would have never been able to fit all the invited guests into the throne room at any rate. Not even if they'd stack them and they also had to keep the public area in mind for all those commoners, who wanted to witness the wedding, but naturally were not invited personally. No, and outdoor wedding was the only reasonable option they had, so they had to fall back on the parade square in front of the palace, where Zuko made his very first appearance as firelord after his coronation.

For a few days Katara has been worried about the weather. In the firenation rain was not all that common, but once in a while there were harsh and violent thunderstorms. The last couple of days it looked like the wedding might be a wet one. But when Katara woke up this day, alone naturally, Zuko spent the night on Aang's couch, the sun was shining brightly. The waterbender was infinitely relieved; she really wanted this day to be perfect. Having it rain would have been a disaster of epic proportions. But, as it turned out, the weather was perfect. Nicely warm and sunny, so no one would freeze or get wet, but it was not too hot either, nor was the sun burning the skin. It was balmy with some small fluffy clouds here and there, just perfect for an outdoor wedding.

She was relieved that everything turned out so great, because the planning phase was almost a war. The fire sages, who would lead the ceremony were so focused on traditions and protocol and what not, Katara felt like she was suffocated. This was her wedding with Zuko, they should have been the ones to make decisions. Now there were a lot of compromises, so everyone was at least a little happy. At least Katara got her way with the bridesmaids and best men. She refused to have a whole army of people doing it for two simple reasons. First of all, she didn't want to listen to their testimonies for the better part of an hour and then of course she didn't know nearly enough people for it. Having strangers do it was out of the question for both Zuko and Katara. They just had to convince the sages, who, at the beginning, were almost glued to the traditions. Well, they managed to convince them otherwise over the course of a couple of month. In the end everything worked out rather fine.

Originally the royal newlyweds wanted to ask Aang and Azula to be best man and bridesmaid, but since Azula was already married to Aang and refused to be called "matron- of- honor" (which Katara somehow could understand, the title made her like a thousand years old) and they also didn't want to end up being witnesses of the marriage for each other, they had to search for someone else.

After some seriously hard thinking and considering, a choice was made. They both had to pick someone who was important enough, but neither Aang nor Azula. Katara thought of Toph at first, but then quickly realized she would be way to bossy and refuse to do all the girly stuff a bridesmaid had to do. Like wearing a dress, for example. So she settled for Suki as the bridesmaid. Zuko on the other hand hadn't so many options left. He asked Sokka to be his best man.

Even with only two witnesses, the ceremony took forever, the head sage just had to go on talking for what felt like several dark ages. In the end of his endless ceremonial ramblings Katara was not only Zukos wife, but also officially the new firelady, being coronated with a beautiful golden crown right after the wedding. Zuko left it to her to call everyone with invitations -which were considerably fewer, yet still way to many for her taste- into the royal ball room, where a large buffet was already prepared for everyone.

They had a band performing serene live music for the guests, who were seated around hexagonal tables in groups of six per table. Zuko had thought hard about the seating order, but couldn't come up with anything he really liked. His mother suggested, more as a side note than an actual advice, large tables for everyone to be seated around, but he didn't feel comfortable with the idea at all. How should people talk? There was no exchange, no flow in it, was there? You had the person to your left and the one to your right and if you were lucky you might have still have been able to hear what that bloke facing you just said to his neighbor. That was no way of interacting with each other. Zuko remembered some of the banquets in the palace when he was younger and they were just plain awful. He wanted something where people would feel comfortable, yet be able to exchange with other nations, ideally. He went to ask Aang about some input, but in the end it was Azula who gave him the idea. She came up with the hexagonal tables, split for three nations each, with six people per table (yes she did say exactly six, you all know Azula). Two from each nation, obviously except for the airnation.

Zuko arranged it exactly that way and had to admit, it was working like a charm. From where he was sitting he had a good view over the ballroom and could tell that people were exchanging nicely. There was a constant flow, as guests at some point started changing from one table to another finding continually new discussion partners.

The firelord was sitting at the one end of the royal ballroom, where a festive table was set up running along the short ledge of the room. The royal family and their closest friends were seated there, together with the bride and the groom. In the middle, on a huge and sophisticatedly tooled golden throne, was Zuko, his new wife to his right in a little smaller and slightly simpler golden throne. His sister, being the crown princess, had the same throne than Katara, only to Zukos left.

Aang was of course sitting next to Azula, while he was enjoying some very tasty steamed green asparagus-heads on light bread, which was fried in expensive olive oil. The food was delicious.

"So, how do you feel, now that you are married?" Azula asked Katara, leaning a little forward, so they could talk across of Zuko.

The waterbender smiled broadly "It's still so surreal" she said. "Nothing of this feels real!" she still could not believe it, somehow this felt all like a dream. Any second now Katara would wake up. But of course she didn't, it was perfect reality now. Her perfect reality.

Azula just smiled back, she knew exactly what Katara was talking about. The full consequences of their marriage hadn't hit her until she woke up the morning after her wedding, next to Aang, looking hat his hand and then looking at hers. The very same ring on both hands. Only then she realized that they were meant to stay together forever, they'd share not only a room and a bed, but a whole life. Which was totally fine by her. Soon Katara would most likely feel the same way.

"I know exactly how you feel" she said "I'll ask you again tomorrow"

"I am really happy for you" Ursa threw in from Katara's right side. "And I do love the dress" she complimented.

"Thank you!" Katara smiled happily. The dress had been a fiasco, to put it nice. The problem was that Katara wanted to marry in the traditional wardrobe of the water tribes. Which meant a plain white dress, no other colors. Just white, the color of life and joy in the tribes. Their whole life was dependent on white. Snow and ice was were they lived on.

One would think, that shouldn't be a problem now, should it?

Well, it was.

Unfortunately the meaning of white in the firenation was the complete opposite. It was in no way a happy color, no one would ever associate merriment and glee with white. To the firenation-citizens white was traditionally the color of grief and sorrow, usually worn at funerals. White reassembled the color of ash, which was everything left of a person after being cremated.

The head sage probably had a heart-attack when Katara brought it up. He complained that she would indirectly tell the whole nation that she'd be in infinite sorrow to marry Zuko, and that she did not love him at all. To him this was absolutely unacceptable.

Zuko could understand both sides. He knew full well that Katara wanted to retain at least some of her people's traditions. He would have wanted the same. But on the other hand he understood the sage as well. The double meaning of white was very unfortunate.

After some back and forth they settled for a light blue dress, which was almost white. At least the base color was light blue, but similar to Azulas dress it a shimmer to it, being opalescent from some angles. Everyone could live with that solution. The shiny color emphasized Katara's blue eyes perfectly, and it also accentuated her teasing hips, at least that's what a certain lesbian couple thought.

Hakoda was infinitely proud of his daughter. He felt so many positive things at once, it was difficult to name one. But pride was possibly the dominant one, mixed with something very bittersweet, knowing Katara's mother, his wife, could not be here. When he looked at his daughter, he saw how happy she had to be. Katara was smiling the whole evening and that in return made her father smile as well.

While the seating had been neatly planned, things started to mix up with progressing time. Hakoda took that chance and politely excused himself from Ursa and Ikem, who were sitting to his left. He wanted to be seated next to his daughter, but the sages insisted on the importance of royal family's hierarchy. That was why he had no one to really share his thoughts about his daughter with, so he left his seat on the family table to join some of his men from the tribes.

"Your daughter looks dazzling" Bato commented.

"Indeed she does" another warrior confirmed. "And so very happy"

Hakoda beamed at them "I know" he exclaimed proudly, Katara had grown from a sweet child into a wonderful woman "I am so proud of her" he said. No father could ask for more.

"And with all due right, chief Hakoda" a general of the earthkingdom said. His name was Sung, who was sharing the table with the tribesmen and some nobles from the firenation.

"here is to happily married couples. May they never grow apart" the general rose his glass, and everyone on the table joined. They clinked glasses once, before everyone took a sip of whatever it was they were having.

Hakoda caught his daughter's eye before he drank, rising his glass once again to her, before putting it to his lips and winking at her.

She returned the gesture with a smile on her face, which made the room brighter.

When her father walked her down the aisle today, he had tears in his eyes. Partly because of joy, but mostly because he regretted that Katara's Mother didn't get to live to see this important day. It was a heavy burden he carried around. She would also be so very proud of her daughter. Hakoda of course tried to hide it from his daughter, but she noticed it anyways. This was a very moving day for him and she was glad that he enjoyed himself for once.

Katara got distracted by some action to her left. Kiyi was tugging at Azula's sleeve, causing her to look down.

"Azula, would you go to the buffet with me?" she asked and held an empty plate up. She was eight years old now but hadn't lost a bit of her cuteness. Her world was happy and pink for the most part and sometimes Azula wondered if maybe Ty Lee was wearing off on her too much. From time to time Kiyi was almost as bubbly and overexcited than the acrobat was. But then again, she also had her moment of cold analytical thinking, very much like Azula. She was either sweet child or miniature adult, it was quite interesting to witness.

"You can't go on your own?" Azula asked.

"Of course I can, but the tables are too high! I can't see what's in the back and I can't reach it either. I don't want to stick to appetizers the whole evening." she slouched her shoulders "They are the only ones I can reach."

Much to Kiyi's dismay, Azula and Aang had a good laugh at that. The mental image of Kiyi barely reaching up to the snacks was just too adorable.

"Not funny!" she complained.

"No, it wasn't" Azula tried her best to get serious again, but her lips refused to undo the beaming smile on them. "Sorry. But you know, it was kind of cute"

"I am. not. cute!" her younger sister insisted.

"Of course not" the princess replied, while ruffling Kiyi's hair. Azula took her sister's plate for her and got up, before turning to Aang "want something as well?" she asked him, already half behind his chair.

"Thanks, I am going myself. Still haven't tried everything" he replied, before getting up himself, following his wife and her sister. He wanted to try everything today, everything which was vegetarian, of course.

At the buffet Azula picked Kiyi up, so she could see over the tables easily. It was true, they were rather high and even though for a girl of her age Kiyi was of completely normal height, she had to have difficulties here. Apparently someone thought the higher the tables are, the fewer a mess people were going to make. Why that was though, Azula had no idea.

Ursa was watching her two girls interact with each other. She didn't get a lot of chances to do this, but whenever she did, it blew her mind. Azula would be a great mother; even more than that. So infinitely better than she ever was herself. She was so proud, it made her almost a little jealous. But of course a mother could not really be jealous of her daughter, no matter what.

"They have a special connection, the two of them" Katara said, following Ursa's view.

"Indeed they have" Ursa replied, half in thought. Had someone told her two years ago her oldest daughter would one day be...well, so normal, she would have dismissed it as a bad prank. But there she was right in front of her, helping her younger sister with her food. And it wasn't just that, Ursa saw it often enough, at dinner or when they had a cup of tea. Azula had changed. She felt really bad for ever doubting it, among so many other things she felt bad about.

"You should stop by sometime, when we are training, it's almost magic" Katara said and reached to her head to get rid of an annoying itching there. She forgot her crown of course and clumsily kicked it off her head. It got tossed out of her topknot and like in slow motion sailed onto Katara's plate, where smacked into her noodles.

Ursa had to chuckle, as Katara turned dark red, trying to retrieve her crown from her food. But her hands were not really complying her commands, being so struck by shame. She could not pick it up, the golden disc would keep slipping through her suddenly numb fingers. Finally she got it out, but now it was all covered in sauce and noodles.

"Don't worry" Ursa laughed as she took the golden crown out of Katara's hands and with a quick motion cleaned it with red silk napkin. After quickly examining it for further food-remains and obviously being content with the result, she reached up to Katara's head and expertly stuck the golden plate back in place "That happened to me all the time when it was still freshly on my head. In a few days you won't even notice it anymore."

Katara wanted to curl up and die, she was so embarrassed. Cautiously she looked over to Zuko to check if he had seen it. Which he of course did and he was not alone about it either. Ty Lee and Mai were cringing with suppressed laughter, as Ty Lee was leaning onto her girlfriend, trying to regain her composure.

"And I thought you wanted to be my firelady" Zuko teased with suppressed laughter in his voice. He barely kept it together. It just looked too funny from his perspective. Katara just smacking her crown into her food with deadly precision.

"Shut up!" Katara squealed in a high pitched voice. This didn't make the situation any less funny. The acrobat and the assassin were laughing so hard, their faces turned almost as red as the table cloth and Ursa had difficulties not to as well. This was just to hilarious.

"I am not used to it!" Katara tried to explain, but she too had to laugh now. It was contagious.

In between some other guests, Kiyi was picking stuff and Azula would load it onto a plate for her. Aang was right next to them, poring over what vegetable he wanted to try next. The buffet was highly frequented so everything was a little cramped.

"You should try the smoked glass-noodles on potato-carrot tartar" Azula said. She knew exactly what he would like. "The scallion casserole is nothing you'd find tasty"

Aang smiled at her, loading his plate up with an adequate portion of Azulas recommendation. Because he wanted to try as much as possible today, he ate from everything just a little bit.

Azula turned back to Kiyi, handing her the fully loaded plate. She took it from her with a hungry grin and stepped back to make room for two elder people, who were constantly looking over to the royal table and talked about something, but Kiyi didn't understand what it was.

She followed the two prunes' view and saw what they were probably looking at. Ty Lee and May were kissing each other. It wasn't really making out, it was just, well... kisses and sitting close to each other. Kiyi knew by now they were a couple, even though they tried really hard to act like they weren't around her. The young girl didn't really think much of it, they made each other happy and just like that the issue was over.

Apparently the two old trouts thought differently about that. Kiyi luckily didn't understand what they were saying, but Azula did, loud and clear.

"Disgusting!" one of the two agitated.

"Indeed! How the firelord can possibly accept someone like those two degenerates on the same table!" the other replied, making a appalled face, her voice almost like pure venom. "This is a disease! Kissing another girl like this in plain public!"

"To kiss another girl at all! This is not how Angi meant things to be!" the first stated angrily, while filling her plate with something.

"Who do they think they are?" the other waved with her hand.

"Azulon would have burned those freaks alive!"

The mentioned firelord's granddaughter was changing from one shade of green to the next. If she had to hear one more word, she would lose it. Yes Mai and Ty Lee were together, and yes it was not all that common to display homosexuality in public, but by Agni's dick! this wasn't the dark age anymore, was it? Even Ozai legalized same-sex relations and he was a lunatic. It was still rare, true, but never the less. To be that homophobic in general and about Azula's oldest and best friends in special was just pissing her off to no end. Slowly exhaling to retain her composure, she turned to the two old ladies, whose back was still turned to the princess.

"Excuse me, but you are insulting my friends" she stated coolly. She could not stand someone messing with those who she cared about. Her world was always kind of black and white. There was family and then there were enemies. To her, there was no neutral zone in between. Ty Lee and Mai were family.

"Oh dear, you should get rid of those two as soon as..." One of the two started turning around slowly. She was shocked to see princess Azula standing in front of her, looking outright royally pissed.

"Princess!" the old hag breathed.

Azula rose an eyebrow. For a second she contemplated having them sent to the dungeons or maybe something worse, but Kiyi was still around.

"How the firelord can possibly accept someone like you two in the same building with him" Azula mocked. "Oh wait. He can't" she pointed to the door. "Get out of here. If I see you again I will have you thrown into the dungeons. If you can't see that those two women are happy with each other, you have to be blind and stupid. What kind of hateful person would deny someone else their happiness? There is absolutely no room for venomous old and miserable wenches like you in the palace." She narrowed her eyes and the old women swallowed "Now bugger off!"

The two bowed ashamed and left the party immediately. Having subjects sometimes had its positive sides to it.

Aang kissed his wife on her cheek, before they returned to the table.

"Do you protect everyone, Azula?" Kiyi asked on their way back. "Even if they are not like you?"

"What do you mean?" the princess wanted to know

"Well aunty Ty Lee and Mai are not like you are they? You have Aang, who is a boy and a very good bender. And aunty Ty Lee has Mai, who is obviously not a boy and also none of them are bender."

"You are pretty observant for your age" Azula replied. She wondered when her sister had found out. She did take it pretty well, apparently though.

"Mom keeps saying that" Kiyi replied. "So?" she asked as they reached the table. "Do you protect everyone?"

Azula smiled and ruffled Kiyis hair again "I try to keep those I care about safe, yes. But it has nothing to do with who they are with, or bending, or anything, ok?" she said. Kiyi could live with that. She knew Azula cared about her. She smiled and returned to her seat with a plate full of delicious looking food.

Aang had to admit Azulas recommendation was a great choice, though he didn't pay all that much attention to hit. Instead he observed his wife and her sister.

"You know, sometimes I think she is way smarter than what's good for her" he said.

Azula laughed "You should have seen me at that age" she said

"Do I really want to know?"

"Probably not" she kissed him on the mouth. "Mh, the smoked glass-noodles taste great" she said, licking her lips. Aang rolled his eyes. "Ha Ha." he said, before Azula snitched a bite off his table and quickly put it in her mouth. "Hey!" Aang complained.

"Yep, as usual, I was right. Very tasty." Azula smirked. Aang narrowed his eyes playfully. He aimed for a piece of food on Azulas plate and pilfered it. He also shoved it into his mouth, whit a victorious grin.

Wow that tasted amazing. What was that? Just as he wanted to ask, his wife looked at him with a forced stoic expression on her face, which was kind of trembling.

"You just ate chicken." Azula stated dryly, looking to her plate. "Mr. Vegetarian." she hardly could contain her grin now.

Sokka, sitting next to Aang, just lost his shit completely, busting in laughter. Aang was just completely zonked. out.

-/-

five years later:

"Alright, you know what I told you. Now do it." Azula said to Kiyi and added with a soft smile "And don't blow yourself up this time."

Kiyi just giggled as she took her stance. She was training with Azula in the royal gardens. Over the last five years her bending got really powerful. Maybe that was because Azula was teaching her, but of course she had some talent as well. The princess was so incredibly proud of her sister.

This time it would work. She knew it.

Kiyi inhaled deeply, sweeping through the air with two fingers of both of her hands. She felt the energy building up inside of her created by yin and yang being forced apart. The feeling was so incredibly intense, so powerful. With another swing of her arms she directed the pure force into her limbs, where a moment later Kiyi's first lightning was called to being.

"Excellent. Feel the will of your lightning. Follow it around. Guide it." Azula instructed with a proud smirk on her lips, as Kiyi did what she was told. She spun the deadly force around her body with unmatched precision, like she never did anything else but bend lightning. Her sister was really impressed, Kiyi had learned a lot from just watching her spar with Aang. Lightning did get increasingly common during their duels, much to Zuko's dismay.

Azula noticed out of the corner of her eye a servant, who was approaching the two benders. He didn't really expect to see the little sister of princess Azula bending lightning, he was just sent to deliver a message. He thought they were doing some girly stuff, whatever that looked like with the princess. Apparently it was bending lightning. To him, those people were all (a little) crazy. Azula eyed him carefully, but he remained silent, not wanting to distract the young bender. Azula sighted and picked up a Frisbee from the ground before throwing it into the air with quite a bit of force.

"Target!" she exclaimed and Kiyi immediately locked her eyes on to the red flying disc. She guided her lightning around one more time before pushing it away from her into the air.

A second later the disc exploded in a ball of fire. Kiyi waited a moment and when the disc didn't appear again, she gleefully jumped up and down, clapping her hands. "I did it! I did it!" she shouted joyful. This was her dream! And she finally achieved it. She bended lightning! Kiyi ran over to her sister and hugged her tightly.

"Thank you, Azula" she said whispering. Her sister gently stroked over her head. Kiyi grew up quite a bit over the last years and was now reaching almost up to Azulas shoulders.

"Well done, Kiyi! Well done." She laughed "And see, even without losing parts of your body"

"Ha. Ha. Very funny Azula" Kiyi rolled her eyes, letting go of her sister. "What does he want?" she nodded towards the servant, who she just noticed now, not knowing her sister already saw him.

"I am sorry to interrupt your teaching, Princess" the servant started. "But your husband requests your presence in Firelord Zuko's office" he bowed humbly. Azula frowned, their training-session wasn't done yet and in the past her sister was always very particular about it. She always wanted to train as much as possible, often a little too much for her mother's taste. And for Azula's schedule. Or for Ty Lee's for that matter, who stayed with the IMIS together with Mai for way longer than originally planned. They had own commands and responsibilities now. Colonel Yamomoto was very impressed by their work, calling them one of the most efficient members of the agency. Azula of course would never tell them, so their success would not turn their heads.

Azula looked at Kiyi who just smiled widely. "Fine with me. I am meeting someone later anyway"

"Be gone!" Azula said to the servant, without even looking at him. He bowed again and disappeared.

The princess rose an eyebrow looking at her younger sister. "Aren't we a little young for a date?" she asked, causing Kiyi to blush and averting her gaze for a moment. She didn't want anyone to know. Especially not her mother, she would not understand, seeing how she is so overprotective all the time. And somehow she feared that Azula would see right through her immediately... which she did, didn't she? Sometimes this was really unnerving, Azula always knew everything, there was almost no keeping secrets from her.

"It's not a date! It's more a... meeting with friends" she tried to explain. But her sister was able to see right through her. Azula knew her sister almost like she knew herself. Recognizing what troubled her was as easy as it could be.

"Really? You can tell that to the marines" she laughed. "But don't worry, mother won't know from me."

Kiyi just blushed even more. "Thank you, Azula"

"No problem" she shook her head, smiling "Off you go then. And keep things classy with him, will you?"

"Will do" Kiyi replied while leaving the training-areal. Oh if Azula only knew...

-/-

The door into the firelord's office burst open and Azula came in, closing the door behind her not too gently.

"What's the matter?" she asked looking at Aang who was sitting on the guest side of Zuko's desk. The firelord handed her a scroll.

"This arrived today." He said.

Azula skimmed the document, only to read it once again, this time more carefully. It was from king Kuei, who seemed to pull of some kind of sick joke on them.

"Is he serious about this? Don't tell me he is really serious about this." she asked

"Apparently he is" Aang replied shrugging. He didn't really believe it himself, when he read the scroll from the earthking. He wanted a meeting discussing Yu Dao. Again. Like they hadn't done that at least a dozen of times. But he suggested a more long term solution for it. He wanted to declare the city and some of the land surrounding it stateless, so no one could lay claim to it. Yo Dao would be self governing after that, with an own administration, own taxes and so on.

"Well the idea isn't all that bad. I guess we could send someone for negotiations" she shrugged. Why was she even here? This was Zuko's business and maybe the Avatar's.

"And that's why I am sending you and Aang. You will represent me, while Aang will make sure that everyone and everything keeps peace in mind" Zuko said calmly leaning back in his chair. Oh.

"Are you kidding me? I haven't been in the earthkingdom since Ba Sing Se" she replied, tossing the scroll back onto Zuko's desk. "They have tried to have my head for conquering it for years! If you ask me, they don't have any fond memories of neither the conquering nor my person I would say." Azula still rarely went outside of the palace, apart from accompanying Aang. And his trips usually were smaller riots or civil commotions in remote villages. The people always welcomed her just as warmly as Aang, after maybe a little bit of heating period. But going back to Ba Sing Se of all places?

"Which is why you are going. Kuei is afraid of you. I don't want him to screw this up. The idea is great if done correctly. But I bet he wants way more influence than is good for it. You will see to it, that this works out in favor of the idea and not in favor of a nation. That includes our nation"

"And you are supporting this, Aang? What kind of husband are you anyway?" she asked, pressing her hands to her hips.

Aang laughed softly "One who knows his wife. You are good in this kind of stuff, Azula and don't you deny it. You got him to agree to the IMIS after all. This should be a walk in the park for you. And besides, I'll be there as well. Think about all the fun stuff we can do while in Ba Sing Se." Aang smiled cheekily at his wife, while Zuko just pressed his hand over his eyes. She understood what he was saying of course. There were places in Ba Sing Se, where they have met each other before, yet not on friendly terms. Maybe they could revisit them, doing more friendly stuff. And by that she was thinking about shagging like wild rabbits.

"Ugh, I hate it when you are right." Azula shrugged. "Fine, I'll do it."

"I knew you would." Zuko sighted, trying to get a very disturbing image of Aang and his sister in the crystal caves out of his mind. "I'll let King Kuei know you will come to discuss matters." he said, but Azula stopped him

"No." she stated, raising a hand "Just inform him about our delegation, which will arrive soon. Don't tell him anything about me."

"Why would I..."

"Agni, Zuko. You send me because I am good at this. Then please, just do as I say, ok?" Azula sighted and Zuko just nodded.

"Anything else to discuss?" Aang asked, which Zuko negated. Everything was said and done for this matter. The rest of it would be Zuko's job and later Azula's and Aangs. This may turn out to be something good after all. The Avatar got up, following his wife out of the firelord's office, before he closed the door behind him. They walked a few steps silently next to each other, in which Azula reached for Aang's hand.

"You want Kuei to be surprised" Aang stated, Azula nodded slowly.

"Of course. He would go and hide somewhere if he'd know I'd come. No, I need him face to face for my charm to work"

"Uhh, your charm" Aang teased "Do I need to be jealous?"

"Shut up" Azula returned, placing a kiss on Aangs lips. "I'll go and tell Kiyi I'll be gone a couple of days" she added smiling. Damn, she was still in love with Aang like it was the first day. Nothing changed, other than they being very much official now. He was still her everything. Without him, Azula would fall apart, she was sure of it. So many little things he did or said would be gone without him, she could not even begin to imagine it. Life would be gray and not worth living.

"I'll go and prepare Appa" Aang replied.

"Did you know she has a date today?" Azula asked.

"Appa is a bloke, you know?" Aang laughed and Azula gave him a look. He got serious again "No, I didn't. Isn't she a little young to see someone?" he asked

Azula shrugged "I asked the same. Apparently it's more of a friends thing" she said.

"Do you want me to give him the 'If you dare to hurt her' talk?" Aang asked, he was not sure why his wife was telling him. But on the other hand, she always told him everything. She liked having his input on matters which were on her hyperactive mind.

Azula laughed "No, no. I can do that myself" she shook her head. She would most likely be better at it anyway. Not that she planned on doing this anytime soon, or at least not as long as she didn't know the guy.

"Well as long as they keep it classy" Aang was fine with it. His sister-in-law was a bright girl and early with everything. She was able to write when other kids just babbled their first sentences, her firebending was years ahead of her age, just like so many other little things. She was kind of an adult in a teenagers body. Why would she not start early with the boy- things as well?

Azula beamed at Aang for no apparent reason and he got a little confused. It wasn't that funny now, was it?

"What?" he asked.

"Nothing" Azula replied, before she turned away to tell her sister about her spontaneous trip to the earth kingdom. Funny how Aang picked the exact same words she did. They were spending too much time together, weren't they?

-/-

Appa was roaming through the clouds in a warm afternoon the next day. Aang was sitting on the saddle, Azula leaning to him, his arm wrapped around her. He looked to the opposite side of the saddle. Interestingly enough they were not alone.

"I still can't believe you got roped into that" Aang said.

"Don't remind me. They didn't fight fair" Azula sighted softly. She was not feeling too well, which was something very unusual for her. Maybe she didn't stomach her breakfast that well, or maybe it was because of the height? Whatever the reason may have been, she was feeling a little dizzy and so she was leaning to Aang with her eyes closed most of the time. No one noticed so far and obviously Azula would never tell.

"Hey! This is not my fault, I just got off duty for a few weeks! Leave me out of it, it was mere coincidence" Ty Lee complained, before she grabbed Kiyi on her belt, pulling her away from the edge of the saddle she had been looking over. To her it looked like she would fall out of it any second.

"Could you please keep some distance, you make me all nervous" she said.

"But the clouds are so beautiful!" Kiyi said.

"Yes and they are equally beautiful from here" Ty Lee replied firmly. The acrobat always had a little bossy side to her, but over the last years in service of the IMIS, she perfected it.

"Ugh, Yes ma'am" Kiyi replied, rolling her eyes.

"Oh, don't you ma'am me, young lady" the acrobat narrowed her eyes. Azula started chuckling into Aang's chest, who tried his luck with a change of topic

"So I heard you had a date yesterday?" he asked.

"It was no date!" Kiyi exclaimed, her cheeks turning all red. Ty Lee ruffled Kiyis hair "Oh, sure it was not. That's why you always blush in that nice shade of pink when someone asks about your date" she teased.

"I hate you all" Kiyi crossed her arms over her chest and looked away.

"Well, that's too bad." Ty Lee shrugged playfully. "I wanted to show you all the places your sister and I went to, when we took down Ba Sing Se by ourselves. But if you hate us... well I guess I have to find someone else"

"Ok, maybe I hate you all just a little" Kiyi said and everyone had a laugh.

-/-

When Aang and Azula arrived at the palace in Ba Sing Se a few hours later, the princess was feeling perfectly fine again, like nothing was ever wrong. She didn't waste another thought about it, dismissing it as a minor tummy upset. Before they flew to the palace, Appa had dropped off Ty Lee and Kiyi somewhere in the middle ring, so they could go and explore. Azula wondered if her mother knew about her youngest daughter's little field trip. She somehow suspected Ursa might find out either via a scroll or her husband telling her. Ikem was way more laid back when it came to Kiyi having fun and going out for adventures. He always said that was part of a normal childhood. Azula would have taken any bet that Kiyi only asked him.

However, the determined princess had not a lot of time to actually think this through, as they were escorted to a conference room in the palace. A servant opened the door and announced the two visitors.

"Your highness, the Avatar and the firenation's envoy have arrived" the servant said, before Aang walked into the room, followed by his wife. The conference room was actually pretty nice. It had a round table made from heavy dark brown wood with three black leather-chairs around it and was painted in an actually rather pleasant green. Neither Aang nor Azula liked green particularly much, but that tone was... bearable. On one side, opposite to the double door made from the same exquisitely polished dark wood the table was made of, a round window, the frame formed the earthkingdom insignia, was illuminating the conference room perfectly, as the warm sun was shining through it.

Kuei was already sitting at the table, the window right behind him. When he got up, his shadow was casted upon Aang, who was walking into the room.

"Avatar Aang, it's a pleasure to see you again" he said with a simper on his lips. It looked rather fake though. He looked out for the envoy, who was just coming in "And..." he immediately recognized the golden eyes, tearing through him like sharp knives. He swallowed hard. Everything about her was making him anxious, from the way she walked over her evil smirk to her eloquent style of speech she presented so effortlessly.

"P-Princess Azula" he managed to squeeze out. Immediately he was back at the throne room all those years ago, having a blue fire-knife on his throat. Back in the day he could have sworn she'd kill him. Up until today he was hag ridden from that day.

She had her trademark smirk of doom on her lips, which alone did half the work of transforming the king into a scared girl. "King Kuei" she said, cold as ice. Aang just greeted the King as he normally would and proceeded to take his seat on the table.

Kuei still stared at Azula like she turned him to stone. He had no fond memories of their last encounter at all, those years ago, when they negotiated about the establishment of the imperial military intelligence service. Azulas method of negotiation was nothing Kuei could compete against. She always said what exactly she wanted and how that would be reachable with everyone in on it, which was bad enough most of the time. She then waited for someone to object. After that, she'd proceed to explain how she'd get to her goal without anyone's help. And suddenly the first option she gave looked really attractive. It was like the scary princess was walking around with a stick she threatened you to hit you with, should you not do what she wanted. Kuei promised himself he would not back down from his goals today, no matter what it was Azula threatened him with.

"I believe we have a lot of important matters to discuss" Aang said and tried to sound neutral. "Why don't we start with what you had in mind exactly, king Kuei? You letter was a little vague"

It took Kuei a moment or two to snap out of it, but he looked away first.

"Right, of course" he said, taking his seat again. Azula smirked, this was her game through and through. Kuei apparently hadn't forgotten who the boss was. The princess seated herself as well. She would do this with her proven method, hoping that Aang would play along. Had she known how ridiculous and stubborn Kuei was going to get today, she might have thought of a different approach.

"So, if I understood you correctly you wanted to make Yu Dao and the surrounding areas stateless?" Azula asked folding her hands together over the table.

The king nodded. "Since we have been arguing about Yu Dao for years now, without reaching a conclusion, I thought this might be a viable option. If the earthkingdom can't exercise control over it, then..." he got interrupted

"the firenation shouldn't either, is that what you want to say?" Azula asked coolly, rising an eyebrow. Well, it was what he wanted to say, but that was something he didn't want to admit.

"Princess, I..." Kuei was stumbling. This woman was so... scary. She had something on her, which just prevented him from keeping a clear mind. Whenever she was around he started talking nonsense like a child. Had he known the firelord would send his sister to negotiate matters, he would have sent a mediator. Everything she did or said was confusing him, her actions were always so unexpected.

Azula laughed "It's ok. We thought the same thing, actually."

"You have?" Kuei asked. There it was again, why did she agree with him on that? Yet again, he was confused.

"We have." Azula confirmed "Together we can transform Yu Dao into a city of united nations, where everyone can live, no matter where he's from. A true republic if you want to call it that way."

-/-

"That blithering idiot. I have no idea how someone so stupid could possibly be king. Does he have someone, who is reminding him to breath, should he one day forget?" Azula has been ranting about Kuei for the better part of half an hour now. After a very stressful day of negotiations Aang and his wife went to the Jasmine Dragon, to have some tea, they met up with Ty Lee and Kiyi there.

Iroh did not at all expect his nieces, Aang and Ty Lee to show up out of nowhere. They just suddenly sat on a table and ordered tea. He hadn't even recognized them before he handed them the menus. After learning about the reason for their visit, he invited them to stay a little longer and tell him about the progress they made. This republic city thing was actually sounding pretty interesting. Aang explained the general idea to Iroh, after Kiyi had narrated through her adventures of the day in what felt like light speed. Ty Lee just smiled and nodded from time to time. She had a lot of fun with Kiyi today, Azula's sister was a great young woman, as curious about things as Azula always had been but also cheerful and lighthearted.

Now they all sat around a table, well past closing time, as Azula was ranting about Kuei, ventilating her anger, before she exploded. For Kiyi this was all really funny, particularly the words Azula used to describe the earthking. She used a whole army of cusses and interestingly enough never used one twice. It was hardly language fit for the ears of a thirteen year old, but Azula just didn't care anymore. If she didn't find a vent to her built up anger now, she'd chop off Kueis head with a tea-spoon.

"You know what his next oh so brilliant idea was?" Azula asked, Ty Lee shook her head. She and Iroh thought Azulas narrating was hilarious. If Aang wouldn't have been there, trying to keep his wife from murder, he would have seen the funny side as well. Though he had to admit, his wife was doing a good job in retelling things.

"Well, he suggested the police force could be the earth kingdom military. Sure as fuck boys, let's just do that, because that's not the most brain dead thing to do at all! And while we are in the process of fucking things up for good anyway, we can also incorporate earth kingdom law, because it seems to work just fine, doesn't it? By the way he was serious about that. He looked me in the eyes and seriously asked me why I thought this was a bad idea. Why? Well, because I don't like the ugly ass font they use for it, of course, why else would I have a problem with his ridiculously retarded laws in a newly founded state? Did you know they have still an active act which allows rape in case of adultery? Hell yeah! Let's use that legal code! Great idea kids. And then you tell me I can't smack that mongo across the face, for what reason again? He was basically saying 'We'll put a Republic City Sticker on it, but de facto it will be earth kingdom'. Next thing he comes up with surely will be taxes. Why don't we pay them to the earth kingdom as well? Surely no one has a problem with that? What the fuck does he think republic stands for? That shit is latin and means res publica, which translates to public matter or matter of the people. Not matter of the damn earth kingdom. I can't believe I wasted ten precious hours of my wonderful life to do that, when I could have been doing Aang instead. And we will have round two tomorrow. Yay."

Iroh chuckled, skipping Azulas kinky remark completely. For someone who always was worried about language when children were present, she surely was pretty foul mouthed herself. On the other hand, Kiyi was thirteen. Iroh remembered his niece at that age and she was capable of some serious cussing back then. "Did he really suggest to incorporate his own laws in a city which he declared stateless in the same sentence?" he asked. Aang nodded

"Unfortunately he did. It wasn't the only stupid shit he came up with today. Sometimes I had trouble convincing myself he wasn't winding us up deliberately" he said and shrugged, before picking a delicious looking cookie from a plate in the middle of the table.

"Isn't Yu Dao officially still ours?" Kiyi asked.

"Yes it is." Azula nodded. "why?"

"Well, if he is so stupid, just ignore him and do whatever you see fit?" she suggested. Ty Lee looked at her, suddenly realizing Kiyi was becoming a miniature version of Azula. Kiyi just shrugged, she didn't see the problem.

"That's not a bad idea, actually" Azula scratched her chin playfully. "Why didn't I think of that?"

Aang sighted. "Because he would completely freak out if you'd do that. Sure by law you'd have every right to do so, it is your city. But it has been for the last hundred years and that didn't stop him from griping about it. He almost started a war over Yu Dao once before. Leave him out of this and he will start one for sure"

"Riiight... I knew there had to be something" Azula winked at her husband before she kissed him. Of course she knew why this wasn't done already. But it would have been so much easier. A girl can dream...

"So how is the state of affairs now?" Iroh wanted to know.

"Well we agreed on a republic with own government and own laws for everyone, no matter the nation." Azula said before refilling Aangs cup of tea as well as her own.

"And we more or less have him so far that he'll give up his police idea" Aang offered.

"Yeah, there is that. But don't ask who is going to pay for all of this. I bet he comes around the corner with some ridiculous war-reparations and the firenation should pay for everything."

"Are you serious?" Iroh asked.

"Agni, I swear, if he says that, I'll kill him on the spot and take the title of earth-queen again." Azula rolled her eyes annoyed. It would seem exactly like the shit Kuei would try to pull off.

"You have been earth-queen?" Kiyi wanted to know, clearly very excited. Even though Ty Lee has told her so much today, she did not know much about pre-end-of-war-Azula. Somehow everyone kept that topic hidden far away.

"Yes, for a few months after the coup. I should have never abdicated" she sighted.

"Hush" Aang said and pulled her into a hug. "No crazy talk in front of your sister"

-/-

The next day of negotiations, surprisingly enough, wasn't remotely as bad as the first one had been and surely not half as unpleasant as expected. Somehow Azula might have suspected Kuei would chicken out and send someone to do the talking for him, but to everyone's surprise he showed up himself.

Things were actually slowly progressing, as Kuei and Azula could arrive at an arrangement on some of the more important issues. Even though it was going slow, at least it was going forward. Movement was all which was important, as long as they'd get there, the time it took to reach their goal was irrelevant.

Aang hadn't an awful lot to do on the second day of negotiations. His wife and the king were almost civilized as Kuei kept down his bullshit to a minimum and Azula would just ignore some of his remarks. Not all of them, obviously, but the minor ones. Maybe Kuei had realized he would get nowhere if he'd infuriated the princess, other than possibly closer to a premature death. He was simply too stupid to face her in an argument and was unable to present his points in a rationally approachable manner, like the princess could do so effortlessly, twisting everything said in her favor. She would have been able to sell condoms to a nun without even using a indecent word. Kuei was not that skilled, he lacked a lot of expertise in actual negotiations. Azula always was able to just point out why his suggestions were utter nonsense.

The second day this was different. Kuei used a different approach, like he realized over night that, yes indeed, he wanted this project to be fair and done without any national interest in the background. Azula did not mind that change of course at all, she was yet again not feeling all that well today. It was much like during their arrival at the earth kingdom, when she was a little dazed. The feeling annoyed her to no end, because it was wearing down on her concentration at a time, when she needed it dearly. Hopefully Aang was paying attention as well.

As expected today's item on the agenda was funding the newly agreed on Republic City. Because obviously Yu Dao would not be able to develop into a full grown, independent city-state on itself. It needed infrastructure, communal buildings, a working industry, attractive job offers, housing for people to live in, etc. The list was long and versatile, yet had one thing in common: It cost money. Quite a lot of it actually, someone did the math on that one very meticulously. Money Yu Dao simply did not have. Hence the funding.

"So we agree that funding should be done in equal shares?" Azula asked, she rubbed over her strangely burning eyes. She was still feeling a little dizzy and her concentration issues did not get better either. This was so nothing like her, she was not getting sick, was she? Weakness was nothing she could afford right now, yet alone sickness. At this point of the negotiations it was about hard cash, something no one would want to be at a disadvantage with. Zuko had made that rather clear before their departure. He did not want to spend more money than necessary, now that his household budget was almost balanced.

Aang was mostly staying out of it at the moment, it was none of his business. Funding hardly had to do with keeping the world in balance and more with keeping the bank account in said balance, which was, unless there would have been some sort of money bending he was unaware of, luckily not his field of expertise.

"Yes, we agree" Kuei nodded. "Though I think it will be reasonable for me to set the value of the landholdings, which I am going to provide from my kingdom, off against the total amount of our part in the investments. Land is, after all, of value as well, is it not?" Azula almost lost him there, spirits, what was wrong with her? Her ears were ringing, and the whole room was turning. Was it only her or was it also getting really hot in here?

"So you want the ground you provide to be part of the your share of the funds?" Azula asked simplified.

"Yes, that would be only fair, don't you think?" Kuei asked. Azula tried to nod, but it made her even more dizzy. She held on to the table "I guess it… I guess... I" she blinked rapidly, seriously why was it so hot here?

Aang knew something had to be wrong, when Azula grabbed the table like a lifebelt. She was suddenly starting to sweat and her face was turning all red, when she tried to say something. She did not look well at all. Her husband was at her side immediately, crouching down and gently touching her shoulder.

"Azula?" he asked.

"Princess, are you alright?" Kuei got up from his chair, he of course did notice something was off as well.

"I am fine!" Azula said and tried to hiss, but her voice was failing her, coming out as nothing but a croaky whisper. She wanted to shove Aang away, but her arms got heavy like stone in a moment's notice, as they just dropped to her sides. The room was starting to spin faster and faster. Her eyes turned inwards, when she suddenly fell off her chair in the opposite direction of Aang, unconscious. He tried to catch her, but her sleeve slipped through his fingers, and she crashed to the floor. Aang felt his heart skip a beat or two. Maybe more than two.

Kuei could not believe his own eyes. The princess lost consciousness in his palace. The first thing that came to mind as a reason was poison. Was she poisoned? He had no idea. Spirits forbid don't let her be poisoned! This would be a diplomatic catastrophe! "Guards!" he called loudly, as Aang checked on his wife, forcing himself to stay calm in order to think straight. She was breathing steadily, but was not awake, ok that at least was a good sign. He checked her pulse, which seemed to be ok as well. He also had no idea what was going on. She had been sleeping enough and also had eaten just fine. They shared both breakfast and lunch, because none of them was really all that hungry (he even teased her because she voluntarily passed on the meat because of him), so he ruled out anyone had tampered with the food.

"we have to get her to a hospital" Aang shouted upset, as the guards entered the conference room.

-/-

It was already dark outside, when Azula regained consciousness. She was gone for quite some time in which nurses would keep coming into the sick room to look for this or get some blood for that. They sent a different nurse every time and the first thing they would always do is gasp at the people in the room. Aang was slowly losing his patience with them, they really got on his nerves.

"Where am I?" Azula asked, she looked around in an unfamiliar, boring and really tacky room. It was small, but brightly lit. Aang was there, sitting on a simple wooden chair, holding the tip of her fingers in his gentle, but strong hands. The earthking was standing in the far corner of the room, he came along to learn what was wrong with her. He wanted to make sure no one attempted to murder her in his presence and also show his diplomatic solidarity. It would look good if he pretended to care, because he was not the least worried about Azula. He was however worried about himself, should she indeed be poisoned and survive, because then he would surely be the first one to be suspected, would he not?

The princess was lying in a truly uncomfortable bed, not only was it way to saggy for her taste, but it also smelled disgustingly sterile. Somehow Azula felt like she had been drinking for a week straight and just woke up with the hangover of doom. She wanted to throw up, but forced herself to suppress it. No one would want to see a puking princess.

"Don't worry" Aang replied, kissing her hand. She did not look healthy. Her otherwise so rosy lips lost all their color and her glowing eyes were now glazed. " You are at the Kyoshi-Hospital " Azula was confused. What was she doing in a hospital? Nothing was really adding up.

"What happened?" she wanted to know.

"We don't know yet. You lost consciousness during negotiations" Aang said softly as he smiled weakly at her. This was very exhausting for him, obviously he was very worried.

"I did?"Azula couldn't believe it, that had never happened in front of people... Well that was strictly not true, because she lost consciousness in front of Aang before. But that was something different and because of aggravated circumstances. She didn't count it.

"Yes" Aang replied. His wife started thinking, trying to figure out why that had happened. Nothing came to mind, but then again, her brain still was not working like she was used to.

"But why?" Azula wanted to know. Aang began, but didn't get to answer, because there was a knock on the door. He wouldn't have known anyway. The simple white door was opened and an older gentleman in a light green gown entered the room. Being around sixty, possibly sixty-five, he had a stethoscope hanging around his neck. Obviously he was some kind of physician. He had meticulously combed white hair and a neatly trimmed full beard in the color of his hair of medium length. Also he had a pair of round glasses on his nose with calm and intelligent brown eyes behind them.

"Good day" he serenely said with a warm and calming voice, which was immediately likeable. "I am Dr. Kimoto" he introduced himself, as he bowed slightly. All eyes were on him now. It was surely no everyday occurrence to have the Avatar, the earthking and the crown princess of the firenation in the same room, with the later being the patient. They had sent him because everyone else was too afraid of her. They all feared, if they made a mistake, they would not get to live to tell the tale. But he was doing his job long enough, so he stayed calm. As a doctor, calmness was key. He would just explain everything to great length and hopefully the princess would understand. She was not stupid after all. One did not conquer Ba Sing Se in a matter of weeks and with only two people, if one is retarded.

"What is wrong with me, doctor?" Azula asked immediately. She wanted to cut the small talk and come straight to the point. The princess needed answers, as did Aang, he pricked up his ears.

"Well there are good news and bad news, but I don't…" he eyed the Avatar and the Earthking. Kuei got the hint, being not at all ungrateful for getting an excuse to leave. "I shall leave you now, Princess and hope to soon hear news of your convalescence" he said and left the sick-chamber without further ado. Dr. Kimoto looked at the Avatar, who did not move an inch.

"He is my husband, I want him to hear this." Azula explained. The doctor formed a silent 'oh' but said nothing about it. He was not aware that either of the two were married, yet alone to each other. Well there was something to gossip about for the nurses once they found out.

"The good news is, you have not been poisoned or anything. You are perfectly healthy." He said and Aang sighted relieved. "Then what's wrong?" he wanted to know

"That is the bad news." The doctor said. "To be honest with you, we don't know. We have tested for poison at first, because that seemed to be the most likely, but now we have to search." He said, looking apologetic "I would like to keep you here for the night, princess" he said.

"But I feel fine again" Azula said firmly. Gosh, she hated hospitals. Not because she was afraid of them, but they were such a waste of time. One couldn't do anything in a hospital. This and the food was disgusting.

"That may be, but it is my professional opinion that one night of medical observation would be the best course of action" Dr. Kimoto said.

"And what does qualify your professional opinion, doctor?" Azula asked with narrowed eyes. Dr. Kimoto opened his mouth, only to close it again.

"Zula…" Aang said slowly, and the princess rolled her eyes. She would not get away and she knew it. Aang could at least let her put up a fight. But he probably was right, she should not piss off the doctor who was attending her.

"Fine" she sighted. "But you go home, Avatar. I don't want you to spend the whole night in a hospital" she said in a demanding tone.

"But I…"

"If you don't go home, I won't stay" she insisted. Aang shrugged, he should have known her better. Azula didn't want to appear like she needed a babysitter. She was perfectly capable of spending a night in a hospital on her own. And Aang of course knew that, he just wanted to stay at her side. But of course, Azula had her own mind about this. Every other girl would have liked her husband around, but Azula was not every other girl. Which was why Aang loved her so much.

"Alright" he gave in "I'll check on you tomorrow. And be nice to the doctor" He said to her as he gave her a goodbye kiss.

"I promise nothing" Azula replied mockingly.

Aang had the door already opened, when he turned back to the doctor. "I trust that she will be well looked after, Doctor Kimoto" Aang said coolly giving the elder man a crystal clear look. The doctor nodded.

"Certainly, Avatar." He confirmed. Azula had a smug grin on her lips as Aang nodded and was gone. He got rather good at impersonating her evil staring.

-/-

Aang stepped outside of the hospital into the chilly night air. Behind some fluffy dark clouds the moon shined onto the great city of Ba Sing Se and the horizon was lit up by millions of city-lights. Aang was thinking what he should tell Kiyi, so she would not worry about her sister too much, when he noticed King Kuei. The earthking was also standing on the luxurious plaza in front of the hospital with his royal guard, obviously waiting to be picked up and brought back to the palace.

"Avatar" he greeted him as Aang was approaching. "How is it going?"

Aang shrugged. He didn't really have new information, but the ones he had were shareable.

"It wasn't poison." he said as Kuei sighted relieved. "But they don't know what's really wrong. She will stay for the night" he replied. At this point Kuei really didn't care anymore, but then again, diplomatic relations and all that shit was still an issue.

"Alone?" Kuei asked in pretended confusion. Aang was way too preoccupied with Azula to notice it.

"Yeah, she is tough as nails" Aang laughed "She does neither need, nor want a babysitter."

"I see" Kuei answered "But I would feel better, if you'd allow me to post some guards" he said. Aang considered it for a moment. Kuei's idea wasn't all that bad. This was Ba Sing Se after all and even though they were in the upper ring, nobles could hold a grudge against the princess too. What if someone of those found out she was here?

"That would be much appreciated" Aang replied. Kuei waved his hands at two of his royal guards

"You two will guard the princess' room. Let no one in except for her doctor. His name is Kimoto. Understood?" The two guards nodded, bowed and left.

"Thank you, king K…" Aang was interrupted by a wave of moving air, it was only a hint and to any non airbender surely not noticeable. The gentle wind was caused by an arrow flying towards the King at a pretty high speed. Aang twirled his glider around instinctively and caught the arrow in it, mere inches away from the King's face. The earthking looked shocked at the stopped deadly projectile, then at the Avatar, who just saved his life with so little effort, like he just squashed a fly. Aang looked into the direction the arrow came from. A shadow of an assassin was rising up on the rooftops of the houses across the street.

"Excuse me" the Avatar said as he took off after the hitman.

Aang launched himself into the air, racing after the dark, slender shadow, dressed in nothing but black. He could not see his face either, because he wore a mask. Aang was surely fast and nimble, but that assassin was always just a touch faster. He managed to stay ahead of the Avatar, even though just barely. Of course Aang could have easily shot him with lightning, but then the almost murderer would be dead and Aang wanted him alive. He wanted to ask him one or two questions.

But at this rate the Avatar would not catch him at all. The assassin was running over the rooftops, zigzagging unlike anything Aang has ever witnessed before. Finally he was in reach, and Aang took his chance. He earthbended a roof-tile made of clay up, so the assassin would trip over it. It worked, he sent him flying and yet, with an elegant turn in the air, the hitman managed an impressive three point landing. The Avatar was at least able to effectively engage him now, since he didn't have to chase after his target anymore. Aang sent a blue fire-whip at his opponent. Again the assassin could avoid the assault, as he stepped aside gracefully. This was not going like the Avatar was used to. Why was this brute so agile? He was like the wind, reminding Aang almost of some airbending-moves. But that of course was impossible and the assassin did not use any bending. Aang reduced his distance further and got in hand to hand combat range, as he changed his whip for two fire-knifes in each of his fists. After some expertly blocked attacks and counter attacks, the Avatar could land the first punch, slicing the clothing on the enemies right shoulder. Aang saw his chance to knock him out, but when Aang hauled off for the final punch, the hitman ducked away under Aangs arm and dropped down from the roof, onto a balcony on the opposite side of a huge gap between two houses. Aang followed him as soon as he found the guy again. The assassin was waiting on the one end of the stone balcony, when Aang landed on the other.

The Avatar thought he had him now, because for the hitman there was nowhere to really go to now. At least that was what Aang thought. He stared into the assassin's bright green eyes, the only thing he saw of him. Just as he was about to say something about how he should give up or fight him with all his might, a young girl, not older than Kiyi had to be, unsuspectingly stepped onto the balcony. She hadn't even realized that she was not alone on her balcony, when the hitman had already grabbed the girl, holding a hand over her mouth, so she couldn't scream, while the other hand pressed a sharp looking dagger to her throat.

"I have no dispute with you, Avatar" The assassin said, with the softly flowing voice of a girl. She wasn't even out of breath after all the running and fighting. Aang was surprised; he didn't expect a woman behind the mask. Not that he thought a woman could not fight like this, hell he was married to Azula after all, he would never think anything like that. It was just that her bodily forms didn't reveal anything female at all. But that was most likely intended.

"You tried to murder the earthking." Aang replied calmly. There was no reason for verbal provocation, not with a hostage in play. "I am sorry, but now you have a dispute with me" he said. The assassin's eyes lit up. The avatar considered his chances at taking her out right now, but the hostage was tightly in her arms and was panicking. Well obviously she was, she probably just wanted to get some fresh air, just to suddenly have a dagger at her throat.

"Avatar, you should get your priorities straight" the assassin said.

"That coming from a masked assassin holding a girl hostage. You have to admit that this does sound properly sorted" The Avatar had no idea how to end this and not let her escape.

The female hitman started laughing silently, before she shook her head.

"You don't know the man you are protecting Avatar. I do not blame you. But you should go to Ku-Roah and learn of the earthkings sins. Then think again." the assassin said before shoving her hostage roughly into Aang. The girl crashed into the Avatar, who stumbled backwards. He had to force her away to pursue the attacker, but when he looked around, she was nowhere to be seen, vanished into the night. Great.

"are you ok?" he asked, turning back to the hostage. The girl probably was in shock, she seemed way to collected. "I'm fine." She said, before she hesitatingly added "Are you really the Avatar?"

Aang smiled softly "The one and only" he replied.

"Can I have an autograph?"

-/-

"Go to Ku-Roah and learn of his sins" Aang repeated over and over in his head. Where the hell was Ku-Roah? What was this about? He almost considered it was just random rubbish, but then again, that didn't make any sense either. Why would the assassin toss him this piece of information and then just leave? Just to confuse and distract him? No, there was more to it, Aang felt it in his fingertips. The Avatar was curious, as he brought the freed hostage to the hospital. She was reluctant to go, saying she was fine, but Aang insisted on it. She should be checked through to make sure she was uninjured. She agreed when he promised her the autograph she wanted, if she'd go.

Aang dropped her off at the front desk, where he signed a piece of paper for her, wishing her all the best.

He pondered if he should go and see Azula or go back to the hotel they were staying at. He really needed someone to talk about what happened and she was most likely not asleep anyway. Azula didn't need that much sleep and she was a night-owl. Aang headed upstairs to her room, where, just as promised, two royal guards of the earthking stood in front of the door. He nodded at them briefly before slipping into the room. The lights were off, but Azula was playing with her purple flame.

"I thought you left" she said coolly.

"I had" Aang replied "But there was an assassination attempt on king Kuei" he explained.

"There was?" Azula lit the lights in the room with a wave of her hand "Why am I not the least bit sad?" she asked mockingly. Aang just rolled his eyes.

"I can't stand him either, but that does not mean it's ok to kill him" he said

"Obviously. I just said I would not have been sad if someone succeeded in it" she shrugged, before adding: "Who did it?"

"No idea. That's actually why I am here. She got away from me" he sighted. Somehow he was a little ashamed of it. But then again, if he wanted the assassin dead, he'd wouldn't have had any problem. The alive part was alone a little tricky, at least in an inhabited area.

"She?" Azula asked.

"Well, yes. Are you surprised?" he wanted to know. Azula was surrounded by strong and deadly women all the time. Hell, Ty Lee and Mai were both a force to reckon with.

"Yes, woman are typically not the type for cold blooded murder" she stated plainly, apparently completely ignoring who just said that. It was Azula after all, and she was definitely both a woman and a fan of cold blooded murder.

Aang had to laugh "That coming from you. What are you then exactly? Did I marry a secret dude?" Azula smirked her smirk of doom.

"I am an exception to every rule" she stated, maybe a little mocking.

Aang just rolled his eyes, he should not have gone there.

"What did you want to talk about" she changed the topic and her husband was grateful for it. He gave her the quick sum-up of the past hour or two.

"Before she pushed her hostage into me, she said something about the earthking's sins" he told her "Have you ever heard about Ku-Roah?" he asked and Azula inhaled sharply. Somehow she didn't really expect to ever hear of that town again.

"You know it, don't you?" he asked, reading her reaction.

"Yes, I do" Azula scratched her head, considering what she'd tell him and what not. He would find out sooner or later anyway, so she should just tell him the whole thing. "Ku-Roah was a town in the earth kingdom. It was rather important, because a lot of valuable trade routes would run through it. My father conquered it in 95 AG. But there was an uprising two years later" Azula paused for a moment.

"What happened?" Aang wanted to know

"Well, I was sent there to deal with it. It wasn't exactly my proudest moment, coming to think of it." She sighted "I burned it down. Everything. The whole town and everyone within. They all died in the flames or got executed afterwards. It was a massacre. But it brought stability, ever after Ku-Roah there never was an uprising anywhere again in areas occupied by the firenation."

Aang rose an eyebrow. He promised to never comment on the cruelties his wife committed before the end of the war, but that was not easy to stomach.

"Do you think there could be something of use there? Why would the assassin mention Ku-Roah when she was talking about the earthking's sins? He didn't destroy it?"

"All which is left are burnt ruins. No one ever returned to reconstruct it, they wanted to forget it ever existed. I guess, if he wanted to hide something from his own people without anyone ever finding out about it, he would hide it in Ku-Roah. The town is said to be cursed among most citizens." Azula shrugged. But what would the earthking have to hide of such grave importance?

"So our assassin could have told the truth after all. There could be a dark secret hidden there?" he mused.

"We can check it out tomorrow" Azula suggested

"You'd wish. You are not going anywhere" Aang replied firmly. Typical for Azula, always straight back to action. She was sitting in hospital for a reason, this was no vacation after all.

"Ok, you know what? If the doctor has any reason to think I am seriously sick, I will stay here as long as you want me to, ok? But in return, if he says I am fine, or can't tell why I collapsed, we go and check Ku-Roah out."

Aang nodded reluctantly, somehow whenever they made a deal like this, he could only lose. Azula was always playing a little dirty, which he normally wouldn't mind, but this was her health they were talking about now. This was serious. On the other hand, if the doctor found nothing, there was probably a reason for that as well "You got yourself a deal, princess" Aang smiled, as he sat down on the corner of her bed.

"As always it is a pleasure to do business with you, Avatar" she smirked her smirk of doom, before she sat up a little to give him a gentle, yet demanding kiss.

"You know what else would be a pleasure?" she asked sultry, leaning teasingly towards him.

"No, what?" he looked into her eyes, which were almost glowing. Realization struck him like lightning

"Oh no" he shook his head.

"Oh yes" Azula let her hand slide under his shirt.

-/-

Chapter Text

"Dr. Kimoto?" Azula asked demandingly, as she was strapping her armor back onto her body. The doctor had found the reason for her breakdown and did just inform her about it. She simply acknowledged the news, without much emotion. Kimoto never saw someone react like this to news of this format.

"Yes, princess?" he stepped forward a little.

"You will not inform Aang of my... condition, am I understood?" she glared at him.

"But princess..." the doctor started, before he was interrupted rather harshly.

"There is no but! You will not tell him. I do not want him to know anything of this yet. I am fully fit for service, am I not? At least for now." Azula tied her armor tightly together, she didn't like the feeling of it chafing over her plain red undergarment.

"Well, yes of course you are, but..." Kimoto tried to argue, but he should have know better. There was no arguing with Azula, ever. She got her famous nickname for a reason, after all.

"And I will be so for at least some months, will I not?" she continued, yet again interrupting the doctor. Kimoto nodded slowly. Her condition wouldn't get serious for some time to be.

"Then I decide when he will know. The last thing I need right now, is him to worry about me, when there is no reason to worry yet. I can take care for myself and there are important matters, which require both my and the Avatar's full attention. He cannot get distracted by my wellbeing right now." Azula hissed, still staring the doctor down. It was better Aang didn't know anything yet. One day she'd have to tell him, but that day was after Ku-Roah for sure. He was never able to really focus when something was bothering him and something told Azula he'd need his focus sooner than later. "Spirits, why am I even telling you this? You are just the doctor! Do as I tell you!" she snarled at him.

Kimoto sighted, it was not his decision after all. "If that is what you choose to do, princess." he replied. giving up.

"What do you choose to do, princess?" Aang's playful voice sounded from the door.

"Nothing, Avatar." Azula returned with a gentle smile on her lips. She eyed Kimoto once again. "The doctor just told me, that I am perfectly healthy"

Aang rose an eyebrow "Did he?" he wanted to know.

"Yes, I did" Kimoto replied, he didn't like this at all. It was wrong. Aang should know. While the princess was absolutely fine with doing whatever it was she wanted to do, Aang should still have an extra eye on her. Things could turn into shit at a moment's notice.

"And you did so because it is your professional opinion, not because someone told you to?" Aang asked. He knew his wife like no one else, she would definitely threaten a doctor to let her go if that was what she wanted to happen. The princess displayed some sort of self destructive behavior more often than Aang wanted to admit to himself. Hell, she jumped from a airship once, did she not?

"Obviously." Kimoto stated dryly, "she is in perfect health. We think her breakdown might have been stress induced" he said plainly and didn't even lie. It was stress induced. Among other way more important things.

He had to get out of here, before the Avatar would continue asking questions, because he would not be able to come up with reasonable answers for ever. He cleared his throat, as Azula shot him another warning look.

"And now, please excuse me. There are other patients I need to tend to." The doctor bowed to the Avatar and the princess, before he left the room. Aang turned to his wife, who was smirking her smirk of doom. Something felt set up here and Aang knew it, but kept his mouth shut. Sometimes it was better to just let Azula do what she had in mind.

"Stress induced, hu? Maybe we should get you an assistant" Aang joked. Azula would never have an assistant around her.

"Pff, forget about that" she laughed, before changing the topic, when Aang didn't say anything for a long moment "So what's the plan?" she asked. "Finish negotiations now and visit Ku-Roah later, or the other way round?" Aang shrugged, it didn't really matter anymore. Before Aang arrived at the hospital Kuei approached him to inform him how he wanted the negotiations to continue. He didn't see the point of discussing things with the princess to a further extent, pointing out how the most important issues, which needed a distinct resolve, were now already taken care of. All the unanswered questions left didn't need neither his nor the attention of the princess, but asked for the opinion and input of professionals. Like architects and engineers.

"Now that you two agreed on the major points, Kuei wants do discuss the rest via negotiators. I guess he doesn't want to spend the whole day listening to construction plans being discussed by a whole army of intellectuals." Aang didn't mind at all. To be honest sitting at the same table with the earthking was not something he would consider pleasurable in general, but having to do so, while also discussing a serious mega-project like Republic City was something else entirely. He wouldn't want to do that anytime soon again. Hopefully from now on things would go smoothly.

Things with republic city seemed done for the time being. Maybe at some point in the future Aang and possibly Azula would have to do something again, but for now it was expert- time.

The whole stay in the earthkingdom left only two unanswered questions. Who was the assassin trying to kill the earthking? Kuei had demanded an answer and Aang promised he would do something about it. Though honestly the Avatar didn't ascribe great importance to that questions. It was secondary at best.

The second and real important question, which Aang was dying to find out about, was Ku-Roah. What was going on there? The assassins words were still echoing in Aangs mind, whenever he thought about it. The voice of reason in his head constantly told him that this was a diversion so the assassin could escape, but there was also a different voice telling Aang that it was no ruse at all. He had a very bad feeling about this. A very bad one. Impulses and instincts like these usually had a reason and Aang learned to trust his instincts some time ago. They usually were right. They were right about so many things in the past, including minor changes in his life, like - for example- Azula.

The princess was sharing Aangs concerns. Something about Ku-Roah didn't feel right. It was the sole fact alone that an assassin would even mention the place, which rang an alarm bell in Azulas head. It was way to specific for a distraction. If she just wanted to occupy the Avatars head with something, she'd come up with something like Omashu or maybe Yu-Dao or any other city of the earthkindom, which is remotely popular. Ku-Roah was a ghost-town, hardly anybody even knew there was something left of it. No, there was definitely something going on in Ku-Roah and that assassin had to do with it. Still, this didn't mean it had to do anything with the earthking at all. It could be a trap. What if Kuei was never the target? What if Aang was the target and someone tried to lure him into a remote location, which was set up for something beforehand? It was a possibility. Azula would puzzle it out eventually, but as long as she could not be certain it was no trap she would not leave Aang's side.

"So Ku-Roah it is!" Azula smiled as she grabbed Aang and dragged him out of the hospital. She couldn't wait until she was out of here. Hospitals were so infinitely boring, it made her aggressive. An aggression Dr. Kimoto had to deal with quite a lot over the course of the last hours.

-/-

Ku-Roah was every bit like Aang imagined it to be. Abandoned for decades, destroyed by violent fire even before that day. The feeling of the bloody massacre which happened here was still heavy in the air. Like the tormented souls of a thousand burnt corpses still wandered the surface in search of salvation, hiding in the thick gray fog. A true ghost-town, almost like from a novel. The whole town was submerged in a thick, dark grey cloud, and had absolutely no colors to it, merely different shades of darker or lighter grey, black and white. It was around midday and yet there was barely any light. Billows of fog were wafting through the spookily dark alleyways. The old pavement was torn apart, single ripped out and abandoned cobblestones were lying around and the derelicted houses, hiding together with the souls of the former habitants in the shadows of the fog-billows, were mostly destroyed. Burned and collapsed a long time ago, during Azula's short but bloody deployment in Ku-Roah.

The Avatar swallowed hard, everything around him was a creepy cliché, the pavement felt like it was covered with sticky gunk and the damp, stale air smelled like rotten animals. There was even a dark black, but really huge crow cautiously sitting on a burned barrow. It was pecking it's dark plumage, when it saw three dubious shadows breaking through the wall of fog. It eyed the strange intruders almost condescendingly, before it launched itself into the air. Flapping it's wings as it was flying away, the crow cried it's spooky caw.

Azula looked to her left where Ty Lee was standing, when Aang flicked a look over his shoulder back at the two ladies accompanying him.

The acrobat came along, refusing to let Azula or Aang go alone. She was not stupid, something was up. She spent enough time with the IMIS to know that there isn't such a thing like too much personal. Skilled and motivated operatives were a valuable resource. While Azula pretended to be pissed off, she had to admit, that extra manpower would most likely come in very handy. Especially if that extra manpower came in form of a combat proven, though and alert close combat expert like Ty Lee was one.

She had that feeling when they left Iroh with Kiyi a few hours ago and right about now Azula really was glad her old friend came along. Not that she was superstitious or anything, but damn, that was one creepy ghost town.

"So." She started, just to get rid of an annoying feeling that someone was watching them. "What exactly do we search for?" Azula asked.

"I have no idea" Aang replied, his voice sounded muffled, almost like the fog was swallowing the sound.

"If you'd want to hide something in a deserted town, where would you put it?" Ty Lee asked

"Well that highly depends on what it is I want to hide" Azula answered. "I would pick a very different stash for treasures or documents than I'd pick for, I dunno, corpses."

"Good point" Ty Lee retorted. "So, what is it we are searching for?" she added.

"As I said: We don't know" Aang repeated, before he sighted. This was a bad idea. They just came here hoping they would find something.

"Guys, is it only me, or are we being watched? I can't help but get the feeling..." Ty Lee started, but was interrupted by a stranger.

"To be honest I didn't think you'd show up, Avatar" a female voice said. Aang recognized her immediately. It was the assassin, who tried to kill the earthking. She was slowly stepping out of the opaque fog, wearing the black garment of the day before. Additionally she had a big black cloak, with a huge hood, which was pulled deeply over her face. Aang could see her emerald green eyes glowing in the shadow of her heavy hood.

Azula spun around to the location the sound was coming from. "One step further and I will turn you into ash" she hissed. The assassin stopped immediately, and took an defensive stance. One hand reached for something on her belt, but she didn't draw whatever it was.

"What is that lunatic doing here?" the assassin asked, her former calm voice now emotionally loaded with anger. She pointed a finger of her gloved hands at the princess. "What are you up to Avatar?" she screamed. Azula exchanged a look with her husband, who gently shook his head. Alright, he would do the talking this time. Not that Azula minded, she was more the shoot first, ask questions later type. Though, she would not take the assassin's insult, if Aang didn't say anything about it. She was no lunatic.

Aang narrowed his eyes. "That lunatic, like you put it, is my wife, and I love her dearly." he stated matter-of-factly. "If you have a problem with her, you have a problem with me as well." he crossed his arms over his chest, as the assassin seemed to think. This was not developing how she imagined it. Not in the slightest. And who the hell was that other girl with them? Spirits how she hated firenation-people. For everything they did to her family and to herself. She despised them. And now the Avatar told her, he was married to the princess? The worst of them all? Dammit!

"She is from the firenation. I do not trust anyone of them." the assassin said with a noticeably forced calmness, focusing her deep green eyes on Aang. She needed the Avatar for her plans to work. Winner takes all and she would win this time, no matter what.

Aang sighted, this was going nowhere, was it? It's not like he hadn't been in situations like these before. People coming to him for help but suddenly stopping at the sight of his wife. They all learned to trust Azula in the end. It started with enough trust in the Avatar to accept his wife would tag along, sooner or later came across the point where they all noticed that the princess wasn't all that bad (anymore) and ended with actually rather liking her.

"But you trust me, don't you? Why else would you have called me here?" the Avatar asked, hoping Azula would keep her mouth shut for now. That was her only major problem, whenever she came along. Sometimes she could not stop herself from saying all the wrong things in all the wrong situations.

"Well, I guess, but that doesn't mean I..." the assassin got interrupted.

"If you trust me, you trust my wife as well. She will not do anything to harm you, I promise" Aang stayed calm. He didn't wish to fight right now, knowing so little about... well about anything, actually. From minute to minute coming to Ku-Roah felt like a worse idea then the moment before.

The assassin sighted heavily, apparently trying to figure out what to do, before she relaxed her stance, removed her hand from her belt and said: "What you are searching for lies beneath the surface. You will understand when you see it. You wouldn't believe my words. That is all I can tell you." and with that the assassin was gone again, vanished in the thick fog. She had two options here and she waited far too long for this. She would win.

"That was weird" Ty Lee stated, shrugging slightly.

"Who tells us, if she is really gone?" Azula asked and Aang nodded. As usual, his wife had a point and he too wasn't that keen on the assassin lurking around in the shadows, watching. He breathed deeply and generated a strong wind with a wave of his arms, as he pushed back the fog, out of the town, creating a still grey but at least fog-free town.

"See her anywhere?" Ty Lee asked, looking around. But no matter how hard they tried, there was no one around to be seen. Everything was quiet and unmoved. The assassin was gone. At least for now, who knows, she might just as well show up sometime again.

"Let's see what we can find" Aang waved the two girls to follow him, before he walked off in a randomly selected direction, hoping it would lead towards the town center.

It didn't actually take them long to find the center of Ku-Roah, not surprisingly it was in no better condition than the rest of the town. Aang pressed a foot on the floor to use his earthbending and detect anything which might have been hidden underground. And indeed, he did feel tunnels and rooms, some more like chambers, some more like halls, deep below under the surface. There was a whole complex hidden deep underground.

"Looks like our assassin told the truth. I can feel a lot of structures down below" he stated, pointing towards a completely destroyed building, which one day might have been the townhall. "There seems to be some kind of entrance in that... whatever it used to be"

"Alright" Azula smirked her smirk of doom again. "Let's go!" She was so excited to get some action again. She missed hunting stuff, even if it was probably just some old, rusty whatever, she still looked forward to uncover the earthkings so called sins.

"Just for the record" Ty Lee said "I don't like this."

"You wanted to come along, so don't complain now" Azula replied shrugging, while she followed Aang into the obviously liable to collapse building. She did get the feeling that sneezing would let the whole building come down on them.

The inside was dark and dusty. Besides the unpleasant scratchiness the dust left in Azula's throat, it also smelled smoky, like ones clothes tend to do after a big bonfire. And indeed, the walls were charred badly, some had imprints of human outlines free of soot, like the negative copy of a photo. The person causing that silhouette turned to ash and long gone with the wind.

The planks of the crooked hallways were creaking with each step the group walked. Ty Lee followed Azula, who followed Aang into a small room, which was no better than the hallway leading towards it. It at least had a window, the glass in it was shattered, the big shards now lying around the floor. The formerly violet curtains were now more gray-ish, ripped apart by the shards of the window and disgustingly moldy. The place was trashed badly, half burnt bookshelves were overthrown and all the scruffy contents were scattered around. A desk was also flipped to one side, the heavy wooden plate hiding what was left of the burnt corpse behind it. Only an arm was raised into the air, which was jutting out. When Ty Lee laid her eyes upon it, she had to swallow hard.

"uuuhmmm, Azula..." she started, but the princess didn't let her finish.

"Don't say it" she hissed, having seen the corpse as well. Aang apparently did not, he walked in a straight line towards a spot near the destroyed bookshelf. He knelt down, his hands gliding over the floor, groping for something. His fingers slid into a hidden hatch and suddenly the floor to his side opened up, revealing a ladder leading into the dark.

"This is it?" Azula asked, raising an eyebrow. To her it looked more like some abandoned cellar.

"Well, it's the only spot, which leads to the surface. At least the only one I can feel. There is a wall down there, though. But that leads into the hidden complex" Aang shrugged, looking down into the deep dark black hole, with no light to be seen on the ground.

"Well then. After you, Avatar" Azula smirked yet again, while Aang just dropped down the vertical tunnel. This may be fun after all.

Ty Lee just jumped to Azula's side also looking down into the hole. Did Aang seriously just fall into that hole? Was he crazy?

"I am not doing that" she squealed.

"Are you an airbender?" Azula retorted, rolling her eyes. "No you are not. Neither am I. That is why we will use that ladder" she pointed at the ladder being carved into the stone. Ty Lee blushed a little, ashamed for not seeing it before she opened her mouth.

Aang had already hit the ground, landing softly on a cushion of air. He created a small flame in his hand, so he was able see what was going on around him. The place he found himself in apparently was some ancient storage room, which was abandoned centuries ago. Collapsed barrels were lying on the ground together with rotten boxes. Everything seemed rather medieval, except for one wall in the otherwise slimy and moist cave. It was rather new and brick built. Aang walked towards it and held his hand against the cold stone. It wasn't very thick and Aang could feel something behind it. He pressed his ear onto the wall, listening carefully.

"What exactly are we doing here, Aang?" Azula asked, jumping off the last rungs of the ladder. "This is a deadlock" she had a bright purple flame in her hand and looked around. Ty Lee just followed the princess closely, so she could see as well. Sometimes she wished to be a bender as well.

"Shh!" Aang hissed, still pressing his ear to the wall. Azula scratched her head, before she walked over to her husband, also putting her hearing organ towards the gross wall. Her eyes grew wide, when she realized what Aang was probably listening to.

"Do you think..." she asked, staring in his eyes

"Yes. There are people down here" he stated, just as surprised as his wife.

Ty Lee came jumping towards them "WHAT!?" she exclaimed. "What are they doing here?"

"How should I know" Azula replied "But that coughing surely does not sound good" she added.

"Hello?" a muffled voice asked through the wall. "Someone there? Please help!" it was weak and sounded sickly.

Azula and Aang exchanged a worried, yet suspicious look at each other. What in the names of all the seven hells was going on here? The sins of the earthking. The assassins words were echoing through Aangs mind like an infinite loop. Maybe there was way more to all of it than he originally thought?

"Who are you?" Azula asked, her voice cold as usual.

"Prisoner 627" the voice replied weakly. Another one suddenly spoke up, it was female and obviously very old "Shut up! You'll get us all killed!" the croaky voice demanded.

"Stand back!" Aang shouted through the wall "I will count to three and then I'll tear this wall down"

Aang checked if Azula and Ty Lee were ready. When they signaled they were standing clear, Aang ripped the wall out of its place with a forceful movement of his hands. Even though it was his least favorite element, earthbending sure as hell was useful from time to time.

The first thing he noticed was the absolutely disgusting smell following the pile of stones. It smelled like rotten eggs, the shit of months and dead meat. It was enough to make him feel like puking any second and he was sure his face might actually have been a mix of blue and green.

When the dust had settled a little, Aang had to see one of the most horrible images he most likely ever saw. The room, if anyone even dared to call it a room and not a cubbyhole, was filled with people, standing - up until now- in complete darkness. There were no beds, no chairs, no furniture. They were standing in the tiny room, maybe ten of them. And they looked like walking skeletons, wearing filthy prison uniforms, striped in white and black. The man in the front had a number written on his jacket, which read '627'. He looked really old, but quite possibly would never reach the age he looked like. He had a thin, but long beard and his hair was greasy. It looked like it hadn't been cut in years.

They all looked out of the hole created by the avatar like they have been newly born. Like they never seen light. Azula saw Ty Lee pressing a hand onto her mouth. The blue Flame in Aang's hand was reflecting in the widely opened, glazed eyes of the huddled shadows, which once were humans.

"What happened here?" Aang wanted to know, after what felt like an eternity. He didn't think he could muster a calm and steady voice now, but apparently he could.

All he got was a counter question by 627. "Are you a firebender?" he asked, pointing a buckled finger at the Avatar. Aang shook his head slightly. "No. Not only. I am the Avatar, my name is Aang. This is my wife over there, her name is Azula. She is a firebender." he indicated towards the princess, who gave the old man a nod. Forgetting about Ty Lee, he left her out.

"The Avatar!" a susurration went through the small crowd. "Will he help us?" a woman in the back asked cautiously.

"Please calm down, I will do what I can. But please tell me, what happened here?" Aang had no idea what was going on.

"The earthking imprisoned us." 627 said.

"Why?" Azula wanted to know. Nothing here made any sense to her yet.

-/-

Roughly around the same time, Kiyi was helping out uncle Iroh in his teashop. As usual Iroh would brew the tea, but where he normally would also serve it, Kiyi was today's waitress.

She actually enjoyed doing that, the jasmine dragon was moderately patronized, so she had no trouble memorizing the orders and bringing them to the customer. Nice and easy. It was something so entirely different from what she was used to, the feeling was really refreshing. Here she was just another girl, nothing special. Not that a lot of people recognized her in Caldera or anywhere else in the firenation, but from time to time it happened. Here in Ba-Sing-Se, wearing a simple green earth kingdom getup, she was just a random waitress. And this was really great fun. The customers were nice and friendly and somehow the tips she got, especially from the male guests, were more than generous. Kiyi had no idea why that was though and frankly enough she didn't really care. It wasn't that Kiyi had any need for the money, so she put it into Iroh's coffer.

Kiyi was just serving tea to a table of students of the Ba-Sing-Se university. It was a group of five undergraduates, all of them girls. They all were a couple of years older than Kiyi and all of them both kind and beautiful. They chatted a little bit with their waitress, while she was serving the tea, completely unaware the group was talking to the firelord's youngest sister.

"How long have you been working here?" the girl, who was obviously the group's leader asked. She was stunningly pretty, with her long, dark red hair and big hazelnut-brown eyes. Her name was Johanna. When she flashed Kiyi a bright smile the younger girl blushed a little.

"Uhm, it's just for today" she muttered, trying to hide the red color spreading over her face. "I am helping my Uncle" Kiyi explained as she passed Johanna, whose name she didn't know, her tea. The red-haired beauty was drinking black tea, plain and simple, without sugar but with a dash of milk.

"Wow, I didn't know Mushi had a niece!" the girl sitting to Johanna's right side exclaimed.

Kiyi smiled, there were a lot of things the group didn't know. For example who Mushi really was. But it was none of Kiyi's business to reveal it, Iroh liked being anonymous in his retirement home. "Do you guys come here often?" she asked curiously.

"Almost every day during lunch break" Johanna smiled, before she sipped on her tea. She sighted, very pleased with the taste of the brown liquid. Mushi really was making the best tea in Ba-Sing-Se, no doubt about it.

"Hey!" a customer from the other side of the teashop yelled "What does it take to get served here?" the man in his forties was without a second thought the best prime example of a sleaze ball, which Kiyi ever saw. Though his clothes were formal, there was something about them, which seemed wrong, it was possibly the way he kept the top buttons of his shirt open together with the golden necklaces he was wearing. To be honest, he looked like a pimp.

"Oh no" Johanna sighted "That's Prof. Bootysmack" she rolled her eyes. His name was obviously not Prof. Bootysmack, but it was the one nickname which was just perfectly suitable for that guy. He had a habit of molesting female students at the university. Why he hadn't lost his chair long ago, no one understood. Especially not the affected female students. Johanna experienced this first hand, it was easily the most disgusting thing she ever had to endure.

"Sorry!" Kiyi exclaimed, waving a hand to the complaining customer "I'll be right with you!" she reached out for her tray and turned to leave, but Johanna gently grasped her arm. Her touch was cold, but soft and light, it sent a shiver through Kiyi's body.

"Be careful with that one. He is a creepy pervert, trust me." Johanna warned in all seriousness, as she looked deeply into the dark golden eyes of the waitress. Johanna had never seen eyes like this in her life.

"Don't worry about me" Kiyi giggled as she left to take the Professors order.

At first Kiyi didn't notice anything strange about the customer. Well, apart from the fact that he was a sleaze ball and had his hair gelled backwards with way to much styling gel. Kiyi took his order, a fennel tea with some pastry, and left into the kitchen to tell Iroh what the customer wanted.

"I need a fennel tea and a pastry plate" she said upon entering the kitchen.

"coming right up" Iroh replied happily, before he turned to Kiyi. "Are you alright?" he asked carefully, as he looked at her, she was basically glowing. "You are all red" he said, chuckling softly.

"Yeah, yeah. I'm fine. It's just a little warm, and with all the running back and forth you heat up" she waved her hand to indicate it was no big deal. Iroh shrugged and turned back to preparing the tea

"You said fennel tea, right?" he asked

"Yes. Fennel and a pastry plate" she replied "If you tell me where the plates are, I'll prepare the pastries"

"The cupboard to your left" Iroh told her, pointing blindly over his shoulder, as he was concentrating on putting the tea together. Kiyi turned around to search for a plate in the cupboard.

"Uncle can I ask you something?" she wanted to know.

"Of course. Though I cannot promise an answer" he chuckled again. His mood today was simply great. Everything was like he always had imagined it. His family was back to normal, at least as normal as it would get, his niece had found her place in life, as did his nephew. Kiyi, who kind of also was his niece in some perspective, even though they didn't share the same blood, was growing up to be a wonderful young lady and the teashop was running smoothly. He could not ask for more.

Kiyi found a plate and started putting little pastries onto it "What do you think about Ty Lee and Mai?" she asked. Iroh stopped his preparations all of a sudden and straightened his back.

"Hmm, I see." he stroked through his beard "You know, if it works for them, who am I to judge? They found happiness, anyone can see that. In the end, that's all which counts, what life is about. Being happy." he replied with a warm smile on his lips. It was true, everyone needed to find their happiness. Like Zuko did with Katara. Like Azula did with Aang. Like he did with his teashop. Why couldn't find Ty Lee happiness with Mai? He didn't see a problem.

"So you don't think it's unnatural?" Kiyi inquired, but Iroh shook his head, unseen. The two were standing back to back, the one on the one side of the kitchen, the other on the other side. "I ask because at Zuko's and Kataras wedding, Azula tossed two old hags out, who were defaming Ty Lee and Mai. I know this was a long time ago, but it keeps bothering me. They thought it was unnatural."

"Because they are two girls?" Iroh asked rhetorically "No. No, I don't think it's unnatural. Mother Nature works in her own miraculous ways, she doesn't do anything without a reason for it. It is our job to find out what that reason is, for ourselves, as well as for others. But that requires an open heart and mind, you have to walk through life with your eyes open and look at what you see. Look and feel and then make a decision for yourself. But never judge others for what they do or like. Just because things are not to your liking, it does not mean they cannot be to somebody else's. If you apply reason and sense to what you see, you will soon find, most things are not unnatural. Those who point their fingers at people who are different, calling them degenerated and sick are nothing more than bigoted idiots, if you ask me. Of course I would limit my statement only to adults. It has limitations as well, but the interaction between two adults is the business of said two adults and only theirs. One can agree or disagree with their decision, but has to keep quiet about it" Iroh said as he finished the tea and put it into a pot for Kiyi to carry out to the customer. He always believed that nature was balancing itself and perfect harmony, at least in theory, was easily obtainable, if just everyone accepted another. But that unfortunately was an utopia.

"So we should just accept each other as who we are?" Kiyi asked, putting the plate of pastries she prepared onto the tray Iroh was holding.

"yes, exactly" Iroh replied. Kiyi nodded.

"That was... really helpful. Thank you uncle" Kiyi smiled as she took the tray off Irohs hands and walked out of the kitchen.

"Glad I could help" Iroh chuckled.

Kiyi brought the tray back to the professor. And now she suddenly realized what Johanna meant when she said, the man would be a creep. Kiyi had to bow down a little to put the tray on the table and move the pasties and the teaset off the tray. When she did, she felt a hand gliding up her right leg. He was brushing over the fabric of her stockings, as Kiyi shot up, straight like a candle.

"W-What are you doing?" she gasped as she clenched her hands around the now empty tray.

"Relax, a peasant like you should feel honored by my attention" the professor whispered so very creepily, as he let his hand glide under Kiyi's skirt and grabbed her young ass.

Iroh in the kitchen didn't know anything was wrong, up until the moment a loud smacking sound banged through the teashop, followed by someone tripping and hardly crashing to the floor, a moment of silence and a group of girls screaming "OOHHHUUU!" in amazement.

The dragon of the west paused for a moment, but hurried out of the kitchen to check what was going on, immediately afterwards. He came to an halt, when he saw Kiyi standing above a customer, who was lying on the ground. He was bleeding from his face, and a few teeth were spread over the floor. Next to him was a tray with the imprint of his skull pressed into it. Kiyi was standing above him, her hands spread to either side of her sides, a big orange flame burning in each one. She was furiously yelling at him, so loud Iroh could feel her voice shaking the ground.

"WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, YOU TWISTED PERVERT?! TOUCHING ME LIKE THAT! ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?! I AM THIRTEEN YEARS OLD YOU DISGUSTING, PERVERTED BASTARD! I SWEAR, IF YOU EVER CALL ME A PEASANT AGAIN, YET ALONE DARE TO TOUCH ME, HELL, IF I EVER EVEN SEE YOU AGAIN, I WILL TURN YOU INTO ASH, YOU LITTLE CREEP. ONE SHOULD CUT YOUR HAND OFF FOR THAT! NOW GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY SIGHT AND PRAY I WILL NOT MENTION THIS TO MY SISTER!" Kiyi kicked him in his balls as hard as she could. The man cringed in pain and the female students were trying not to laugh. He deserved this so much. Johanna felt like finally getting her justice with every word the waitress, whose name she did not know, yelled at the professor. At the university no one dared to say something against him, fearing the consequences for their studies, but this girl had no such problems. She smacked him with the tray straight across the face, knocking him off his chair. This alone was an awesome spectacle, but when the waitress kicked him in his face too, punching some of his teeth out, before she proceeded to summon two large flames in her hands, Johanna was completely amazed. She didn't realize the waitress was a firebender. She always wanted to meet one on friendly terms.

"And who would care about a peasant's sister?" the professor dared to ask. Kiyi felt like exploding, this disgusting little piece of shit, she was on the verge of just zapping him with lightning. But she didn't. Instead she grabbed his collar and pulled him up as far as she could, he was rather heavy after all. "My sister, you little, disgusting pig, is Azula, crown-princess of the firenation. She is currently negotiating with King Kuei together with the Avatar. And I swear, if I tell her about you, she will want your head. I think you know what happens to people who's heads my sister wants" she hissed into his ear, for only him to hear, before she dragged him out of the front door and tossed him down the stairs onto the street. "They lose their heads!" The professor pulled himself together, standing on shaky feet.

"We will meet again" he coughed. Kiyi narrowed her eyes, she had enough of this perv. Stroking through the air with two fingers, a moment later her summoned lightning sprung to life as it followed her fingers around Kiyi's body. She exhaled slowly, preparing to shoot the deadly force next to the professor, but before she could do that, Iroh grabbed her fingers and directed the lightning into the blue sky.

"You are crazy!" The professor yelled, while he stormed off as fast as his legs could carry him.

Kiyi didn't want to hit him, she just wanted to scare him away. Which kind of worked, though not the way she intended it. "I think he had enough" Iroh said calmly, as he clasped her shoulders with his big warm hands. "Are you hurt?" he inquired.

Kiyi shook her head firmly "No, I'm fine." she replied and turned around to go back into the tea shop, shaking Iroh's protective hands off her. She was fine. No one would ever hurt her again, she was no six year old anymore, who let herself get hurt by the mean words and nasty actions of other kids. Azula showed her how to be strong and untouchable, not only physically but mentally. No, a disgusting pervert like this professor would never get under her skin. Never. She did not allow herself to ever let this happen.

Kiyi was just walking back inside the teashop, when she saw out of the corner of her eyes a blob of red approaching from her right.

"Thank you" Johanna said relieved, as Kiyi was about to walk past her. The unexpected firebender stopped dead in her tracks, before she looked at Johanna. The other girl gently tugged at Kiyis hand, causing the touched one to skip a heartbeat or two, as she silently said: "He deserved that" Her voice made clear she had an encounter with the professor in the past. Kiyi swallowed hard.

"He learned his lesson. I don't think he will bother anyone again. What a pig" Kiyi was so incredibly disgusted.

"You haven't told me your name yet. I am Johanna" the red-haired beauty smiled. The strange tone in her voice was gone.

"Kiyi" the younger girl replied and returned the smile a little insecure. The redhead beamed at Kiyi.

"Wow, that's a great Name. I have never heard it before" Johanna said, genuinely interested.

"Yeah, I get that a lot" Kiyi shrugged "I guess it's not all that common" she said, and Johanna just kept smiling. Her friends were standing behind her, preparing to pay their tea.

"Tea is on the house today" Iroh commented as he walked past the group of girls. "Please excuse the little commotion" The girls thanked Iroh warmly for the free tea, before leaving the jasmine dragon.

"Hey, do you want to hang out with us sometime?" Johanna asked, as she stopped at the door after her friends had already left.

"Sure!" Kiyi replied with a grin.

"Great! Meet us at the fountain of light, tonight at 7"

-/-

Azula was staring into the eyes of 627 with a deadly glow, while Aang was lying on the floor, passed out. Ty Lee tried to revive him by gently shaking him at first, but when that didn't work, she had to resort to slapping his face.

"Could you repeat what you just said" The princess hissed, pressing her index finger onto his chest in a surely painful manner. "And repeat what you just did." she stared 627 down, as the old prisoner was obviously losing his confidence. "Because if this is some sort of scam, I will burn your head off"

627 swallowed hard, damn that woman was intimidating. He was used to the guards here, who where all complete lunatics, but hell, this firenation-girl was giving them a run for their money. "I swear it is not. We got imprisoned here because we are airbenders." He said with trembling voice as he once again created a soft wind. He was weak and old, hadn't eaten in days and could not muster the strength for a more impressive display of his bending.

"That... That is impossible" Azula shook her head in disbelieve, before she took her finger off the old man's chest. The intimidating force in her voice was gone all of a sudden, it almost changed to something a little insecure. Azula didn't like not having an answer to things immediately.

"Why are you saying that?" the old prisoner wanted to know, with an interested, yet cautious expression on his face.

"The air-nomads are dead. All of them. They all were exterminated..." Azula almost added 'by my family' but decided not to in the last second. Maybe it was better to not hang the lantern on the fact she was a daughter of the family, who had murdered the whole airnation population. Especially not in front of a group of airbenders.

"Yes, my parents told me about that, they were still young when it happened" 627 said weakly, as if he remembered a particularly painful memory. He paused for a moment, before he continued. "But you can't reasonably expect, that the firenation found and killed all the airbenders. It was a nomadic culture, after all I know. Some managed to escape. Some airbenders were not even air nomads, some left the temples long before the firenation attacked to start their own lives. A few survived and fled after the massacre" he explained and sounded both proud and defeated at the same time. He was sure that just being killed by the firenation would have been the better fate for all of them. Better than the hell they were all caught in for sure.

Ty Lee slapped Aang once again, before he finally opened his eyes. "Good morning sunshine" she giggled, as Aang was rubbing over his now slightly pink cheek.

"I had the weirdest dream" he grunted, sitting up. "I dreamt we found a underground prison full of airbenders" he laughed "But that's ridiculous, isn't it?" he asked as he got up, walking about two steps towards his wife. Azula turned around with an apologetic expression on her face.

"Sorry." she said "But it was no dream."

Aang blinked once, before he looked through the huge hole in the brick-wall into the cell full of scared, emaciated people. Airbenders. Aang should be happy. He was happy, they found more airbenders! He was no longer the last one! He should be overly joyful. But the good news was tarnished by the situation. They found them all locked up in a secret prison, deep below the ground, hidden from everyone's eyes. Aang sighted, he was sorting his thoughts. "Ah well, I guess it's for the better anyway. Tell me, how did you all end up in a place like this?" he asked.

The old prisoner cleared his throat, before he explained: "When our ancestors fled the massacre on the air-nomads, they hid within the earthkingdom. The current earthkings grandfather took us in and hid us. The legends tell us, that at first we were treated with respect and were welcomed warmly, so all of our ancestors gladly went to the earthkingdom for their own safety, even all those who weren't in immediate danger, those who had built their own homes. They all came with their families and were safe within the refugee-camps the then king constructed for our ancestors. But over time that changed and our refugee-camps were slowly transformed into prisons. The current earthking has us locked away and slowly starves us to death. No one knows why. So many have died already from sickness, or the experiments, or the lack of food." his voice trembled "Please Avatar, help us!"

Holy spirits, this was some sin the earthking was hiding in Ku-Roah. Azula would have never imagined to find anything like this. She suddenly felt very bad for ever being excited to find out what was hidden here. But how could she have possibly known...

Aang exchanged a look with Azula, who nodded slightly. She knew exactly what Aang was thinking, seeing every single thought of him floating in the universe of his grey eyes. From the first night they shared Azula knew what was going on inside of Aang by simply looking in his eyes. Of course Aang wanted to help and Azula understood completely. She wouldn't leave all those people down here either, but truth to be told, her motivation for wanting this was different from Aang's. With more airbenders the weight on Aang's shoulders to keep the airnation alive would be lifted. His and Azula's children could be firebenders as well and Aang would not need to worry.

The princess stepped forward. "Alright, tell me everything you know about this complex. How many prisoners, how many guards, as well as the locations of both. I need to know as much about the layout as possible. Who is in charge here and what does he look like? I need to know everything" she said, but no one reacted. "You!" she pointed at the old prisoner "Can you tell me all those things?"

"I can." he replied.

"Excellent." Azula was exceptionally good with sneaking into a enemy complex and unleashing hell. She demonstrated that a couple of times already, so Aang would let her do the planning. She was the strategic mastermind after all. "What is your name anyway?" the princess wanted to know.

"I do not have a name" the prisoner answered "I am 627."

"Spirits" Ty Lee sighted. "I'll get the other ones out of here for now and hide them in the building above, ok?" she asked unsure of what to do, but wanting to help. Azula just nodded, she was beginning to worry that they might not have enough people for this.

"Ok everybody, come with me. I'll escort you out of here" she walked into the cell, where most of the prisoners were standing in, trying to hide as if Ty Lee was dangerous. She tried to ignore the abysmal stench inside the cell, but it was impossible. It cost her some concentration to not throw up, the dirty, scared and partly badly bruised faces of the prisoners didn't help the sick feeling in her stomach at all. "I am here to help you, don't worry. Please form small groups of four people, and follow me. Everything is going to be fine soon." Ty Lee tried to look friendly and as little intimidating as possible, yet no one moved even an inch, they all were scared to death. Who was this strange woman with her large doll eyes? She didn't look like one of the guards, and she was with the Avatar, was she not? But was he really the Avatar? Or was this some kind of test? Another experiment? Would they be punished if they went with her? It wouldn't be the first mind game they had to play. And even if it was no test, a lot of them never even left the cell, yet alone the prison in their life. Others just were incapable of comprehending what was happening. Freedom after all those decades of endless hunger, cruel torture and almost unbearable pain? It seemed like a long forgotten dream.

Ty Lee sighted, as she gently pushed two elderly woman forward, the two cringed at the sudden touch, before Ty Lee ensured them, she would never do them harm. She introduced herself quickly and explained briefly why she was here. It seemed to reassure the two elderly woman a little bit. The acrobat then proceeded to pick a middle aged man and a child, no older than ten out of the huddled prisoners. Ty Lee could not tell if it was a boy or a girl, the kid was all skin and bones. "We will start with you four, ok?" the acrobat smiled as warmly as she was able to, despite the urge to vomit. It was not only the smell, but the everything she had to see. That kid for example, he or she was so gaunt, Ty Lee wondered how the poor thing was able to even stand, yet alone walk. "Don't worry, everything is going to be fine again. You are safe now. Follow me"

While Ty Lee escorted group after group out of the underground complex into the house above, Aang and Azula were listening to everything prisoner 627 had to say. He had spent his whole life in this prison and knew rather well where things were. He used his finger to paint an approximate map of the compound into the dust on the floor. The building was a long, two-storied rectangle with cells to either sides of the base structure. The middle served as some kind of parade ground. Every morning all the prisoners who were allowed to leave their cells had to stand there in rank and file for as long as the guards wanted. Sometimes for endless hours, without being allowed to move. If someone did move eventually, even if someone collapsed out of weakness, the person to his right would be executed.

The prison was split into three sections. The guard and command sector was the first one, it held the rooms for the personal and the wardens office. It also had the only exit, which lead into the forest behind Ku-Roah. Aang wasn't surprised he didn't feel it, given the fact that he really was not all that good with the whole bending-based detection-matter and the rather long distance the actual exit was away from him at the time. The spot he found apparently was really an abandoned cellar, which the construction-crew forgot about during the prison's edification. 627 guessed there were approximately 140 guards in that first section, and about 20 on rotation in the second one.

The second section was the first prison area it was lit by green glowing crystals, so one didn't need torches like in sector three. In the first prison area were the cells for all those who might prove useful one day. Cells had actually beds and were lit, but that was basically the only difference to sector three. In the second section about 300 prisoners were kept, most of them men, but also young woman. There was a little extra area to the very front of section two containing young and more or less beautiful woman, they were kept there to provide pleasure and entertainment for the guards. It was a prison brothel, but the girls 'working' there were obviously forced to do this.

Azula was already boiling and 627 hadn't even begun to explain what sector three, the area they were currently at, was for. Her mood didn't get brighter when he did. Sector three was the death sector, prisoners transferred to this sector were old, sick or weak, or did something 'wrong' and had expended their usefulness. They were jammed into tiny cells together with as many other prisoners as physically possible and were basically slowly starved to death. Sometimes prisoners of sector three would be picked out to be used as laboratory rats. A small group of researchers wanted to find out how much the human body could possibly endure, so they had set up a whole array of different torture methods, to try just that. Sector three had a living population of about 100 more or less alive prisoners, with close to no guards. No one wanted to spend any time there.

Azula looked at Aang, who had a furious fire burning in his grey eyes. The princess couldn't blame him for it, she also felt that constricting feeling around her throat. She harrumphed in a rather unladylike manner to get rid of it. This was just plain sick. Yes, the firenation had prisons as well, and yes they were tough, but prisoners were fed and had a place to sleep. Everything she just heard was absolutely inexcusable, even to Azula's tough as nails standards.

"Here is what we are going to do" she said, when 627 had completed his explanation of the prison and everyone stomached what was said. The princess had already a plan in mind "We will work our way from here to sector one, clearing the prison in the process. First we will get everyone of this sector out through the ladder into the Ku-Roah above. When this is done, we proceed with sector two. Kill the guards first, free the prisoners after that. When sector two is empty, we kick in the doors to sector one and burn it to the ground" she explained, but Aang shook his head.

"No." he said "While I completely agree with you on sector three and two, storming sector one with only three people would be madness, we would have to kill everyone. We can't take prisoners with only three people. Someone would need to watch them." he said.

"Sure, but calling for reinforcements will take a couple of days and I doubt the earthking will help us. He could be behind all this, for all we know. He also could not. We can't risk it" Azula said.

"What are you saying?" Aang rose an eyebrow "of course he is behind all this, you heard it yourself!"

"True, I heard that Kuei's ancestors did this and I do not doubt that. I also do not doubt that he is an unparalleled idiot. But you know Kuei just as I do. He is not particularly aware of what is going on in his own kingdom. I remind you of the Dai Li, all of their operations, from the brainwashing program to the coup we staged, all of this happened without the earthking ever knowing" Azula explained. "I mean, what exactly would Kuei gain with this prison? It doesn't make any sense. I don't think he knew about this"

"So what are we going to do instead? Even if you are right and Kuei had nothing to do with anything here, which I personally doubt, are you saying we should leave them be?" Aang asked.

"Of course not" Azula shook her head. "All I said is, that we do not know if Kuei was aware of the events in this prison or the prison itself, so we cannot ask him for reinforcements. If we confront him about this, we need to be sure" she said.

"So without any reinforcements we have to rely on stealth" Aang said

"Well there is that, or we just kill everyone" Azula shrugged, she didn't really care, both ways would lead to their goal, which was freeing everybody and finding out if Kuei knew about this prison.

Aang shook his head. "That is completely out of the question" he insisted, scratching his nose "we could sneak in and capture the warden?" Aang suggested "This way we don't need to fight a lot and also don't need reinforcements. That worked before, as far as I know" the Avatar had a cheeky grin on his lips.

Azula rolled her eyes "Spirits, don't remind me" It was true, it worked against her on the day when Zuko and Sokka captured the warden of the boiling rock to escape the prison. It would have worked even better, if the warden hadn't managed to order his guards to cut the ropes of the cableway.

"If it worked against you, it will work against them for sure. We can ask the warden all the questions we want answered. He will surely know if Kuei gave the orders to this madness. Who knows, he even might have the paperwork"

"Indeed" Azula got up from the floor, brushing the dust of her clothes. "After you, Avatar" she smiled at Aang who jumped to his feet.

"As you wish, Princess" Aang winked at her, as he walked through the destroyed wall into the now empty prison-cell to rip the iron door out of its hinges. Using metal-bending the door stood no chance, like a piece of paper it fell into the room and silently landed on an air-cushion, so it would not attract unwanted attention. Ty Lee had escorted everyone in the cell to the building above, she was just returning.

627 was staring at Azula "You are a princess of the firenation?" he asked in disbelieve. He didn't know what happened outside of the prison, all he knew is what his parents told him and they were always telling tales of all the horrible things the firenation did and how the royal family waged war over the world without any mercy. Up until now Azula was just a random firebender to him, who married the Avatar.

"I am" she said proudly and nodded.

"But... What are you doing here?" the old man asked confused, this didn't add up to what he was told all those years ago.

"A lot has changed" the princess replied, as she stepped into the cell to follow Aang "Don't worry about it, you are going to be safe soon."

"Come with me" Ty Lee smiled at the man, extending a hand to him. He took it absent minded and let himself be guided towards the ladder.

"We will send everyone your way, Ty Lee" Azula said, before she left the cell through the ripped out door.

-/-

Getting everyone to safety was actually a lot easier than originally thought. In sector three there were absolutely no guards, so all Aang and Azula needed to do, was to convince everyone to leave. They explained the way and said everything would be fine soon. After some pep-talk, the prisoners would do as they were told and leave for the one cell that lead through its brand new backdoor into freedom.

Sector two was a little bit more tricky, because there were actually guards on patrol. But they obviously didn't plan on anyone suddenly bursting through the checkpoint between sector two and three. Azula counted a total of nine guards, all of whom were dead a couple of minutes later. Everything else would have been impossible, a lot of them tried to ring an alarm bell and neither Aang nor Azula wanted that to happen. Casualties of war Azula thought to herself. Her death toll was astronomical anyway, what's with nine more.

Once they cleared sector two of guards, the married couple proceeded to free the prisoners. It worked way easier here, all they needed to do was to tell everyone to run for it. And they did.

What actually proved really hard was the prison brothel. But it was hard for Azula and Aang, not so much for the girls there. They were so incredibly relieved, when Azula told them everything was finally over. That they would be safe soon and that no one would ever force themselves onto anyone of the girls ever again. The women connected rather easily with Azula, who they seemed to trust from the first second they saw her. They had no concept of who she had been. All they saw was a strong, independent woman and that was enough for them to trust her.

Aang not so much, the girls all kept a good distance from him. He thought that might had to do with him being a guy and Azula being a girl. He could imagine that the girls here were not threatened nicely by the customers. Aang understood and had to admit, he was not feeling comfortable in this brothel at all. No wonder. He just kept his mouth shut and followed his wife.

At first the princess was surprised to see that the women looked rather healthy, they were of normal weight and most of them didn't have any fresh wounds. But after a second thought, it seemed logical. Everyone in the minimalistic, yet compared to the other cells almost luxurious cells, was a whore. And even if they weren't paid, they needed to look at least halfway decent for the customers to enjoy them. Gosh, the princess could not begin to describe her disgust for what she was seeing. Ever since her father wanted to marry her off to some aristocrat, she had a special soft spot for girls who were forced to do this kind of stuff. She felt with them, knowing their pain must have been a thousandfold worse than what she felt back in the day. Azula had the fortune of being in a position, where she could defy her father's will. Those poor girls weren't. They had to do what was commanded, without any choice. It was either this or gruesome punishment.

Azula had to swallow hard to not just start yelling at people for what she was seeing. It wasn't the girls fault, what happened here. Yet the level of physical and psychological humiliation those poor women had to endure made the princess sick.

Aang had left the whorehouse a couple of minutes ago, telling Azula that he would feel like a monster for simply being a man in these rooms. Again, his wife couldn't blame him. The perversions the guards had been acting out here were nothing anyone in their right mind would ever consider normal.

The princess was in the process of freeing a young girl, no older than sixteen, from her restrains, which were chaining her over a rack in an absolutely impossible position, bent in a way to allow for easy access to all the areas on a woman's body interesting in a brothel. The poor thing was completely naked, her wrists and ankles were bleeding from the loose iron chains and she had degrading phrases written all over her body. Azula only noticed one of them, reading 'dirty cum dump' before she chose to ignore the rest for her own sanity's sake.

The princess was gently opening the shackles, while she was as softly as she was able to whispering to the ravished girl "Everything will be fine. I am here, you will be free soon. Don't worry, no harm will come to you anymore." Azula kept whispering all the calming things she could come up with at the moment, before the last manacle came off and the girl slipped into the arms of the princess. The firebender slid on her knees and turned the girl around in her lap. Her body was cold. Azula looked into broken, glazed eyes, which had no color whatsoever. Aang's eyes were grey as well, but he always had that spark of energy and life in them, which Azula found so intriguing. This girl had nothing like this, her eyes were empty, there was nothing behind them. They say the eyes are the gate to one's soul. Someone took her soul away a long time ago.

For a long moment she stared at Azula with fishy eyes, before some life seemed to return to her. clumsily trying to smile, but failing, the abused girl extended a shaky hand towards Azula's face, yet didn't dare to touch her. A drop of blood fell down from her wrist onto her cheek and suddenly there was an odd blob of color in her otherwise so pale face. Her absolutely colorless, long and snow-white hair made that effect even more blatant."Are you an angel?" she whispered weakly, her hand falling back onto her tormented body.

Azula didn't know what to say, so she just smiled as she carefully wiped away the drop of blood. "You are an angel" the girl stated, but Azula shook her head.

"No, I am not. I am just getting you out of here." Azula said silently, before adding: "Do you want to leave?" The girl seemed to think about it.

"Will I be beaten again? Will they do..." Azula interrupted her, she didn't want the ravished girl to think about those things anymore.

"Shhhh" the princess said. "Don't worry. No one is ever going to harm you again, I promise. Do you have a name?" Azula asked. She and Aang found out that the girls in the brothel actually had names given to them by the guards. It seemed logical, who wanted to fuck a number?

"Dog" she replied ashamed and Azula almost chocked.

"What? No! Dog is not a name. Don't tell me everyone called you that! I am not going to use that expression for you."

"Am I not worthy of it?" she asked almost apologizing. Azula was shaking her head in disbelieve, where the fuck did she end up here? It was time for a serious confidence booster.

"No, it's not worthy of you! Someone so beautiful like yourself should have a real name! Any human needs a real name! What kind of sick fuck called you dog?!" Azula exclaimed. This was really getting under her skin. The young girl was thinking, apparently contemplating if she would be punished for saying something.

"The other girls sometimes called me Jin" she replied and Azula suddenly smiled at her

"See, that's a beautiful name. Hello Jin. My name is..."

"Azula!" Ty Lee's voice called out, as the acrobat was walking into the room. She had returned from hiding everyone in the village above, distributing everyone evenly over the buildings. The last group was the girls from the brothel and so Ty Lee decided to see if Aang and Azula needed any help. She found the Avatar standing in front of the brothel-door, as pale as a white wall. All color was gone from his face. When Ty Lee approached him, he just pointed his finger to the door and said he would never set a foot in there again.

So Ty Lee went inside to search for the princess and when she entered a dark room with lots of leather in it, called out her name. Jin cringed hard at the sound of another voice and clung tightly to Azula, hiding her face in Azula's armpit. Ty Lee stopped dead in her tracks and just stared at her friend holding a naked and obviously terrified young girl in her arms. She saw the wounds on her ankles as well as old whip-marks on her back and swallowed hard. The princess exchanged a worried look with her longtime friend, who had the horror she had to see today written all over her face. She thought she had seen enough monstrosities in her life, but apparently life had yet again disabused her. Everything she had seen and heard today was... cruel. So very cruel. Ty Lee had no word for it, for nothing here. Neither did Azula. The princess had horrible things done to her and had to live through hell herself, but this was a whole new level. So many of them...

"Jin, this is one of my best friends, her name is Ty Lee. She came here with me to rescue you all. You don't need to be scared." she reassured, stroking gently through the girls perfectly white hair. That always calmed Kiyi down, maybe it would help the white haired girl as well. Jin hesitatingly turned her head around to take a quick peek at Ty Lee.

"She is your friend?" Jin asked.

"Yes. I trust her with my life" Azula answered. What in the name of the spirits did they do to this poor girl? On second thought, Azula actually didn't want to know. The word scared didn't even begin to describe what Jin was, she was at a level of freaking out, where she was already returning to calmness again. "Why don't you go with her, she will bring you to safety" Azula suggested.

"I..." Jin hesitated, looking deeply into her saviors eyes, like she was hoping to have her mind read. Azula sighted, she realized Jin would probably stick to her side for as long as possible.

"Or do you want to go with me?" the princess asked and Ty Lee was able to hear that Azula already knew the answer to that. The acrobat reached out to a piece of clothing, which was lying over another restraining-instrument. She didn't want to think about how it actually worked.

"Please" Jin almost begged. Azula nodded slowly

"Alright" she said. "Can you walk?" she asked and Jin just nodded as well. Azula rose up, while gingerly pulling Jin with her. Ty Lee passed Azula the piece of clothing, which was a very see-through lacy purple nightgown. Far away from appropriate, but at least it was something to wear.

"Ty Lee, keep looking around, if you find someone else here. We will wait outside" the princess instructed, while she helped Jin into the nightgown. Ty Lee confirmed she would do that, before Azula addressed Jin again: "We will find you something... warmer soon" she said, coming up with a phrase for something where Jin would feel safe in, that didn't contain any nudity. Azula suddenly wished for the cape on her armor, so she could give it to Jin, but unfortunately the princess had ripped the black and red fabric off a long time ago. She thought it was completely impractical.

"That's alright" Jin whispered, as Azula walked her out. The princess had a protecting arm over the girls shoulders, who had both her hands awkwardly clasped to the lower edge of Azula's armor, as if she wanted to make sure the princess would not suddenly vanish. "I was never before allowed to wear anything." she stated as if it would be the most normal thing in the world. Once more Azula had to resist the urge to yell at someone.

Aang was leaning to the wall besides the brothel-door. He tried to focus, tried to sort his thoughts, but is was futile. He had no idea what he was doing, no idea how to go on. This was a giant, horrible mess and the Avatar was absolutely clueless on how to proceed.

They had almost everyone brought to the village above the prison, yes.

And now?

How would they get them to real safety? They obviously couldn't stay in Ku-Roah forever. Where would that safety be? The airtemples? The firenation? Where? It sure as fuck was not the earthkingdom and the Avatar had his doubts anyone would want to go to the watertribes. Aang also doubted anyone here was capable of living on their own, without any help to get started. Most of these people spent their entire life in prison. That ruled the airtemples out as well. He had no idea where to put so many people.

And also, how was he going to confront Kuei about this? Did the earthking even know about anything? What was he going to do if this was the case? What if not? Damn, so many unanswered questions. And the biggest one remained as well: What had the mysterious assassin to do with all of this? Of course it was good that she led him to this place so he could clean up the mess, but still. Why? Why did she do it? What was her motivation? Aang was unable to make head or tail of it. Damn, over-thinking stuff was Azula's job! She was rubbing off on him, wasn't she? What the hell was taking her so long anyway?

Aang didn't get to think any further, he was interrupted by his wife, who left the brothel with an unknown girl, who was skulking under Azula's protective arm.

"Hello you two" Aang said friendly, but the girl was frightened witless by him. She quickly ducked away under Azula's arm and hid her face behind her back. Aang had no idea what he did wrong, he just looked at his wife, being at a loss.

"Don't worry, she is a little jumpy" Azula smiled. "Jin, don't be scared. This is Aang. He is the Avatar and my husband. He won't hurt you either." she said calmly, before Jin stuck out her head.

"Your husband?" she asked confused.

"Yes" Azula confirmed with a smile, but Jin just looked even more confused.

"So you let him touch you?" she asked. What?

Azula rose an eyebrow "Well, yes. Obviously"

"Who forced you to do this?" Jin wanted to know, causing Azula to be completely puzzled.

"Uhm, no one forced me. I love him. That's why I married him."

"I don't understand" Jin admitted. Azula once again stroked through the girl's unbelievable white hair, it was like snow. "Don't worry about it. One day you might understand. All you need to know now is that he won't do anything to you. He is here to help. You do know about the Avatar, do you?"

"Yes"

"And you know he stands for peace and harmony, don't you?"

"Yes"

"You see, Aang is the Avatar. He would not stand for peace and harmony, if he'd hurt you, would he?"

"I guess not." Jin admitted. She trusted Azula, the angel -Jin didn't believe she wasn't one- who had freed her. When she said it was ok, it was ok. She would let her decide, whatever the angel with the golden eyes said, she would do it. She was sure it was for her own best.

"See." Azula smiled at her. "Jin, this is my husband, Aang" she pointed at the Avatar, who smiled as good as he was able to, while he waved at Jin. "Aang, this is Jin"

"Hello Jin. Nice to meet you" Aang said warmly.

Jin hesitated at first, but spoke up after a moment or two "Hello... Aang"

Meanwhile, inside the prison brothel Ty Lee was sure there was no one else left inside. She had turned around to leave again, when a sound urged to her ear. She stopped dead in her tracks and listened carefully, but it was silent again. Waiting for a couple of moments for the sound to reappear, Ty Lee didn't move.

But the sound was gone.

The acrobat decided she imagined it and walked away, when suddenly there was this noise again. Somebody was messing with her, Ty Lee though as she stopped again. The sound was coming from her left, so she walked over to the dark wall. Carefully listening, Ty Lee soon was sure there had to be some kind of hidden door somewhere, because the noise, which sounded like a baby screaming, was clearly coming from behind a wall.

She frisked the wall for something like a hidden switch and after a little bit of searching indeed found one. The black wall broke open and revealed a tiny room behind it, the sound of a baby crying was now loud and clear. It was dark in there at first, but soon Ty Lees eyes adjusted, as some light of the green crystals was shimmering inside the hideout, or cell or whatever it was. A woman was sitting on the floor, holding her baby tightly pressed to her. She looked like a ghost, her hair was roughly shaven off and she had marks from being caned all over her body. At least at the parts, which Ty Lee saw through her ripped clothes. The woman looked at the intruder, not knowing what was going on.

"Hello" Ty Lee said friendly

"Who are you?" the mother wanted to know, turning her baby away. Her voice was sore and weak.

"My name is Ty Lee" the acrobat said "I came here with the Avatar. We are have freed everyone down here."

For a fraction of a second there was a hint of a smile on the woman's sallied, dry lips. "So you are a good person?" she whispered as Ty Lee came closer and knelt down in front of the woman. She didn't look like she would live for much longer. Hell, what did they do to her? Why was she sitting in this secret room? Did someone try to hide her? Or was this some kind of punishment? Ty Lee didn't know. It looked more like the later than the former.

"I try my best" Ty Lee replied. "How long have you been here?" she asked.

"I... I don't know" the mother breathed. "long" she said, before she held her screaming baby out towards Ty Lee. "Could you please..." she asked and Ty Lee reflexively took the crying boy into her arms. The moment the baby felt the new warmth and soft touch he was almost immediately quiet, snuggling to Ty Lee.

"He ... likes you" the mother said, her voice was fading way, her eyes were closing. "Take...take good care of him"

"What? No! Hang in there! Don't you dare dying now!" Ty Lee exclaimed loudly.

"He is safe. I can't... there is... Please"

"Don't you die on me!" Ty Lee demanded "Where is his father?"

"Killed" the mother breathed, her life-force almost gone.

"C'mon, your son needs his mother! Don't close your eyes!" Ty Lee tried, but it was hopeless. The sole reason the brave mother survived so long was her son. And he was in good hands now, she could finally sleep. There was nothing more his mother could do for him. She should have died days ago, but didn't allow herself to. When she was too weak to breast feed him anymore, she bit a wound into her finger, hoping her blood would contain enough water and nutrients to keep him alive. She gave him everything she had left to give. The only thing left to do now was to give him to someone who could care for him.

"Tell him... tell...I loved..." she closed her eyes and didn't speak any further. Ty Lee swallowed, as she reached out to check on the woman's pulse. It was no more. She was called back to the all-seeing father, entered the spirit world or was released back into the never ending circle of life. Whatever it was, the acrobat was sure, she was at a better place now. She died with a satisfied smile on her lips, knowing her son would get to live. Ty Lee spoke a short prayer for the mother's soul, before she stood up and left the hidden cell. There was nothing she could do anymore, except taking care for the baby. And she would do that to the best of her possibilities. She and Mai had been talking about adopting a baby for some time now. As sad and tragic as him losing his real mother was, it also presented a wonderful opportunity for the young couple.

Ty Lee left the brothel with a warm sensation in her heart, a sensation that bittersweet didn't begin to describe. Maybe today held something good in store for her after all. She looked down at the boy, who was wrapped up in a dirty towel and promised herself to love him like her own son. Knowing she could never have kids with Mai made that promise even more important to her. The cute baby had big grey eyes full of life and joy, which reminded Ty Lee of Aang's. The little boy probably was an airbender as well, but Ty Lee did not mind. She fell in love with those cute eyes of his immediately. His real mother died for him to live on. Her sacrifice won't have been in vain. Ty Lee would be a great mother to the boy, she would make sure he'd have an awesome childhood with everything he ever desired. And one day, when he was old enough to understand, she would tell him about his real mother. The nameless woman, who gave her life for him. The acrobat smiled to herself. A baby. A dream come true, in a place -of all the places in the world- like this. A prison. Hidden deep below the ground.

Ty Lee came around a corner, where Aang and Azula were standing in a short corridor leading up to the checkpoint between sector two and one. Jin was still hiding behind the princess.

"Guys!" Ty Lee exclaimed, as she approached them, she was only a few steps around the corner. "Look" she exclaimed happily, being completely distracted by the baby and her joy for him. She did not notice the figure hiding in the shadows of another decussating hallway.

Aang turned around to see Ty Lee, who was walking a towards him, holding a baby. She radiated pure happiness off her, how she looked down at the bundle with a loving smile.

"Where did you..." he asked but stopped in the middle of his sentence, as Ty Lee's motherly smile faded away. Aang's happy expression froze to ice. It happened all so slow. Like someone replaced the sand of time trickling through the hourglass with a thick jelly.

Ty Lee looked down on her, pressing her son closer to her chest. There was a cold sensation in her stomach, strangely out of place and somehow metallic. She tasted blood on her tongue.

Azula just turned around from that giant door, thinking about how to open it, when she saw her best friend standing in the hallway. A baby held closely to her chest and a bit below... the point of a katana jutted out of her stomach. Her clothes were beginning to turn dark red and on the tip of the sword a drop of blood was glistering. A red puddle was forming around her legs. Ty Lee did not comprehend. A fine line of blood was running down from the corner of her mouth.

"You should have checked the bathrooms" the voice of a guard announced, who just violently ripped his sword out of Ty Lee's body, as he stepped out of the acrobat's shadow. She touched her stomach in disbelieve, just to see that her hand was covered in a glistening deep red. She didn't feel any pain, but was oddly cold.

"Why?" she asked, before she collapsed. The world surrounding her turned black.

Chapter Text

The three murder-witnesses froze where they were standing, watching in shock how Ty Lee collapsed into the puddle of her own blood. She fell hard and ungracefully on her back, still trying to hold on to the newborn in her arms. Azula blinked for a moment. This was one of her three best and only friends, who just got murdered in front of her eyes. And she didn't even see it coming.

To say Azula was upset might have been a minor understatement. She yet again found herself so inhumanly angry, so filled with rage and hatred, her mind was already calm and focused again. This was, like some people very well knew, her most deadly state. She would just obliterate everything and everyone remotely connected to that coward of a guard. The sapphire princess would make them all pay. Starting with this fool of a guard, who dared to harm Ty Lee. Azula clenched her teeth together so tightly it almost hurt, as she stood and stared. The last time the princess had ever felt so angry was, when she found out that Aang had been abducted. And now she had to watch again while one of her closest friends had to suffer, all because... because... well because she didn't see it coming. Was this her fault? She shouldn't have left Ty Lee alone.

She should have seen it coming.

The princess struggled to comprehend the reality, which her eyes were presenting to her brain, but that would not stop her from taking action once it had sunk in. Aang was no different either, he just stared at the guard, who was wearing a disgustingly inappropriate, smug grin on his face. He grinned like he had achieved a great goal, his eyes were glowing with pleasure and joy.

Jin looked up into the eyes of the angel, who saved her and saw nothing but hurt and anger burning inside of the bright golden orbs, like a firestorm of all consuming flames. She saw Azula clenching her jaw together, while she obviously contemplated the way the guard would die. Jin saw how hurt and upset her savior was, a feeling she could relate to all too well. But where Azula was radiating power and strength off like a never ending waterfall, Jin had no such thing. She was weak and never able to fight back against all the things, which were done to her.

Azula was nothing like Jin, the princess would always fight back and never stop. The white haired, badly abused girl somehow figured that out rather quickly. Jin would never leave her side again, she promised herself to always be with Azula and do whatever it is she needs. She needed to be strong as well, so she plucked up all the courage she had an looked at the guard, who killed her angel's friend. Jin looked at him and immediately recognized him. Feeling a painful sting in her chest, she forced herself to not look away again.

This guard... he was... he did... things.

To her.

With her.

Jin remembered so many cruel pictures in her head all of a sudden, all at once, it was almost too much for her. Fighting to not break down in tears, she tried to swallow them down in an almost hurting sour lump, while she clung on to Azula for dear life. She hated that man. That monster. She hated him for what he did to her, for all the times he touched her. For all the times he used her. For all the time she wanted to get him off her, but couldn't. For all the times she could not fight back. And now Jin also hated him for what he did to her new friend, to Azula's friend.

"Jin" Azula said with almost scarily calm voice. The whole scene was surreal. It was -absent the maniacally chuckle of the quite possibly insane guard- absolutely silent. Ty Lee didn't make any noise at all, which was not a good sign at all and to Aang surprise, the baby didn't either. Azula didn't even pay attention to the newborn at the moment, her priorities was completely focused on the guard. The atmosphere was almost demonic, the greenish-light the crystals generated just added up to that effect.

"Y-Yes?" Jin replied with shaky voice. She hated being scared, but could not help it. She had always been timid and fragile, she knew that. Holding on to Azula made her feel better, it made her feel like no one would ever hurt her again.

"Would you let go of me?" Azula's cold voice said, but it didn't sound like a question. It was more of a command, an order.

"B-B-But... I" Jin stammered, before Azula looked down to the white haired beauty, who was hiding under Azula's right arm, like she could not be seen there. The princess looked into the light grey eyes of her new appendage and easily picked up the sheer panic, which was written all over her face. Jin didn't want to let go of Azula, she didn't want. She couldn't, she was so scared.

Suddenly there was a soft hand ruffling through her hair "Don't worry. Just for a moment. There is something I need to do. It won't take long. You can hold me tight right after again, ok?" Azula reassured, her voice now almost warm and kind.

"Just what the hell are you two weirdos doing over there?" The guard shouted.

"Hurry" Aang whispered to his wife, after all there might still have been a chance for Ty Lee to be alive. However slim it might have seemed. He had already begun to search for a possible water pipe in the wall, so he would have something to heal Ty Lee with, should she still be breathing. He was confident Azula would handle this nicely. Well maybe not nicely, but definitely explicit. She was no one to fuck around in situations like these.

Jin hesitated a moment, but slowly let go of Azula, before she shakily stepped back with a toddle. Just as she did so, Azula's eyes darted to the guard.

"Any last words?" she asked, her voice was dripping with venom. She could almost kill people by just talking to them like this.

"Aww, you have my favorite plaything." the guard murmured in feigned surprise, while he gave Jin a really creepy once over "And it is wearing clothes! I'll punish it for that later. Dog, who allowed you clothes?" he giggled. What was wrong with that guy, seriously? Azula's eyes narrowed, making them light up even more. She was furious.

"Poor choice" the crimson princess muttered, before she spun two fingers around her in a precise and swift movement. It didn't take her long before she shot the deadly lightning towards her enemy. He didn't have time to do anything but casting his eyes open in shock, he never had thought the raven-haired lady could have been a firebender. However, he did not get to finish this thought at all. Hit by the force of the deadly electricity, he was sent flying backwards a couple of meters down the otherwise empty hallway, before he violently crashed onto the floor, his steaming dead body twitching on the ground from the still streaking lightning-remains.

The guard hadn't even hit the ground, before Jin was already back at Azula's side. "Is he..." she whispered timidly.

"Yes, don't worry." Azula replied with a faint smile on her lips. If the situation hadn't been so serious, if things would have been different, if not one of her best friends was murdered, she would have noticed that Jin was really growing on her. But at the moment, her mind was occupied with other things. She would probably notice soon enough.

"Aang!" she shouted, turning to search for her husband. He was standing in front of a wall, his arms spread upwards at a slight angle to both his sides. For a brief second Azula could have sworn the wall behind him was getting a crack. The next moment the concrete wall burst open and a torrent of water came bubbling out of it. He immediately raced over to Ty Lee, quickly followed by Jin and Azula. He knelt down beside the blood-smeared body and roughly ripped her shirt upwards, to examine the damage to her tummy. He noticed the baby lying in the dark red puddle, but immediately knew it was unharmed. This was not his primary concern right now. Aang pressed the water to Ty Lee's naked stomach, where it began to glow.

Azula felt Jin leave her side once again, but let her go. She herself knelt down beside of Aang. "Is she alive?" she forced herself to ask, afraid of what the answer might have been.

"barely" Aang muttered, his voice sounded absent, being focused on the healing with all his strength. Azula sighted in relieve. There might still be hope. Aang had Azula patched up, when she had almost died in that forest, she was confident he could do it again. The princess was just noticing the baby lying on the floor and tried to think about something she could do, when she heard Jin cry out loudly. She wasn't at her side anymore, somehow the princess didn't notice Jin letting go of her again. Azula immediately jumped up, looking to where the scream came from. She had to see Jin kneeling over the dead guard, slamming something which looked like a dagger into his chest. Azula had no idea where she even got the weapon from, but Jin was hammering the dagger into the guard with all her strength. She did it again and again, with each stab faster, while she was screaming a cruel and broken cry, the voice of an abused girl, capable of shattering anyone's believe in the existence of mankind's kindness. Azula and Aang exchanged a look, before the fierce firebender started walking over to Jin, leaving her husband to the healing. She couldn't help him, even if she tried. Fire had no healing-properties, neither did lightning.

Jin slammed the dagger, which she had taken from the dead guard some moments ago, into his chest, stab after stab pierced through his green clothes, which were turned into a dark red-brown rag by now, stained by all the blood. Jin did not stop. Over and over again, without any hesitation and obviously filled with furious rage, while yelling loudly, she was showering down the dagger on her former tormentor. This man, no, this monster deserved worse than death. For years he was torturing her. For years she had to suffer his horrid fantasies. This was all over now! It had to be, there was no way Jin could take more of it. There was no way she could live through another day with him alive, with that brute around her.

She could still feel his disgustingly lecherous hands moving all over her, the memory of his touch was like bugs creeping under her soft skin. The mere thought of something brushing over her skin made her almost insane and that light nightgown she was wearing wasn't helping at all. It was softly sweeping over her body and remembered Jin too much about being touched, she could not take any more.

His voice was still ringing in her hears, whispering his perverted, cruel fantasies into her ears, while she had no way of escaping. Tied up in hurtful positions, which where only giving him pleasure. Jin had no words for how much she hated that man.

The only thing she was more than hateful was scared. Naturally, after years of brutal abuse, cruel assault and violent rape, she was scared of her tormenter. But after Azula just blew him up with that superhuman power of hers, Jin wasn't scared anymore. Not as much as she used to be, anyway. As long as Azula was around, Jin would be safe, no doubt about it. That was the reason she could muster the courage to walk over to the guard and started stabbing him over and over and over again. The white-haired girl had no idea where the strength for doing that suddenly came from, probably from her rage, but she didn't mind having it. Jin continued stabbing the chest of the guard until it felt mushy, she wanted to be absolutely sure he was dead.

Jin only stopped, when she felt a warm hand softly but also firmly touch her shoulder. The recently freed prisoner jerked, startled by the sudden touch, but seemed to snap out of it. Looking down on herself, she saw that her whole body was covered in blood, her former so flawlessly white hair was bloodstained and the little bit of clothing she was wearing clung to her form, completely red-transparent and soaked with blood. She was crimson-red all over her pale body, the blood making an extreme contrast to her otherwise porcelain-white skin.

"He is dead, Jin. Relax" Azula said as calm as she could. "Come, we could use your help, if you feel up to it" she said. Jin turned and nodded at Azula. Whatever she wanted from her, Jin would do it. She stood up from the dead guard and let the dagger fall, it crashed to the concrete floor with a metallic rattle, before Jin looked over Azula's shoulder to see Aang cowering over Ty Lee, trying desperately to help her.

"What is he doing?" Jin wanted to know, her rage was quickly dying away and was just as swiftly replaced with her well known fear. She was scared again and moved closer to Azula, as they were walking towards Aang and the barely alive Ty Lee. Jin did not know what that guy was doing, the water was glowing unnaturally, it seemed suspicious. Men could not be trusted. They all were monsters. She never met a single friendly one and those who seemed friendly only stabbed her in the back sooner or later. Sometimes even literally.

"He is healing her" Azula said, her voice grew as cold as ice and lacked emotion. The hunch of warmness she mustered a moment before was completely gone now, as coldness found its way back into Azula's voice. It was not her playful cold side, when she set traps for people to stumble into, or when she threatened someone. It was her cold, dead inside, kill everyone voice. Had Jin known her better, she would have known it was no good sign for Azula's mental state, but as it was, the blood-covered airbender admired the strength of the angel. She seemed indestructible, like a true force of nature, bowing to no one. And in a sense, Jin was right, Azula was a force of nature, a never ending firestorm of endless destruction and death. At least, should she choose to be.

Aang looked up for a moment "This is severe" he said, unable to hide a hint of panic in his voice "Zula, you know I am no good at this. She needs someone who knows what they are doing!" he said loudly.

"Cut the bullshit, Aang, you saved me, you can save her, too! I believe in you" Azula returned, she was absolutely serious, and her tone showed it perfectly. There were only very few people Azula trusted unconditionally and Aang was the prime example, she had unwavering faith in him. He could do anything he wanted done and Azula knew it, sometimes more than Aang himself.

"Zula, she has internal bleeding, I have no idea what I am doing here! If just Katara was here..." he was doing his best, but he felt Ty Lee slipping through his fingers, he was losing her, her life force was getting weaker and there was nothing he could do about it. Nothing he tried made it any better. He was beginning to panic, and his voice was displaying this panic clearly, it was piercing through Azula like daggers made of cold ice. She tried to keep her calm, to remain rational and logical, even if she wanted to yell and scream in pain and grief over Ty Lee, but she didn't allow herself to do so. She had to stay strong, for Ty Lee's sake. But seeing Aang losing hope made her desperate. The princess was beginning to lose her firm grasp of her crazed emotions.

"You are the Avatar for crying out loud! You pulled me back from insanity! Don't you dare tell me you can't help my best friend!" Azula cried, her true emotional state was beginning to show, when she was with Aang right next to her, her voice was getting louder and audibly way less controlled.

The baby, who surprisingly kept silent through all this chaos and mess, suddenly started screaming again, the towel he was wrapped into slowly soaking with his new mother's dark blood.

"Well, there could be a way" Aang mused, he never tried this, but he guessed that the Avatar state would improve his healing just as much as it did his other powers.

"Then do it Aang! I know you don't like it, but this is not the time to hold back! Do it!" Azula almost ordered. She knew Aang was not very fond of the Avatar-state, because he always felt like losing control, so he tried to not use it, when it wasn't absolutely necessary. Azula never pushed him to do this before, in fact she had never even witnessed his Avatar-state since the war, since the time she was fighting him, in what seemed like another lifetime.

But now seemed like a good time to use it.

"Right..." Aang said flatly. The Avatar closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. When he opened his eyes again they began glowing bright white simultaneously along with his tattoos, as he entered the Avatar-state.

Just when he entered the most mightful state he possessed, Azula felt an incredible rush of power overcoming her own body, like a tsunami of strength and willpower. She had no idea what it was or why it happened, but she was quick to assume it had to come from the bit of Aang's personality, which he gave her to save her from insanity. The fraction of Aang, which he gave her all this time ago and which was still deeply buried inside of Azula, which was now radiating strength and power off into Azula, like it suddenly awoke from being dormant.

It felt...

incredible.

Her mind was sharp as a razor and her emotions were tuned down. She was calm and cool again, focused on the task at hand and able to think perfectly clear.

As Aang entered the Avatar state, Jin immediately moved closer to Azula, she didn't understand what was going on. This was so very scary. She noticed Azula's eyes had an almost unnatural bright golden glow to their iris, but convinced herself it was her imagination.

Aang felt the wisdom and experience of all those thousands upon thousands of his previous incarnations flood into his body and soul, as he reached out to Ty Lee. Suddenly he knew what had to be done, but he needed water for his plan. Lots and lots of it. The amounts the water pipes provided weren't nearly enough. Either lots of water, or some spirit-water, but he was fairly certain there was no spirit-water around for at least a couple of days worth of travelling. So he needed sheer masses of water.

"I need way more water to save her" he explained plainly, his voice changed by the influence of all his previous reincarnations.

Azula was thinking quickly, she was good at coming up with solutions when they are needed fast. The fact that she was so calm and collected right now, because of Aang's Avatar-state, just made it even easier for her. Four major things needed to be taken care of.

First of all, Ty Lee had to be brought to safety, this was her first priority. Then someone had to tend to the baby, Aang couldn't, he was occupied with helping Ty Lee and Azula couldn't either, she would take care of point three: Acquiring the information on the earthking and his machinations, which they still hadn't and lastly there was still revenge to be taken. She considered all four aspects and came to a conclusion.

"Alright" she spoke up after a brief second of intense thinking. "Jin, please take the baby" she commanded, before adding "Don't worry about Aang. This is his Avatar-state, it's nothing to worry about, he would never hurt anyone. Trust me" Azula could imagine the young girl was scared of Aang. But leaving her out of her plans wouldn't get them anywhere, Azula needed an extra pair of hands for her idea to work. To her surprise, Jin just nodded and gently picked up the newborn into her arms, after all it was only the baby. It made no difference, both of them were soaked in blood from head to toe anyway. She was afraid of Aang and as long as she didn't have to get too close to him, Jin would be fine. Azula turned to her husband. "Aang you get Ty Lee out of here and search for enough water. Jin you will go with Aang. Follow him wherever he goes, you will be safe there"

"But I..." Jin's house of cards crumbled, where she hoped she could stay with Azula. She wanted to say that she was scared of Aang. But Azula interrupted her harshly.

"No but here, Jin. Please. You have to trust me and you have to trust Aang. He needs you more than I do right now. He can't take care of Ty Lee and the baby at once" Azula adjured. The young airbender swallowed but nodded. She could do this, she would do this. If it was, what Azula needed, she would just to it. "Besides, this is going to be messy. You don't want to be around and see it" Azula gave her a genuine smile and ruffled Jin's hair.

"What are you going to do?" Jin asked Azula.

"My wife will do what she can do best" Aang replied and for a second there, Azula could have sworn he sounded proud of her, even over his Avatar-voice. He had already picked up Ty Lee bridal style, the remaining water wrapped around her body like a glowing cocoon. The barely alive acrobat was floating in his arms. If it wasn't Ty Lee and if she wasn't almost dead, or surrounded by water, Azula would have been jealous.

"Avatar?" she asked "About what we said earlier, concerning casualties " the princess asked sternly, a bitter-sad seriousness in her voice. She always exacted revenge on those who hurt someone close to her. This was just her way of dealing with injustice towards her or her friends. Azula was doing this, when she had been a child, she had stuck to it in her teens and as an adult, she still brought revenge on those who wronged her, without mercy or remorse. She didn't do things by halves.

Aang knew that. He had witnessed it firsthand. Over the past years his wife also had really opened up to him and told him lots of things of her past. Most of them cruel and dark. But she told him anyway and he accepted it without hesitation, he accepted her as what she was and never held it against her. Aang always seemed to magically know what Azula really needed, even if she didn't know herself. He just looked at her, and simply knew.

"I will never ask questions of what you do today. It's up to you, princess. Do what you see fit" Aang replied and with that he rushed off to the exit. Jin looked at Azula one more time and at the faint smile the princess had on her red lips, the airbender hurried after the Avatar, the baby tightly held to her chest.

Azula slowly walked to the huge iron door, which was currently keeping her out of the first section of the prison. The crew's quarters would soon be a lot less peaceful. And a lot less populated. She had to smile, the thought of revenge made it all the sweeter. She had faith in Aang, he would save Ty Lee. Azula knew it. All that was left was for those bastards to pay for what they had done. Not only to her best friend, but to all those people here in this prison. And for the warden to answer her some questions. The crimson princess was sure he would be very happy to give her some answers. They all were in the end.

Utilizing the immense power the connection to Aang seemed to provide her with, she yet again summoned her infamous lightning. It was like nothing ever created before, a thunderstorm of electricity the mighty Zeus himself would have been envious of. Azula's bending always had been powerful. It was when she was young and it became even more powerful when she got older. After guru Pathik helped her over her mental blockades, her bending grew to a point of almost unnatural power. But what she was feeling now should have been impossible. She felt like a living god, as Azula shot the lightning into the huge, heavy metal door. Dust whirled up and instantly filled the whole corridor, leaving the princess unable to see anything.

When the dust had settled, the door along with its surrounding wall was gone completely. It was blown away, shattered into small pieces, which were now lying rather evenly spread over the corridor behind the former checkpoint. Azula couldn't help but smile to herself, as the first doors got opened up and some guards wanted to see what was going on.

"Hello boys" she exclaimed, her voice pure poison "We have to settle an outstanding score." Azula slowly walked forward, and easily engulfed the first guards in a tornado of purple flames, with nothing more than a lazy swing of her hand.

Someone rang an alarm-bell. Good. Come out and play.

-/-

All the warden heard was a sudden, completely unexpected explosion. He had his nose buried deeply in a report from one of his officers and was reading it carefully. As it was written, King Kuei's newest orders were apparently implemented just the way his majesty wanted it to be. The warden let the report sink onto his desk, as the reverberation of the explosion boomed through the hallways. Was it happening? Was it finally time? He wondered when he'd show up. All that careful preparation, the long search for that one special assassin, who he could entrust with this, the risky planning, the effort which was put up to accomplish this. It was nearing its end. Finally

The door to his office burst open and one of his sub-commanders came barging in. "Warden Molt! Excuse me, but we have a problem!" he sputtered, a second later an alarm-bell in the complex was ringing loudly.

"What is it?" Molt asked in a calm and steady voice. It didn't take long for his plan to develop like he planned it. That was good news, the sooner he got this over with, the better. He was calmly tapping his fingers on his desk

"An intruder just came storming in through the checkpoint to section two." the sub-commander informed hasty. Molt just cocked an eyebrow at him as he opened a drawer of his desk, checking if the content of it was still where he left it.

Of course it was. Excellent.

The warden reached down, to get what was inside the drawer, when the sub-commander continued, stopping Molt's movement.

"We can't stop her. She is killing us off like flies. Warden, we are not trained to stop a firebender! And surely no one of her skill and prowess! This is no human, this is a fire-demon! I have never seen anything like this. She is tearing our defenses apart like they made of paper! Warden Molt! We have to evacuate! Now! Or we are all going to die!" the sub-commander was panting. Wait a second. She? Molt frowned for a second. Who was it, who was coming? He was expecting the Avatar. Did something go wrong? He quickly thought his plan over again, but didn't see any flaws.

"Are we positive it is a woman?" Molt inquired calm as his eyes fixed the sub-commander in his place.

"Yes, Sir. Without any doubt." The commander answered. Well, all Molt could do now was wait and see. Somewhere he had made a mistake. Maybe he shouldn't have trusted that assassin after all.

"Retreat is not an option" Molt stated calmly, he quickly calculated his next steps. "Earthbender stand their ground until the very end. I am not serving the kingdom here alongside cowards! No, go and fight. I will take care of the sensible files and join you in a moment!" Ha, what a lie. Molt had no intention of fighting. He would stay exactly where he was now and wait for the unknown intruder. Maybe she would prove useful to his cause. He'd see.

"As you command, warden" the sub-commander hurried out of the office, hasty slamming the door shut.

Explosion after explosion echoed through the corridors, followed by painful screams of soldiers. It sounded like a massacre, like a true and brutal massacre. Warden Molt was beginning to worry. Had he made a mistake? Should he regret his decisions to stay and fight? No, he had to stay. He had to see it through to the very end. Even if the Avatar was not coming. But who was it, coming in his stead? The instructions he left for the assassin were specific. She should only lure the Avatar to this place. No one else. As a precautional measure Molt decided it was best to follow standard protocol and stack all the sensible files together to enclose them in a safe in the back of his office. The first thing he placed in the safe, was the brown envelope with the earthkingdom insignia on its front, which used to be in the drawer of Molt's desk. The envelope he had been reaching for just before.

Molt sighed in an attempt to remain calm. He had kind of trapped himself here, hadn't he? This was a mistake, he was cut off from the escape route. One of his sub-commanders showed up a couple of minutes ago, telling him they were fighting a lost battle against one firebender. One female firebender. Molt was not sure what upset him more. The fact his forces were annihilated by a woman or that they were losing to only one. It was probably a mix of both. And it was not because he had anything against women. It was just this one time he really wanted it to be the Avatar coming to him. And the Avatar was a bloke. The person coming should be a guy and he sure shouldn't slay all his guards. Not that Molt cared a lot about them, but this was not how Molt planned it. He wanted to keep bloodshed to a minimum.

"Wait, oh please wait!" a guard pressed to the door of the warden's office screamed. "please! I beg you! Please! I was just following orders!" He was gasping for air, as Azula's left arm was cutting off his air-supply by pressing it tightly to his throat. He was pinned to the door, his feet unable to reach the ground.

Azula suddenly let go of the guard, he crashed to the floor, gasping for air. He hadn't a lot of time to catch his breath again, before a hand yanked him up again and pressed a purple fire-knife to his throat. He stared into golden eyes with an unnatural glow to them. He felt like his soul was sucked out of him, just by looking into those eyes of her. He tried to look away, but couldn't, his body would not comply to his brains commands. There was no way this woman was human. This had to be some kind of evil spirit, a demon, something. But not human. Never. He saw how she decapitated Wilson with a fire-whip, like the man was made from paper and Mao exploded in front of his eyes in a purple fireball, he could still feel parts of his flesh stuck in his hair. And she didn't even seem to care, all she did was move her hands, fast, precise, but without any effort. Like writing a letter. "Just... orders" the guard repeated, panic almost silencing his voice.

"And what excuse is that supposed to be?" her voice was pure poison "You have a brain don't you? It should have told you one thing or another about how one should treat prisoners." she hissed, her voice was absolutely deadly.

"P-Please!" the guard stammered in panic. Hell, he had already pissed himself in sheer terror and Azula thought about saying something about it to humiliate him further, but chose not to. The quick glance at his crotch was enough to see the embarrassment written all over his face. The guards eyes were wide open, fixed to Azula, she could almost see the terror he endured in them, but didn't care at all. They all were just scum. He, the other guards, it didn't matter. They were human rubbish. The worst of the worst. And not just because what one of them did to Ty Lee, but because of what they all did to the prisoners, to the elder, who were left to die, to the younger who were just kept alive for experiments of the most cruel type and to the poor girls being forced to give their bodies for their pleasure. Jin. Azula didn't even know where to begin with all the things those people had to pay for.

"I-I have a d-daughter! Have mercy!" the terrified guard begged. The princess tilted her head slightly to the left.

"I once lost my favorite necklace in the ocean" Azula said with a short giggle. There was a moment of silence after that. The guard accomplished something, Azula didn't expect. He managed to look confused over all the panic.

"W-What?" the guard didn't understand. A necklace? What had that to do with-

"Oh, I thought we were both listing things we are never going to see again" Azula laughed and slowly proceeded to slowly separate his head from his shoulders.

"Heeellp!" was the only thing he was able to shout before the connection of his lungs to his vocal chords was severed. He made a gargling loud noise before life left his body.

There was the sound of a body being slammed to the door of the warden's office followed by a desperate cry for help and a feral scream. Then there was a long moment of silence, in which the warden, still sitting behind his desk and still trying to hide all the documents, had his eyes fixed to the door of his office.

When it finally opened he had to see the beheaded corpse of his best sub-commander fall into his office. The dead man spilled blood everywhere. Behind him was standing someone Molt would have never expected here. There was a moment, when Molt contemplated if the Avatar might have sent someone to investigate, but he ruled that out immediately. She was surely sent by no one. Suddenly Molt realized, why his men were unable to stop the advance of the intruder. He watched as the crown-princess of the firenation stepped gracefully over the corpse, holding his head on its hair, before tossing it onto the wardens desk with deadly precision. It landed with a splash on the desk, again splattering blood all over the warden's papers.

Molt swallowed hard, but remained as calm as possible. He knew one thing or another about the princess. She was rational and logical. There might have been a chance for his master-plan to succeed after all. The fact that he was not yet dead proved she had other intentions towards him. "The mistress of lightning is paying this institution a visit. I have to admit, you are not who I expected" he said steadily.

Azula's lips twitched upward in the hint of a grin, she ignored the statement about who the warden expected, deciding it was meant as a distraction. "Oh, a nickname for me I haven't heard of yet." she giggled silently "I like this one. Seeing how sapphire death doesn't really suit me anymore" with a flick of her hand the walls of the office were bathed in dark purple fire. "And not because I am not deadly anymore" she said.

The warden tried to be calm. Even if his plan wouldn't work anymore, maybe he could save himself at least. Or maybe even more, she was showing off with her admittedly extremely impressive firebending. She was intimidating him and still had to attack. Warden Molt came to the conclusion, that the princess was here for a reason. "What can I do for you?" he asked.

"Oh, cutting the small-talk to a minimum I see" she replied "I don't mind that" Azula sat down on the side of his desk, patting the head, which was still standing there.

"I seek some answers" she began, her purple flames reflecting in the glowing golden eyes, which were staring Molt down.

"To what question?" Molt returned, trying to hide how uncomfortable he was as good as possible. Damn, that bitch was intimidating. But till now their exchange was going way better than he expected. Meaning he was not dead yet. If he stayed calm and friendly, maybe he would survive.

"Did king Kuei know of this operation? And if so, to which extent?" Azula stared at the warden. She was surprised how calm this guy was staying. Azula had to pay some credit to him, at least for having the guts to talk to her on even ground.

Molt's eyes flashed up for a second. He did not expect this question. Was she in on it? Did she know of the plan? He had to be careful now. If he told her too much too soon he would be doomed. He needed something to pressure her into revealing why she was here and what she knew. Maybe he could get a deal. But if he held too much back, she would most likely just deem him uncooperative, kill him and search for the proof she came here for herself.

"So, the assassin sent me the wrong person, I guess?" Molt stated, as he set a course of action. "I didn't think she of all people would sell me out to the firenation. No offense." He should have opened his train of thought differently. And he should not have paused here.

Azula didn't take long to process what Molt said. It was a trap, she knew it all along. With inhuman speed she was off the desk and quickly spun around it. With a blurry movement, she was behind the warden, pressing another fire knife to his throat.

"The answer to my next question, warden, will decide over your life." Azula hissed in his ear. She could feel him tense up noticeably, as adrenalin was rushing into his body.

"This was a trap, wasn't it? You wanted to lure Aang here? You wanted to harm my husband, didn't you?" she asked sharply.

Molt quickly shook his head. Her husband? What the hell? She was married to the Avatar of all people? He didn't even know he had a wife, yet alone the princess. If this was true... this might be good news! If he'd live long enough to explain everything. If it was the truth. But on the other hand, why would she drop a lie like this at this point. She seemed to be truly upset about it as well and Molt knew the mistress of lightning was never of the emotional type.

"No! No! That's not true! At least not how you put it! Yes, I wanted to get him here in secret, but not to do anything to him. I wanted to give him something! I swear, I never wanted to hurt him! Please, let me explain!" he gasped for air. Azula hesitated for a moment, before she decided to let him say, what he had to say. She was searching for information after all. Azula let go of him and returned to the desk, which she leaned onto.

"Alright, tell me everything. And don't dare to lie." she warned dangerously.

Molt sighed, he could suddenly see this working out "It is true, I contracted the assassin for a job. The plan was complicated, I am constantly being watched by what is left of the Dai-Li. So I searched for a certain assassin, of whom I knew would be loyal to me. I contacted her and once she agreed to help me, I told her to try and assassinate the earth-king while the Avatar was nearby. I hoped he would try to pursue her, so she could deliver the news of this place to him. I also had her wait around Ku-Roah for him to show up, so she could tell him where to go."

Azula rose an eyebrow "Why the staged assassination?" she wanted to know.

"I thought I needed something to grab the Avatar's attention. Something which would concern him enough to actually come here." Molt explained. Azula was not really sure if she should believe a word of what he was saying. It could have been possible. But it just as likely was complete bullshit. On the other hand, it was a little elaborate for being made up on the spot.

"So, assuming I was him now. What was the whole point of him being here? What would you do now, that he is here?" Azula's eyes sparked up for a brief second, even more than they were already glowing.

"I would give him something" Molt stated. "It is in my safe behind me, do you wish to see it?" he asked. Azula nodded slightly, but prepared herself for a surprise attack. She didn't trust this guy one second. With a flick of her hand, the purple fire burning on the wall, without actually burning it, died off.

Molt turned around to open his safe, which was hidden behind the painting of a beautiful shack by a romantic lake. The scenery was painted in autumn, showing the gold-brown and red colors of the trees, reflecting in the still water. In the background a mountain line was indicated. It was a rather relaxing painting. It was all still intact, much to Molt's surprise. Sure it was all pretty hot, but other than that, undamaged. Molt pulled the brown envelope of documents out of the safe and turned around to Azula, before handing her the papers.

The princess rose a suspicious eyebrow, as she slowly took the envelope in her hands. Everything about it smelled fishy. She had no idea why she just didn't kill the warden on the spot and search for what she needed to find on her own. Probably because she had no idea, if she'd even find it and maybe the warden had information she could beat out of him. Also, the crimson princess had her fair share of bloodshed today, approximately a hundred give or take a few dozen dead bodies in the hallways were proof enough.

The warden was the head of all this, though. But something about him let the princess hesitate. She would see this through and find out who that guy really was. Something was not right here. She couldn't put the finger on it yet, but her sixth sense was tingling. The princess had learned to trust her instincts long ago.

Azula reached into the envelope and pulled out a paper. She quickly skimmed it, before her eyes grew wide. This was exactly what she was searching for. And he just gave it to her. He said he planned all this so he could give it to Aang. This seemed very unlikely. What was going on? Azula's brain was racing, trying to figure out what she missed. Maybe she didn't miss anything? Maybe that warden was telling the truth? Who can tell for sure? It's not like he would be the first to betray someone.

"So king Kuei knew everything" she simply stated.

"He did" Molt answered with a slight nod. Azula felt herself smile.

"And you wanted to hand these documents over to Aang?" Azula asked calmly. This was not how she imagined or planned this conversation to developed, but she had no problem with this either.

"Yes. And I will give it to you under one condition" Molt said, as he folded his hands together on his desk. Ah, everything has a price, I suppose the princess thought to herself.

"Why would you do that?" Azula asked suspicious about everything here. It still made no sense. The Why? was floating in the air like a big balloon.

"I am running this facility for two years now." he said and legitimately sounded disgusted. He spat the words out like they were bitter. "I got sent here to commandeer a prison. This is not a prison. This is hell. It should not be this way. But I had no choice, Kuei's orders were rather precise. I wanted to stop this in another way, believe me. This was not my first idea. I tried to talk to the King and his advisors, but that was a bad idea. I spoke up in front of the king one too many times, and the Dai-Li almost had me replaced. And with replaced I mean executed and disposed of. I didn't want to die, you understand that, don't you? So I figured it would be better to keep a low profile, while I was still in a position I could do something. I pretended to not care anymore for a few month before I contacted the assassin in secret."

"You don't seriously expect me to believe this?" Azula hissed. It just sounded so cliché. But in hindsight, a lot of things in her life sounded cliché and they happened anyway.

"Please, I give you everything I have and know. I just want one thing!" Molt's voice was still surprisingly calm, but had definitely panic buried underneath.

"You realize you are hardly in the position for demands" Azula snarled.

"Well, I do wish to continue living" Molt returned. "And I will testify everything which was going on. I just don't want to die."

Azula let out a long sigh. What was she doing here? This wasn't like her. She never took prisoners. The princess was always the one to kill first, and ask questions later. A witness on the other hand could prove invaluable.

"I am going to regret this" she muttered to herself, before turning to Mold wearing a stern and serious face "If I see you as much as flinch, I will burn you alive" she answered. "And just so you know, I will have everything you said verified by someone who can tell for sure if you are lying" Azula's voice was calm and dangerous.

"Of course, I understand." Mold replied with a relieved expression on his face.

"Congratulations, you are my first prisoner in... well, ever" Azula shrugged, as she picked up the envelope with Molt's documents and roughly grabbed him on his collar, before forcefully dragging him with her. She had no handcuffs or anything, so she just had to think about something.

"May I ask what happened to my men?" Molt asked, as Azula switched into another corridor. The walls were smeared with blood, burned and horribly disfigured corpses were lying on the floor. A small river of blood had formed, which was flowing down the hallway. Some makeshift covers where blown up and badly burnt, some fires still flaring. It reeked of burnt flesh and iron. Azula just didn't give a single fuck, as she pulled Molt along. She didn't deign a look at the corpses and ignored the soles of her shoes slightly sticking to the floor, making an really inappropriately funny noise, given the reason for the sound.

"Forget I asked" Molt stated feebly, as he tried not to vomit at the sight. How the hell did he survive his encounter with the princess? She certainly lived up to all her nicknames. The red reaper came to mind rather easily. And he suddenly knew how the red came to be. It hadn't to do anything with the color of fire, since hers wasn't red. It hadn't to do with the firenation's colors, like the crimson in the crimson princess. It was because of all the blood she spilled, wherever she wreaked havoc. Molt swallowed hard.

-/-

Azula tossed Molt rather violently out of the hole inside the building, which they used to enter the prison a couple of hours ago. To Azula's surprise she had to discover, that in the meantime the sun had already set. The moonlight was all, which shimmered through the smashed window. To be perfectly honest, Azula had lost her feeling for time down in that prison rather quickly. She could not tell how long it took them, to free everybody and capture the warden. Apparently it was quite a while, considering they arrived around midday and now it was way past sunset.

The princess grabbed the warden at his collar again, tearing him up with one hand, while the other held a purple flame to light the way. She was suddenly aware that the room was not empty, the old prisoner, 627, was apparently waiting for her. He was standing next to the tossed over shelf, apparently checking an old and not yet burnt book. When he realized that he was no longer alone, he quickly put the work of literature back at its place.

"P-Princess?" he asked, insecure as to how to address her.

"Yes?" Azula replied, giving the flame in her hand a little more power, so the light would get brighter. The flickering fire was reflecting in 627s widely open eyes, which clearly showed his relieve to finally be free.

The old man cleared his throat "The Avatar wanted me to wait here for you. He asked me to tell you, that he will be at a lake, not far from here. He said, it is the lake you passed when you arrived here." the man reported, rubbing his hands together, clearly uncomfortable. There were so many things he wanted to say and ask, but he knew that this was barely the time. Though 627 had no idea what it was exactly, he knew that something went wrong and one of the Avatar's friends got hurt badly.

"I see. Thank you" Azula replied with her best diplomatic voice, as she hurried past him, dragging the warden with her like a lazy dog.

"Princess?" 627 asked again, causing Azula to stop in her tracks.

"Yes?" Azula once again replied, rather offhand.

"What will happen to us now?" the old prisoner wanted to know. The red reaper sighed, she honestly had no idea. Molt found this all to be very interesting, the princess was every bit as she was always described. Cold and calculating, at least for the most part.

"We will figure something out. For now just stay where you are. You're save here, don't worry." she answered, before rushing out of the building, pulling the warden along. She had a very tight grip on his neck, as he stumbled along. Azula quickly thought about how to proceed from now on. She had the warden in her custody. Should she take him with her to the lake or maybe leave him here? If she took him with her, she could have an eye on him personally, but if she'd have to help Aang for whatever reason chances were no one could keep him from running away. She assumed Jin would have followed Aang as far as possible, but she was hardly in the condition to guard a prisoner. On the other hand, if she were to leave him here, she'd have absolutely no control over him anymore, but could concentrate on being helpful for Aang, should the need arise. And if she found a save place here, where Molt could not run off, it would be the best solution. Azula decided to leave him here, should she find someone capable of keeping an eye on him.

She came through the front door of the badly damaged town hall and let her eyes roam over the dark civic center once. She spotted two freed prisoners to her far left, before she approached them. They were standing in front of a well made of stone, which surely had no water whatsoever left inside of hit. The two men were sitting on the edge, chatting idly. They seemed to be inmates of sector two, because they appeared to really enjoy their newly found freedom.

"Princess Azula!" one of them greeted. "Thank you so much for what you did for us!"

"Yes, we will forever be in your and the Avatar's debt" the other added. Azula eyed the two of them quickly. They seemed trustworthy for what she had in mind. And they also had at least a little bit of muscle built up, apparently they were part of the prison work-force.

"Don't mention it. I am glad you are free now." she said, waving it off. "There is a favor I need to ask of you, though" Azula added.

"Anything" the two replied simultaneously, both very eager.

"You know him, don't you?" Azula pushed Molt forward, who up until now made the wise decision of keeping his mouth shut. He figured it would be best for his physical health, and he figured exactly correct.

"Warden Molt" one of them growled hateful. Perfect. Azula smirked her trademark smirk of doom.

"Could you keep an eye on him for me? I have to find my husband and don't want him to wander off." Azula explained.

"Of course." one of the two men replied with an almost submissive nod.

"If he moves or does something funny, kill him. But only if you absolutely have to. He might be a valuable asset, understood?" She shoved Molt forward and before he could even do a single step on his own, one of the two freed airbender grabbed him and took him in a tight headlock.

"Yes, princess" the other replied firmly. The raven haired beauty apparently picked the exactly right two for this job.

"You understand that, too, Molt? No funny business" Azula advised coolly, her voice stern and determined, as usual.

"I already said it, I'd like to live to tell the tale" he answered constrained. Azula nodded "Then behave yourself" she replied firmly. Turning towards an pile of wood, which might have been a market stall or something like that a long time, she lit the dry wood on fire with a flick of her fingers.

"So you two don't catch a cold" she stated, nodding towards the newly assigned guards. Gobsmacked they stared at the fire for a moment, which was already radiating a very comfortable warmth off. The night was rather cold after all. They wanted to say thank you to Azula, but when they looked back, she was already gone, walking off towards the lake Aang had mentioned. She remembered the place, it actually was a rather large lake, which was at the wayside of the long abandoned and overgrown street leading to Ku-Roah. One had to be careful not to trip over a loose twine or root from the nearby trees.

The lake was surrounded by a very clear broadleaf forest. At the point closest to the street a rather broad passage in the anyway wide spread trees opened up, revealing a clear view at the nightly black lake.

The glow of both water and Aang's Avatar-state was visible from far away, it was the only source of light besides the moon. Azula already saw her husband from the street, as she was approaching the lake. Aangs glowing tattoos and the brightly lit up water was shimmering in the otherwise pitch-black liquid surrounding them and almost changing-over the beautiful reflection of the perfectly spangled sky. She expected to see him standing in the lake, Ty Lee floating in front of him in an bubble of brightly blue glowing water. And she found him almost exactly like that. Only he was basically in the middle of the lake, where he had no way of being able to stand on his feet. He was sitting cross-legged on the water surface, his hands spread out over Ty Lee in front of him. She was fully submerged in water, not even her face was showing and the water was moving more violently as Azula was used to. It looked like it was boiling, which it obviously didn't. Other than those details, the princess found exactly what she had expected.

What she didn't expect was who was waiting at the shore. There were two women waiting for Aang, one being asleep, the other one looked like she was standing guard. As Azula came closer, she recognized the sleeping woman was Jin, her white hair gave her away immediately, even if it was night. The poor girl must have been completely exhausted, she was snoring lightly and if the situation wouldn't have been so serious, Azula would probably found it to be rather cute. The white haired girl was curled up into a ball, wrapped into a heavy woolen black coat.

Azula recognized that cloak, her gaze immediately darted to the other woman.

It was the assassin.

She was standing right next to Jin, looking out onto the lake's surface, a sword stuck into the dirt to her right. For a brief moment Azula considered attacking the girl who had led them to this place, but something about how she was standing next to Jin, obviously without any hostile intentions towards her made the princess hesitate. She decided to talk first and fight later, should it be necessary.

The assassin was waiting for Aang to return from healing Ty Lee. She had no idea how long it might take him, but she would wait anyway. The other girl, Jin was already asleep when she arrived here, the young airbender was holding the baby tightly, but was shivering badly. Of course she was cold, considering both the temperature and her basically nonexistent clothing, which was wet from all the blood on top of it all. So, deciding it would not be good if Jin would freeze to death, the assassin gave the girl her own heavy cloak, retrieved the newborn from her arms and held it in Jin's stead. It had something terribly cute, how Jin curled up in the cloak. She must have been through a lot, the assassin thought by herself, before she heard someone approaching. she was very quick to grab her weapon to her right, before she swiftly swung around.

"Who is there?" she asked silently, pointing the tip of her blade towards the princess.

Azula realized, she was wielding a dual-handed weapon with only one hand. And the reason for that became apparent to her just a second later, as the assassin adjusted a bundle, which she was holding in her free arm. The princess lit up a small flame in her flat hand, to provide a little extra light.

"Oh, it is you" the assassin said and sounded on edge, but let the sword fall back into the dirt, where it stuck. She still didn't trust the princess a second. But the assassin had little choice here, along with the Avatar the red reaper had freed so many prisoners, and with them she also freed someone very important to the assassin. It was finally over. She had won. She did it. And it was partly thanks to the princess, that it was even possible.

"Do I want to know what an assassin does here, holding Ty's baby? Are you watching out over them?" Azula couldn't believe her own words, but this was the only reasonable option. Why else would the assassin do here, standing in the open like this. Azula had witnessed the level of stealth this particular hitman could achieve first hand.

"I am" was the short and silent answer.

"To be honest I didn't expect you to be here" Azula replied, she also kept her voice down in order to not wake Jin up.

"Well, I think I owe you both an apology and thanks" the assassin said. "I still do hate firebenders. But what you did today was very honorable. I am forever in your and the Avatar's debt " she said, reaching into a pocket, while she approached Azula. The princess rose an eyebrow at the words, as the assassin handed the baby over to the princess.

"Take this" she said and passed Azula a plain black card. "Should you ever require my services, burn this card. I will know and come to find you" she stated.

"You will know if I burn this card?" Azula sounded very suspicious about that. How would that work?

"Yes. It's spirit magic. I will find you in a couple of days after you've burnt it." the assassin explained in a calm, yet serious tone, before picking up her sword and elegantly putting it back to its sheath on her waist.

"You are leaving?" Azula asked, not that she minded. Sell-swords were hardly her favorite type of person, and assassins were basically nothing else than sell-swords with a tendency towards efficiency.

"I have fulfilled my contract" she stated plainly, as she was walking away. "Oh, one more thing, princess" the assassin stopped without turning around again and Azula waited for what was about to come. "If you see warden Molt, tell him my thanks. I found my brother today."

"Among the prisoners?" Azula asked curiously. Obviously, but she wanted to be sure.

"Yes." The assassin replied, before she was gone for good, vanished into the dark night.

Well, that certainly was interesting. Warden Molt's words were suddenly adding up. He was talking about 'that one assassin' who would help him. The more Azula thought about it, the more she had the feeling that Molt had been telling the truth. Did he really plan things to go this way from the very beginning? If so, he was a tactical mastermind. Azula would still ask Toph to talk to him, just to be sure. Using her earthbending she would have no problem to tell, if he lied or told the truth. But that had to wait for now.

The princess sat down right next to Jin and gently stroked through her hair, as she watched Aang with his healing. She wondered how long it would take him and if he'd manage to heal her. Azula just wanted to believe he was able to do it. He was doing it using the Avatar-state for crying out loud, if he wasn't able to save her, no one could. The princess didn't want to think about what would happen if they'd lose Ty Lee today. She didn't want to think about how she'd tell Mai and she didn't want to think what to do with the baby. There was no way Ty Lee should die on this day. Everyone but her, she didn't deserve it. If someone would deserve it... The princess was ripped out of her dark thoughts by a soft touch on her thigh.

"...Azula?" a tried voice from her right asked, causing the princess to look down. Jin had her eyes opened up. "You are here?"

"I am. Everything is fine. Go back to sleep" she said softly, before Jin slowly scooted closer to her, lying her head into Azula's lap.

"I'm glad you are" Jin yawned, before she obviously fell back asleep. Azula could not help but smile, as she pulled the black cloak a little up. Jin was still shivering, which really was no big surprise. She was almost naked underneath that cloak. With a flick of Azula's hand a nice bonfire sprung to live in front of them, radiating a comfortable warmth off.

Azula's gaze drifted back to Aang, who was still floating on the surface of the lake, healing Ty Lee.

please survive. Please wake up soon.

-/-

Chapter Text

The curious thing was, Azula simply could not remember falling asleep. She would have sworn that she was awake all the time, but apparently that was not the truth. Sometime, her mind must have slowly faded into unconsciousness, as her eyelids got heavy, before they slowly closed. Interestingly enough the princess was still seeing the image of Aang floating over the water surface in front of her mental eye.

She realized that she must have fallen asleep, when a gentle whisper was urging to her ear and a warm hand was softly grasping her shoulder. The princess started up from her sleep, as her eyes shot open, she struggled for a second to make sense of the situation, but the memories of what happened came back to her almost instantly. She still was near the lake in the clearing of the forest. She fell asleep on the ground.

Her head spun to her right where Aang was kneeling to her side, his hand resting on her shoulder. The Avatar looked exhausted, even through the dark night the moon provided enough light for this fact to be almost painfully obvious to Azula. Aang was no longer in his Avatar-state, but back to normal. A gentle smile on his lips, he looked in the beautiful golden eyes of his wife.

"How-" Azula asked silently, urging to learn about Ty Lee's condition.

"I'm fine" a sweet, but clearly exhausted voice further to Azula's right breathed. The princess could not force her tears back, as she lied her eyes upon the alive and apparently well acrobat. For a short moment Azula felt the urge to jump up and hug her friend tightly while at the same time yelling at her for daring to pull such a stunt. If it wasn't for Jin peacefully sleeping, her head still in Azula's lap and if it also wasn't for the baby she was currently holding, Azula might have given into that first impulse. But she didn't.

Instead she simply said with a relieved nod: "I'm so glad you are, Ty. Welcome back" A burden the weight of a mountain was lifted from her shoulders, at least it felt like that. The string which was wrapping tightly around her throat from the moment she saw her best friend being stabbed by that katana was finally cut and breathing was easy again. In the back of her head Azula was glad that she didn't have to deliver any bad news home to Mai. She could only have imagined how the gloomy assassin would have reacted. Azula seriously doubted she would have stayed sane. She herself certainly couldn't, if it was Aang who would have gotten killed.

Luckily none of that happened. Ty Lee was alive and as good as can be expected under the circumstances; just like Aang. There was no need for any of those worries now.

Ty Lee just nodded embarrassed. The events of the day were slowly starting to catch up to her, but she still couldn't remember everything. The last thing she knew was taking the baby from the nearly dead mother and the feeling of happiness and joy, before everything turned black. From that point onward everything was one blurry vision, as Ty Lee drifted in and out of consciousness. She didn't comprehend fully, but Aang saved her life. She would have to thank him once she was fully herself again. As of now she was still a little confused and also really, really tired.

"We should head back to the village" Aang stated, changing the topic. There was still so much to take care of and the exhaustion was rapidly wearing him down. He wanted to round things up as soon as possible.

"Indeed we should" Azula nodded in confirmation, she could both see and hear how beaten Aang was. That healing must have been extremely demanding and she wondered for a second if he was that stove up when he had been healing her all those long years ago. He probably was. She quickly made a mental note to ask him some other time.

Sighing Azula reached down to gently wake Jin up, who shifted in her lap.

"Isn't that Jin?" Ty Lee wanted to know, whispering to Aang. The Avatar nodded in response.

"She doesn't want to leave Azula's side for some reason." he shrugged. It wasn't that he minded. Jin was a sweet girl. A heavily traumatized, brutally abused, probably scarred for life, but never the less sweet girl. She had Aang's full sympathy.

And he also was really proud of his wife. The crimson princess usually wasn't one to give a rat's anus about the weak, so taking Jin under her wings was something greatly out of character for one princess Azula. For a second Aang had to smile, as a proverb crossed his mind. Hard shell, soft core.

-/-

Aang had to admit that he didn't exactly expect to find Ku-Roah in the state he eventually did. A quick glance over to Azula confirmed, that his wife indeed thought to see something slightly different from... well, from this.

This was odd, to say the least.

"Uhm" Ty Lee blinked. "I must be hallucinating" she said rubbing her head with her free hand. She insisted on carrying her baby again. Azula had to concentrate not to show her disappointment at that. Even though it wasn't her boy, she still liked carrying the baby around as imagination drifted to the future...

"No, you are not" Aang replied. He too was seeing it.

Azula cleared her throat. "Well, this wasn't what I had in mind, when I said they should have an eye on the warden" she shrugged "But I guess they didn't technically do anything against my orders. Still..."

"There is not really anything we can say against it. People have to eat after all" Aang nodded, still not taking his eyes from what he was seeing in the civic center in front of the town hall.

Warden Molt was cooking. Yes, that is right. He was cooking. And no, he wasn't placed in a bowl of hot water, slowly being boiled to a painful death. Quite the opposite. He was wearing a white apron over his earth-kingdom uniform, while he was hectically working various different pots and pans placed over provisional hearths. He was obviously crazy busy, as he was shoveling food onto big plates, which was then distributed by the two prisoners Azula had ordered to keep an eye on Molt. While they didn't exactly disobey her, this was hardly what she had in mind.

Azula growled in a very unladylike manner, before she stamped towards the warden. She was easily making her way through the waiting former prisoners, who all stood in line to get something to eat. Most of them had a eager, hungry glow in their eyes and Azula wasted a quick thought how long ago it must have been for most of the people here since they had the last proper meal. Well, they might actually never had a proper meal at all...

"Molt!" she bellowed, pushing the last prisoner to the side as she was now standing right in front of the warden. "What in the name of the spirits is going on here?!" she snarled. Molt looked up from the vegetable-something he was cooking and smiled at her, which almost threw Azula off balance. What was that idiot smiling about?

"We are having dinner. I looted the storerooms, there was plenty to eat. It was the least I could do, they haven't gotten something to eat in ages. Apparently my cooking isn't half bad. Care to join us? I guess we could agree on letting you cut in line, since you saved everyone here. Are you hungry?"

Azula blinked. Once. Twice.

She was dimly aware of Aang suddenly appearing to her side, but chose to ignore it. She was currently fighting the urge to light Molt on fire. The only reason she didn't was because of two things actually. One was that she still needed him as a witness and the other was that Molt actually took care of the prisoners here. Or at least he pretended to care. Either way, he was cooking for them and by the looks of things, it was his idea too. It just unnerved her to no end that he thought it was perfectly fine to talk to her in this kind of voice. He wasn't her buddy, she wasn't his friend. He was her prisoner. And prisoners aren't supposed to walk around cooking stuff for everyone, asking if they were hungry!

Truth to be told, yes, Azula was hungry. Very much so. As was Aang, but that was not the point here at all!

How was everyone suddenly perfectly fine with Molt cooking for everyone. Why did he even do that? Was he genuinely caring? Had he told the complete truth, when he said that he planned this for a long time to play out like this? Or was he just trying to put up an act? If he was, he did an excellent job, because Azula couldn't tell he was lying whatsoever. And she was usually quite good in judging those things. Sure, she was no living lie-detector like Toph was one, but she generally got a good first impression. And right now the impression she got from Molt was not the one of fake attention.

"There is absolutely no time for messing around here, Molt!" she hissed. "You are under custody and that doesn't mean you can freely run around here cooking dinner for everyone!" Azula pushed her fists to her hips, looking seriously pissed off. Maybe the fact that the food smelled great and she indeed could have used some nourishment just added to her foul mood.

"But they have to eat, princess" Molt objected. "Besides, the two here are following me everywhere, so your orders were carried out."

Oh great, is he seriously bringing my own orders up? She was seriously close to adding human to the grill-menu today.

Azula narrowed her eyes, her whole body tensed up, before Aang gently tugged at her hand "Relax, Zula. This isn't that bad. Look around everyone seems to be happy."

"That's not the point" Azula replied sternly, shaking her head, but giving up. They hardly had the time to waste with such nonsense. Of course everyone seemed happy. Everyone got fed, it was alright. She didn't like it, but for the wrong reasons and Azula was woman enough to realize that. She sighed, letting go of her anger. In moments like these Azula always got the feeling that she never thanked guru Pathik nearly enough. If it wouldn't have been for his efforts, situations like these would have literally exploded. "Alright. We have still a lot of work. Molt, you sure have massager-hawks, don't you?"

The warden nodded slowly. He didn't like the expression in the eyes of the princess at all. Seriously, he just tried to help. What was she so upset about? It wasn't like the prisoners had any idea on how to prepare a meal. He was just helping here!

"Alright, you come with me" with a smooth movement she jumped over the serving counter and grabbed Molt at his collar.

"But princess, what about the food?" An unnamed female prisoner asked shyly. She was aware that the question was a little out of place, but her people were still hungry. Someone had to ask.

"I'll take care of that, alright?" Aang announced with a happy smile. That was so typical for Aang, he always did what he could to help. Even if it was just cooking and distributing food. Wait a second, Azula thought can he even cook? I've never seen him doing that... Azula shrugged the thought off, it wasn't like it mattered. As long as someone gave everyone something edible, it was fine. She pushed the warden into the town hall, to enter the prison again.

"Princess..." Molt spoke up as he was following Azula back into the prison. She needed paper and ink as well as the messenger-hawks.

"You are a strange person, warden." she said plainly. "I honestly cannot make much sense of you."

"I already explained you" Molt said. He told the truth, to every word. This was the only course of action he had left to take. He wanted to save as many people as possible.

"That you did" the princess replied, as she was walking down the completely abandoned corridors in the prison. The stench of blood was still heavy in the air, but both of them chose to ignore it. "And you know, in all honesty, I believe you." Azula glanced over him, her mesmerizing golden eyes had a dangerous spark in them "But that doesn't mean I trust you"

"Of course" Molt nodded. He highly doubted that she actually trusted anyone. "If I may ask. How is the injured companion of yours doing? Did she survive?" he asked.

It took a second for his words to sink in. He should not have known this!

Azula spun around and pinned him to a wall. "How did you know about that?" she snarled angrily. Her mind was trying to come up with an explanation.

Molt rose his arms in defense "The prisoners told me, when you were gone. They said that a friend of yours was stabbed." he explained. Azula loosened up and let go of Molt again. That made sense. A lot of prisoners saw Aang leave with Ty Lee. They must have added two and two together.

"She's alive. Exhausted, but alive" Azula replied with clear relieve in her voice.

"That is good to hear." Molt nodded. "So, how do our next steps look like?" he asked.

"Don't push your luck, warden" Azula warned. "If you want to get out of this alive I recommend your next steps to be following my orders to the letter." the princess shot him a warning glare and Molt understood completely. "Our next steps are none of your business"

Though he question remained valid. What was she about to do, indeed. Azula had some ideas in mind, but she didn't have time to discuss all of them with Aang during their walk back from the lake to Ku-Roah. Well, she supposed it was best if she just managed things like usual and informed her husband afterwards. Aang was never one to disagree with her planning and she appreciated that. It was nice to see and feel that he trusted her completely in that matter. Aang knew very well that Azula was a tactical genius and planning was one of her best fields of expertise. Why interfere?

Azula had a list of things in her mind, which needed to be taken into consideration and care of. She had to think about the prisoners, but she also had to think about her group. Then there was King Kuei who needed to be dealt with.

The crimson princess found it the best course of action to let the freed prisoners stay here in Ku-Roah for the time being. She would write a letter to Zuko explaining the situation and asking him to send airships. Then they could be brought to the western air-temple. Azula decided on the western temple for various reasons. One was that it was the closest to both their current location as well as the firenation. Then the western temple had already inhabitants (the mechanist and his people moved there after the war, as it made business with the firenation way easier), which would make it easier for everyone to settle in. And lastly the temple in the west was by far the largest. So to the fierce firebender the western location was not only the best, but also the only viable option.

Her group would in the meantime head back to Ba-Sing-Se. They all needed their much needed rest, a quick bite to eat and a safe haven. The jasmine dragon would provide all those things. Also, it was really close to the earthking, so they could act fast, should the time come. Azula made a mental note to mention in her letter to Zuko, that he should send someone -namely Mai and her personal strike team- to Iroh. Not only because her team was the best the IMIS had to offer, but also because she wanted her to be able to be there for Ty Lee. Azula might have been a cold-hearted bitch to everyone on the outside, but on the inside she cared deeply for those she called family.

The next step was to contact Toph. Azula was contemplating where she should ask her to come to and how much she could mention in a letter. The princess was well aware that someone would have to read -whatever it was she decided to write- to the blind earthbender. So Azula had to be careful not to write too much details. She decided that asking for her presence in an important and potentially crucial development for the whole world would have to suffice. The princess would also sign the letter in Aang's name as well, just to be sure.

Princess Azula was thinking over everything again. Did she forget something? Ah right, yes. Molt. What should she do with him? He couldn't be left here with the freed airbenders. Azula didn't trust him near enough to leave him alone for a couple of days. He could run off whenever. No, that was not an option at all. Though she was not comfortable with the other option, there really was no choice at all. They would have to take him with them and maybe lock him away in Iroh's basement, just to be sure.

Azula looked over the scrolls she had written. Everything was prepared, she mentioned everything she wanted to mention. All that was left now was sending the birds on their way and wait for things to be set into motion.

Spirits, waiting again. Well, at least she would get to sleep soon. After they returned to the jasmine dragon.

-/-

In all of her admittedly short life Kiyi didn't have so much fun before. This was such a great day, evening, night, whatever. It was simply awesome. She had never thought that she'd find friends as great as this bunch. Yeah, they all were a couple of years older than her, but that was alright. It was a shame that it was over now.

The group decided to walk Kiyi back to the jasmine dragon. They spent the entire night walking through the town, visiting the most beautiful places and having fun together. They went to see the fountain of light, they stayed on the rooftops to watch the beautiful star sprinkled sky with that wonderfully big moon and spent the entire time talking about everything. Bending, school, boys, other girls, you name it.

Kiyi liked everyone in the group. But Johanna was the best. The redhead was an amazing person, gentle and kind in character, but also determined and sometimes almost a little bossy. Johanna was really smart and very interested in firebending. She asked Kiyi questions all night long and the firebender answered everything to the best of her knowledge. She even demonstrated this or that, causing Johanna to grin like an idiot. To the student this was so fascinating, she never would have dreamed to have a firebender show her the secrets behind this art. And it made her happy. Which made her smile. Which in return made Kiyi blush. Johanna's smile made the night bright as a summer day and she was really pretty. Kiyi might have been a bit jealous.

"You know," the redhead started, as they walked around the corner leading to the jasmine dragon "I had a great night"

"Me too!" Kiyi exclaimed happily "Thank you for taking me along"

"Don't mention-" Johanna paused, staring at the entrance of the jasmine dragon. "Is that a sky bison?" she inquired dumbstruck.

"Yaay!" Kiyi shrieked, jumping in joy. "Uncle Aang is back!"

"Uncle Aang?" a third girl with deep black hair asked in disbelieve. "As in Uncle Avatar Aang?"

"Yes, he married my sister" Kiyi smiled happily. When Aang was here again, that meant that Azula was here as well! And Ty Lee, too! The day was getting better by the minute.

"The Avatar is part of your family?" Johanna gawked, as they walked up to the teashop. Appa was waiting patiently in front of it, rising his head a little as the group approached. He roared silently, trying to warn the girls of what was about to happen. But they weren't able to understand until it was already too late.

"And he is really pissed off at the moment" a new voice said, as a outline was rising from the shadows next to Appa. The Avatar was stepping into the dim light in front of Iroh's teashop, with arms crossed over his chest, as he eyed Kiyi with a serious no-nonsense expression on his stern face.

"What were you thinking?" he asked firmly, without raising his voice even a little "Azula is worried sick! Iroh said you were gone for the evening, do you have any idea how late it is? Do you have any idea how dangerous it is for a group of girls your age to wander the streets alone at this time of the day?" he turned to the redhead standing next to Kiyi "That goes for you as well, young lady and your friends! This was irresponsible and reckless. Do you even realize what could have happened?" he asked, without waiting for an answer and turned back to Kiyi.

"What were you thinking, Kiyi? When we came home Iroh was almost freaking out, he thought you should have been back hours ago! He had no idea where you went off to! Damn, how could you be so careless? We almost lost Ty Lee today and when we come home we have to find out that you are nowhere to be found. What do you think we imagined happened? Your sister is close to freaking out! How could you do something like that to Azula? You are always so considerate, how could you miss that?"

"We...we lost Ty Lee? What..." Kiyi stammered, tears building up in her eyes. The red haired girl looked at her with worry, but didn't say anything. This wasn't her place to speak up at all.

"No, she was injured. Don't worry she's alive and well." Aang sighed, pointing to the door. "And now go and tell Azula that you're back."

"Yes, Aang. Sorry" Kiyi replied rueful.

"Don't apologize to me, apologize to her!" he returned.

There were a lot of things Johanna wanted to ask, but she was to dumbstruck to do so. First of all, Kiyi's sister was Azula. The Azula? The Azula as in the sapphire death? The red reaper? The lunatic crown princess of the firenation, who had taken down Ba-Sing-Se in mere days with only three people? That was unbelievable! And then the Avatar was also her uncle? He married the princess? What. The. Hell. In a matter of seconds her whole philosophy exploded. She was too overwhelmed by the new revelations, Johanna failed to connect the dots. It would mean that Kiyi's brother was Zuko, the freaking firelord himself and her uncle Mushi in reality was General Iroh, the dragon of the west. That realization would only hit a lot later.

"Kiyi!" Johanna forced herself to ask. "Your sister is..." Kiyi was standing directly in front of the closed shop-door. She had her hand already on the handle, but didn't push it down. The younger girl turned to look over her shoulder with a sorry expression, as she nodded.

"The crown princess, yes. Sorry I didn't tell you" Kiyi said meekly before slipping through the door, closing it behind her.

Johanna and her friends were left outside, standing in front of the Avatar, who still didn't look happy at all.

"Now then" he breathed, shifting his dark visage to something a little more friendly. "Hop on on Appa." he pointed to the mighty bison behind him, who burbled joyfully.

"We are fine, thank you Avatar" a other girl said, bowing politely. Aang shook his head firmly.

"There's no way in hell I'll let you all walk home alone" he said sternly, his voice made clear that this was nothing to be discussed.

The girls exchanged a quick glance, but this was the Avatar offering a ride. And while they all knew that going with strangers was dangerous, this was possibly the only excusable exception. With a shy nod they complied and crawled onto the giant saddle.

"Tell me" Aang began, his voice beginning to show hints of his former friendliness again "How did you meet Kiyi?"

Johanna opened her mouth to begin from the start. She told Aang the whole story of how they met during lunch-break, how Kiyi kicked the butt of Prof. Bootysmack and how they proceeded to spend the evening together as a group. She told him roughly what happened in the evening, where they went and what they did. Aang had a soft smile on his lips the entire time.

"Well, at least you girls had fun." he said as he landed Appa in front of their dorm.

"You aren't angry with us, Avatar?" another girl asked.

Aang chuckled softly. "You are young" he said "I know how that used to be like" he gazed into the spangled sky for a moment "Off you go then"

The girls thanked the Avatar, before they slid down Appa.

"A word of warning, though" Aang spoke up once again, causing the group of girls to halt and turn around. "My wife usually isn't one for forgiveness, especially concerning her sister. So you might prepare a good apology should you meet her someday."

Back at the jasmine dragon Kiyi found herself standing in front of her sister, who was sitting on a bench next to one of the tables, a cup of tea in front of her and an unfamiliar woman to her side, who must have fallen asleep on her shoulder.

The room was lit by warm candle-light, one on each table of the restaurant, as well as those in the lanterns hanging from the walls between each window. The shutters were obviously closed already and the kitchen area was dark as well. Iroh went to bed long ago.

The flickering candlelight was casting scary shadows on Azula's face, her golden eyes were filled with worry and concern. She couldn't believe that Kiyi just showed up like this again. Deep inside her, she had already started to plan how she was going to search and free her from whomever it was, who kidnapped her. Azula already illustrated the massacre she would stage in that case. The only thing which she still had to figure out, when Kiyi suddenly came into the jasmine dragon, was how likely it was for Kuei to be the one who gave the order to kidnap Azula's sister. The princess couldn't help but think that maybe someone of the personal managed to escape the prison unnoticed and went ahead to report to Kuei. Who in return took safety measures that his secret would stay a secret. Luckily Azula didn't have to think any further in that particularly dark train of thought.

"I'm sorry, Azula. I really am. We had so much fun and lost track of time. I know I caused you to worry, but I'm back now. Please forgive me" Kiyi said silently, slouching her shoulders and head, she looked to the floor.

"Kiyi" Azula said, her voice calm and steady. "Do you understand the problem?" Her sister never did anything really wrong before and Azula had no idea how to approach this. But she knew her sister, she was smart and learned quickly. The princess was sure that yelling at hear, like their mother would most likely have done, would lead to nothing. She decided it was best to do this the calm, but serious way. To explain the reason why they all were worried out of their minds.

"I do" her sister replied.

"Then tell me" Azula demanded.

"You worried that something might have happened to me, because I was gone for so long." Kiyi replied, gulping a sour lump in her throat.

"Yes, but do you know why I worried so much?" she asked. After a long moment of complete silence, Kiyi shook her head no. Well, she was sure that Azula worried because she cared about her, but that was obviously not the answer to the question.

"Today Aang and I freed a horrible prison full of almost dead airbenders. They were held there under the orders of King Kuei. Not only did we almost lose Ty Lee in the process, no, but I also have to return to this place with you nowhere to be found. I had no way of knowing what happened to you, do you understand? Don't worry, Ty Lee is perfectly fine now, she is sleeping upstairs, but that isn't the point. The point is, for all Aang and I knew you might have been abducted by Kuei's henchmen. We have been digging up his dirty secrets all day long, who knows if he didn't somehow get a wind of it and decided to do something against it. He is a cowardly bastard, abducing family members would sure look like him." Azula paused for a short moment, quickly eyeing Kiyi, before she continued. Her words were obviously having an effect. "What I am trying to say is, today was possibly the worst day you could have chosen to spend the night with your friends. That is why I was so extremely worried." Azula reached for her cup of tea to take a sip from it "I really hope you know how important you are to me. I don't want anything to happen to you."

The seriousness in Azula's voice, the way she focused all her attention solely on Kiyi made the effect of her calmly spoken words even more powerful. Kiyi felt really bad for what she did. She regretted not swinging by sometime to tell that everything was alright and that they probably would spend some more time somewhere.

"Sorry, Zula" she muttered, tears gushing out from her eyes.

"Come here" Azula extended an arm to Kiyi, who hurried over to her. She gave her younger sister a tight hug with one arm, as the other one was currently monopolized by Jin.

"I'm just glad you are home safely" she whispered. "Please don't do that again"

"I won't. Promised. I'll never do that again"

"Good." Azula sighed relieved, letting go of Kiyi after a little while.

Her younger sister looked at the other woman, peacefully snoring on Azula's shoulder. "Azula? Who is this?" Kiyi wanted to know.

"Her name is Jin." Azula replied silently, carefully turning her head to check if Jin was alright. "She is one of the airbenders we freed."

"She is an airbender?" Kiyi gasped surprised. She had so many questions, but always one thing at a time "She is beautiful" the young firebender said, looking at the sleeping woman. She might have been around the age of Johanna, maybe a year older. Her snow white hair was almost glowing and her skin was even more pale than Azula's. She was wearing some of the clothes the princess brought along to change, which were fitting her surprisingly well.

"She has been badly abused" Azula said with a mixture of sorrow and hate in her voice. She'd rather forget the things she had seen today and it was apparent from just listening to her voice. "She refuses to leave my side. Poor thing"

Kiyi gulped. She decided that she didn't want to know any details "Well, she chose her protector well" Kiyi said, knowing that no harm would ever come to Jin. Never. She knew her sister like no one else, apart from Aang, did. Telling, that Azula had once again added someone to her selected circle of family members, was child's play for Kiyi.

"I guess she did" Azula nodded slowly. Her sister tried to hide a big yawn, but was unable to do so. She was up for quite some time and even though her day wasn't nearly as stressful as Azula's was, she still was tired, exhausted and really just wanted to go to sleep.

"If you don't mind, I'll go to bed now. Maybe you can tell me what happened tomorrow."

"I will" Azula nodded once again. "And I am also going to wait for Aang to return. Have a good night, Kiyi. Sleep tight."

-/-

"You still up, love?" Aang asked silently, as he entered the jasmine dragon maybe an hour or so later. An hour in which Azula was racking her brain, contemplating if she should tell him or not. Considering if now was a good time for him to know what was wrong with her. What caused her collapse during negotiations with Kuei. The reason behind it all. Now seemed indeed like a good time. The fighting was done and from now on it was most likely just bureaucracy. She didn't want to keep him waiting any longer. Today Azula saw how near death walked among them, she didn't want to regret it someday. He should know. Maybe Dr. Kimoto was right, maybe she should have told him from the beginning. But then again, he most likely would have insisted for her to stay at the jasmine dragon. How can tell for sure what could have gone wrong?

Aang just returned from dropping off the girls accompanying Kiyi and said goodnight to Appa. The gentle bison was sleeping in a little storage building neighboring the teashop. Iroh kept his supplies there, but it had enough room for Appa to sleep in. Luckily. Aang wouldn't have felt comfortable with his best buddy having to stay in some kind of animal-shelter. Because one thing was for sure, he wouldn't sleep on the streets.

"Of course" Azula smiled warmly at him, her eyes were filled with anticipation. Aang paused to look at her, the way her lips formed a faint smile and how she radiated happiness off her all of a sudden made him wonder what was going on. He knew his wife well and while it was absolutely true that she was generally open and sometimes even emotional with him, for her to display her feelings so openly, something big had to be going on.

"Aang, there is something important I have to tell you. It has to do with why I collapsed during negotiations." she started smiling even wider.

"So you did threaten the doctor!" Aang gasped. He suspected something from the beginning."What's going on? Please tell me you aren't sick!" he was not really sure if he wanted to know. Honestly, his wife was scaring him a little at the moment.

"No, no I did no such thing to the doctor, relax a bit. Do you promise not to freak out? It's good news, trust me, but you know... I might have been a little naughty again" the wide smile turned a little cheeky. Aang sighed heavily, but was definitely curious. What could possibly be good news, but at the same time causing her to collapse? He couldn't come up with anything on the spot.

"Alright. I promise. I won't freak out" he said, walking up to his wife and pulling a chair away from the table to his right, so he could sit on it. While he did this, he saw from the corner of his eye Azula apparently checking if Jin was still asleep. Which she was soundly.

Azula was wearing an expression of happy peacefulness on her face, which he hadn't seen like this in some time. Actually, now that he thought about it, the last time it was this intense was during their wonderful wedding. Just what was going on?

"Aang" Azula tilted her head ever so slight, her golden eyes bathed in the galaxy that was his grey. "I am pregnant" she said, smiling like only a mother-to-be could.

The words spoken aloud were floating in the air for a long moment.

His expression was frozen in ice. Not a single muscle was even as much as twitching. Nothing. Aang could have just as well been caught up in a time bubble. His brain stopped functioning altogether, it was stuck in a loop. Azula was pregnant? A child? Their child? He would be a... father? Was this reality? This was really happening. He would be a father, the whole array of consequences for him, for her and for their life crashed down on him. Suddenly he was afraid. In the past Aang always thought how great Azula would be as a mother, but not once had he bothered thinking about his qualities as a father.

A moment of unbearable tension passed in which Azula suddenly was afraid that Aang wouldn't feel ready for children yet.

"A-Are you sure?" he asked flatly.

Azula nodded reluctantly. Deep inside her she started praying that he wouldn't be mad at her. "The doctors checked twice. It's sure" his wife replied, worry was beginning to show on her face.

"That is" Aang breathed, being too dumbstruck to articulate his thoughts properly. He was the Avatar. He had responsibilities. It was true, but what also held truth and even more importance to Aang was the fact that he would be a father soon. He didn't know the first thing about babies or how to raise them into responsible adults, but that didn't bother him. He could learn. This was a dream, a wonderful dream, which he never thought would ever come true.

Aang started to smile like an idiot, overwhelmed by so many feelings at once, his brain failed to process them. Tears of joy were starting to stream down his cheeks as a result of his completely overloaded head. This was too much to grasp fully, it was too much to comprehend. So much happiness boiled up inside Aang, searching for a vent. He laughed gently, leaning forwards to plant a passionate kiss on the lips of his wife.

For a second Azula was taken by surprise, the fear that he actually would be mad or something was growing with each second of his silence. But then he leaned forward to kiss her. She didn't take long to give in to his kiss and let his eager tongue slip through her lips.

"I'm so happy!" he whispered, after breaking away from her lips, still leaning his forehead to hers. "I'm going to be a father! I can't wait, this is wonderful. I don't know what to say..." he laughed silently.

"I'm glad you like it" Azula still smiled faintly. Bless the spirits he wasn't mad. She was however sure that she'd get a proper rebuke for holding this information back after he regained his composure.

"Why wouldn't I? Now we are really going to be a family" Aang beamed at her so brightly like he seldom did.

A shifting to her right drew Azula's attention to that point. Jin was rising her head up from her shoulder, opening one eye "... Who's 'oing to be a 'mily?" she asked half asleep, clumsily rubbing over her still closed eye. Azula gently patted her head.

"Don't worry about that now" she whispered. "Go back to sleep"

"...kay" Jin muttered, before sleep claimed her once again.

Aang looked a little worried "She sure is sleeping a lot, don't you think?" he whispered silently, so the white haired airbender wouldn't wake up again. Over all his luck and happiness he still found the alertness to notice that Jin's sleeping-behavior wasn't normal.

"She has been through a lot." Azula shrugged as good as possible. "it's normal, I guess." she glanced over to the young girl sleeping on her shoulder. "I guess I'll tuck her in now. It's time for bed anyway" she announced, carefully starting to pick the airbender up.

"What do you think you are doing, princess?" Aang asked warningly. Typical, knows she is pregnant, but still has to do all the work herself.

"Avatar, I am pregnant, not fatally ill. I am very well capable of carrying someone to bed. Relax, will you?"

"That was why you didn't tell me before today, isn't that true? Because you thought I wouldn't want you to come along to Ku-Roah?" Aang asked with a sigh.

"Guilty as charged" Azula giggled as she picked up Jin bridal style. The younger woman snuggled to her neck. Jin was really a lightweight, clearly way too light for her age and size, but it couldn't be helped. The poor girl just barely got enough to eat.

Aang rolled his eyes "You're terrible, Azula" he breathed.

"Hush, you love it" she purred, walking past him was a cheeky wink.

-/-

a lot earlier:

In his luxurious office Zuko was currently not feeling well at all. What started as a great and unexpectedly quiet day full of beautiful sunshine and a gentle warm wind turned into shit at a moment's notice. Originally Zuko was thinking about maybe taking the evening off to threat Katara to a nice date with dinner in town. But he had to scratch that a while ago, when something urgent came up.

The firelords current mental state was caused by nothing more than a piece of paper, formerly sealed with the golden royal seal. Zuko had to admit that he got suspicious the moment the scroll was in his hands, but never in a thousand years, never in a thousand thousand years had he suspected something like this. Zuko was reading a letter from his sister for the umpteenth time now and still couldn't believe his own two eyes. What he had to read was impossible.

Kuei was an idiot, that was a given, but to think that he was actually running a secret underground prison full of airbenders. It sounded ridiculous. No, not ridiculous, that was more on the level of shatterpated. To even think about the possibility of the air-nation being basically still intact, but locked away in the earthkingdom was just... plain idiotic. But apparently exactly that was the case.

There was a brief moment during his first read of the letter, where he thought Azula might be playing some kind of twisted joke on him, but as soon as he had to read about Ty Lee and how close she came to death, Zuko was absolutely sure that every letter of his sister's report was absolutely accurate. She still had her crazy-streaks, true, but Azula would never joke about anything like the lives of those selected few close to her heart.

"Get me Yamomoto!" the firelord yelled at the top of his lungs and instantly heard a servant starting to run.

Zuko sunk back into his soft chair, which was silently creaking with its master reclining. The firelord paid the irritating noise no mind. Spirits, this was not happening. What should he do? He had so many things to consider here. There was Aang, who sure as hell must have seen better days than today. Zuko could only imagine how he would feel if he had to find out that his people, who he thought were extinct for a hundred years, were in fact alive and well, but held under inhuman conditions in a secret prison. Zuko would be furious beyond measure.

Then there was Azula who surely didn't stomach neither the effects on Aang's wellbeing nor Ty Lees injuries well at all. Her mood was always directly correlated with the Avatar's wellbeing. Zuko didn't even have the first clue about his sisters pregnancy yet, so he couldn't consider that. But he considered his other sister, of course. Kiyi, who travelled with them, surely was caught up in all the action and now no one would find the time to explain things to her. Which was completely understandable, Zuko imagined that everything was a complete mess. Luckily uncle Iroh was there as well, he would surely provide advice -and tea- for everyone. Being the infinite pool of calmness, Zuko imagined that his uncle was probably a valuable asset during times like these.

Another thought crossed the firelord's occupied mind. Someone has to confront Kuei about all this. The whole situation hardly seemed like something Zuko wanted to delegate from the safety of his office. No, he probably should pay the earth-kingdom a little visit. Not as the firelord, of course, but rather in disguise. At least at first, until he figured things more clearly.

The dark red door into Zuko's office opened up and in came not Colonel Yamomoto, but someone else entirely. "Hey" the warm feminine voice, which could only be spoken by Katara, said "you ok?"

She was wearing simple dark red robes with a hint of gold here and there, her hair was down for the most part, but she still was wearing the golden crown of the firelady. Katara looked mesmerizing, as usual. Her beautiful blue eyes were filled with life and spread love wherever she was looking. She had her hands folded over her stomach, as she looked at her husband.

He didn't look well at all. True, Zuko wasn't really one with a lot of color in his face in the first place, but today he seemed especially pale. And his eyes were glazed over, like his thoughts must have been far, far away at a very, very bad place. Katara still had a relaxed expression on her face, as she supportively smiled at him. Whenever a emotional thunderstorm threatened to blow him away, Katara was his anchor, his bastion of calm.

Zuko shook his head in denial, holding the letter towards his wife. She rose an eyebrow and snatched the scroll out of his hands. Her laidback mood quickly perished in nothing but a clenched jaw and narrowed eyes.

There was a long moment of heavy silence, the air so thick one could have cut it with a knife and taken a piece away.

"This is..." Katara pressed out after a while, but she lacked a word to properly describe her thoughts.

"absolutely unforgivable? Totally crazy? Completely bonkers? Entirely inhuman?" Zuko offered. it wasn't like he wasn't completely dumbstruck at first either.

"Yes. Yes, it is! Spirits, I'm so glad they could free everyone! But Aang must be having a nervous breakdown! And Ty Lee, spirits, I hope she is alright." Katara pressed a hand to her forehead, there were so many concerns in her mind, she had no idea which she had already voiced and which she merely thought. "I feel so bad for not being there! I'm sure they could have needed my healing"

Zuko shook his head "She is alive." he said "We are going there as soon as possible."

Katara pulled her head backwards a little. It was quite some time ago that Zuko had taken things in his own hands and Katara was grateful for that. She had no idea how Azula could stand through Aang leaving all the time, while she didn't know if he'd ever return. Well, she supposed that ever since they married she actually tagged along more often than not.

"We are?" she asked, surprise making her voice maybe a little more high pitched as usual.

Her husband nodded thoughtfully "Yes, we are. I want to hear it with my own ears. I want to see and hear it and then I want to ask Kuei what he was thinking." he paused "I can't begin to imagine how Aang must feel. His people were alive all along..." The firelord was interrupted by a knock on the door, which was promptly opened by Colonel Yamomoto. The ever so correct commander of the IMIS stepped inside, closing the door behind him.

"My lord, you summoned me?" he asked, before realizing the presence of the firelady. He turned and deeply bowed to Zuko's wife as well. "Milady"

Katara was highly respected among everyone who had remotely to do with the royal family. Not only the military, but also the servants and housemaids. The gentle waterbender was known as a kind and caring person, who took great responsibility for the peoples wellbeing. She always made sure that everyone around her was fine and would listen to the problems of everyone who wanted to talk about them. She was a peoples- firelady from the books. While it was true that her work with the noble families was not her thing at all, it wasn't a huge problem. Azula usually handled them on the side, which was preferred by all sides. The nobles got to talk to someone with 'royal blood', Katara didn't have to put up with their subtle insults and Azula got to keep an eye on what the nobility was up to. Because one thing was sure, trustworthy was no one of them.

Katara concentrated on the commonality, she could easily identify with them and their concerns. Coming from humble roots herself, most of the things she got to hear was nothing new to her. The thing was, everyone loved Katara and the work she was doing. And that was something the Colonel respected. Even though Katara was not born in the firenation, nor was she a firebender, she still showed an unwavering loyalty to the country she married into. More than most people native to this land did anyway and that made her something special. Yamomoto couldn't care about her origin. Katara was an excellent firelady, maybe the best in forever and as such she deserved all the respect.

"I did, colonel" Zuko said. "There are things we need to take care of" he started.

"Certainly, Lord Zuko. We are at your disposal, just say the word" Yamomoto said. His men (and women) were always ready to strike.

"You will prepare a transport for around four-hundred airbenders to the western air temple" Zuko said calmly, letting the words sink for a bit. Yamomoto's eyebrow twitched a little, but he said nothing.

"They have been held prisoners in the earth-kingdom. Avatar Aang freed them today. As of now they are sheltered in Ku-Roah, but time is pressing, Colonel. Please make sure to make that transport happen as soon as possible and provide a safe transport to the western temple. This is a covert operation, so please be cautious."

"Airbenders, Sir?" Yamomoto asked. He usually never questioned anything, but this was huge.

The firelord nodded in a serious manner. "Indeed. Please make sure to treat them well. They appear to have been through a lot."

"Of course, Lord Zuko. It will be arranged immediately" The colonel replied, turning to leave. He was halted by the firelord, who rose a hand.

"One more thing, colonel. If you would be so kind to send Mai to me?"

Yamomoto cleared his throat "Lieutenant Mai is currently on military exercise with her squadron, Lord Zuko" he said.

"That's quite alright, send her team, too." Zuko said, folding his hand over his desk. "That would be all, colonel Yamomoto"

"Of course, my Lord" the colonel bowed to the firelord, "Milady" he said to his wife, repeating the display of respect, before he quickly he left the office. Yamomoto would lie if he'd say that he wasn't surprised by this development.

Airbenders? Seriously? Wow.

To be perfectly honest, for a second there he thought this would be a elaborate training exercise, but the worried look on the firelady's face convinced him otherwise. Or her presence alone. She normally staid out of things that didn't concern her at all. Like all the military things. So the fact that she was even there must mean that every word was the truth and this was no exercise at all.

Yamomoto sighed. If that wasn't an interesting mission, he didn't know. Transporting four-hundred people across the earthkingdom in secret. He needed at least six airships for that, maybe it was doable with four, if they flew them with minimal crew, but to be honest, Yamomoto didn't really like doing that with reduced personal. Who knows what shit was about to hit the fan.

-/-

"Jin, that is my sister. Her name is Kiyi" Azula introduced. It was early the following morning, everyone had a tough night, which provided the bare minimum of sleep everyone required.

They were currently in the public room of the still closed jasmine dragon. The shutters were opened already and the early morning sun was coming in through the windows, providing a beautiful fresh light together with the brisk morning air.

"Kiyi, this is Jin" Azula smiled supportively. The shy airbender eyed Azula's sister with clear suspicion.

"Nice to meet you Jin!" Kiyi said happily, she beamed at the other girl. Her sister gave her the 30 second explanation on what happened to Jin earlier today. She was well aware how badly the airbender was abused. The younger firebender held a hand out for the white haired beauty to take. It really was a shame, someone so beautiful should not hide like that. But then again a lot of her appeal might actually originate from Jin's shyness.

Jin carefully took Kiyis offered hand "hello, Kiyi" she said, surprised by the gentle touch of the younger girl. Her hand was warm and soft, much like her older sister's. Kiyi seemed like a nice girl to the airbender, though experience had taught her to be careful at all times.

"Jin, listen" Azula started. "I want you to know that you can fully trust Kiyi. Just like you trust me, you can trust her as well. Kiyi is actually the nicer version of me, so there is nothing to worry about, ok?"

Jin narrowed her eyes for a moment, considering what the angel just told her. "So she can do that magic of yours as well?" she asked suspiciously.

"Sure can" Kiyi giggled as a bow of lightning jumped between the two fingers of each of her hands, like between two pillars. Azula actually rolled her eyes, because that was really not necessary at all. Jin blinked once. Then another time. Her facial expression relaxed noticeably. Alight, maybe it was more necessary than the princess would have thought in the first place. Kiyi let the lightning vanish again, shrugging at Azula's accusing glance, which clearly told her to stop showing off.

"I see" Jin nodded like she meant to say that she accepts Kiyi as someone trustworthy.

"Perfect" Azula nodded "Do you feel up to going with Kiyi for the day? She will take you shopping. You need clothes and a few things." she said in a warm voice.

"You won't be coming?" the white haired girl wanted to know. Azula shook her head now in a sorrowful manner.

"I'm sorry, dear." she said gently grasping Jin's shoulders with her hands "But I have to take care of a few nasty things today and I don't want you to get caught up in them, ok? It's better for you to spend a normal day in the city." Azula explained. Jin looked her in the eyes for a moment, before turning to Kiyi

"This will be fun" the younger sister exclaimed happily. She was truly looking forward to this. "We'll all go shopping together. Maybe Johanna will tag along as well, we will see. It's all girls though, don't worry. No boys allowed." she offered. The airbender considered that for a moment. Just girls seemed like a nice thing, maybe she could see a little bit of the world and maybe she'd find some friends again? Who knows...

Jin nodded. "And I am allowed to go outside?" she wanted to know of Azula, who had to gulp.

"Yes of course. You are allowed to do whatever you please." she smiled weakly. "The only thing I ask you to not do is airbend for now."

"Of course, airbending is punished with the whip! I would never!" Jin hasty exclaimed. Azula looked over to Kiyi, who was completely dumbstruck.

"No, no" Azula said, pulling Jin in for a caring hug "No one will hurt you, I promised you that, didn't I?" she asked and felt Jin nod against her shoulder "You soon can airbend all you want. But for now it's better for you if you do not. People still don't know there are airbenders besides Aang and they might react strangely. I don't forbid it, it's just that I do not want to see you hurt, ok?"

"Ok" Jin nodded.

"I knew you would understand" Azula smiled, letting go of Jin. "Now go and have fun with Kiyi, will you?"

Her sister reached for Jin's hand, taking it into hers. The young airbender turned around a little startled, but relaxed at Kiyi's warm and gentle smile. "Come with me" she said happy, guiding Jin out of the jasmine dragon. "You'll love the city, I promise"

"You sure this is the best idea, Azula?" the bubbly voice which could only be Ty Lee asked from behind.

Azula spun around at light speed, seeing her best friend standing in the doorframe between the refectory and the tea-kitchen. She was still a little pale around her nose, but looked rather healthy overall. At least not almost-dead-the-day-before kind of sick. Apart from the huge bandage around her stomach, one couldn't have told she even got injured in the first place.

"What the hell are you doing on your feet?" Azula hissed "Get back to bed!"

Ty Lee had a weak smile on her lips. "You worry too much, Azula. Stop it, or else it will give you wrinkles"

The princess grunted for a second "Like I give a shit." she shrugged, truly uncaring. "I'm the princess of the firenation. I do not age."

Ty Lee giggled again, this was so typical for Azula. One could have easily confused her boastfulness with arrogance, when in fact this was just how Azula's humor worked. Over time Ty Lee learned to distinguish between the times when the princess was serious about something and when she wasn't. "You know, I could use some breakfast. That's why I came down"

Azula rose an eyebrow, but Ty Lee had her big, innocent puppy eyes enabled. Sighing in a mix of annoyance and resignation the princess pointed towards a table. The acrobat was fighting unfair and she did it deliberately. "Sit down, I'll fix you some" Azula ordered, walking into the kitchen. Ty Lee had a big-ass smile on her lips. Somehow this morning was, despite what happened the day before, really peaceful. People were getting along, everyone was kind to each other. This was nice, really. It felt like family.

"Oh, the princess is personally making breakfast for me. Such honor!" she chirped, pressing her hands to her chest like she would speak to a god, craving for a blessing.

"Yeah, yeah. You know what they say about the hand, which feeds you?" Azula asked from the kitchen. She was actually glad that Ty Lee was back to her happy and bubbly self. The acrobat was taking her injury rather well, which was good. Otherwise Azula would have rebuked herself heavily, somehow she felt guilty that it even happened. Normally nothing escaped her eagle-eyes. But the guard they missed slipped off her radar. She should have gotten suspicious when they only found nine guards, given that they knew there should have been ten. But Azula didn't get suspicious. Luckily everything played out to their favor in the end.

"I know, you shouldn't bite it" Ty Lee giggled. "I don't bite, Azula, you know that. Unless..." she purred sultry, shooting the princess a seductive glance through the large serving counter, which connected the kitchen to the public part of the teashop. "...you want me to bite." she hummed.

"Hands off my girl, Ty Lee." A yawning Aang suddenly said from the door "Go and bite Mai, I'm sure she likes it" he continued, walking into the public room with a happy smile on his lips. He looked well rested and rather relaxed today. "Morning girls" he added after a second.

"Morning Aang!" Ty Lee laughed "We were just messing around" Aang winked at hear playfully.

"Good morning to you too, Avatar. Care for some tea?" Azula asked warmly, or at least as warm as Azula's voice could possibly get. Though, admittedly she was getting better at it over the last couple of years.

"The princess is preparing breakfast" Aang teased "Incredible." he leaned over the counter to plant a loud kiss on Azula's cheek, who just rolled her eyes in faked annoyance.

"As usual?" she asked, as she was pouring a cup of tea. Aang nodded "Please" he said, before walking over to Ty Lee and sitting down on the same table than she.

"How do you feel?" he asked curiously. The healing had been really exhausting. Even more so than when he healed Azula all those years ago. Maybe that was because he had to use his Avatar-state to do it. But it was worth it, the acrobat was alive and well. She could walk and didn't appear to be in any pain.

"Still a little stiff, but I will be fine soon again. Thank you, Aang. You saved my life" she answered, her lively attitude was replaced by dead seriousness. The jaunty gloss in her eyes vanished, replaced by humble thankfulness. Ty Lee had to realize that she wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Aang. If Aang didn't do what he did, then she would have never seen Mai again. She would have never gotten to raise her adoptive son. Nothing. She would have been gone without even saying farewell to the person she loved most in the world.

"Hey, we are all family aren't we? We look out for each other" The Avatar replied, tearing Ty Lee out of her somber thoughts "Besides I was really scared what Azula would do to me if I didn't save you" he joked, trying to lighten up the mood a little. Luckily for him, his wife picked up on it.

A loud laughter came from the kitchen "For once, Avatar, I think my wrath would have been nothing compared to Mai's" she laughed.

"True" Aang admitted "Speaking of which, shouldn't she and her team show up sometime today?" he asked curiously. He only got the quick sum up of what Azula wrote to her brother and to Toph. As usual she thought about everything, Aang had nothing to say other than 'thank you for taking care of it'.

"Yes, she should be here sometime around midday" Azula replied, walking to the table with a tray of tea and some sweet snacks. She placed the tray on the table, before seating herself on Aang's lap, despite the fact that all the other chairs were still unoccupied. Aang wrapped his arms around her waist, inhaling her wonderful scent of jasmine and honey with that faint hint of cinnamon. It was like the first day they met and it still was levitating him into other spheres.

"I know I'm comfy, but now you have to feed me" he whispered in her ear.

Azula snuggled a little closer to Aang "Will do" she purred.

For a bit Ty Lee just watched the two. It was funny how she once thought that something like true love was just a phase, a distraction, something little girls imagine, when they look in the future. They wish for their knight in shining armor to come and take them away, hoping for a happy ever after. When Ty Lee grew up, she realized that the world didn't work like that. The place she was stuck at was cruel and unforgiving. The hopes of finding love were slim for basically everyone, not only herself. But slim chances didn't mean it was impossible.

Now Ty Lee knew at least three couples living a love life, which normally could only be found in fairy tales. There was Zuko and Katara, who obviously were very happy with each other. Then there was Mai and herself, who both could not have asked for a better partner in life, despite the same gender. And then of course there was the shining prime example of impossibilities made possible. Two former mortal enemies, who fell in love so hard it was enough to end an entire world- war. Aang and Azula should have been impossible. And yet, here they are now, in a teashop run by the dragon of the west, deep inside Ba-Sing-Se, the ruthless crown-princess of the firenation and the peaceful Avatar, the former sitting in the latter's lap, feeding him a piece of a pancake roll. Ty Lee could not help but smile. This was beautiful.

-/-

Chapter Text

General Sung had his nose buried deeply in a folder, which contained some very worrisome reports from a small town called Ku-Roah.

He was annoyed, to be honest. His day had started great, the weather was nice and warm, the view clear. He could see from his luxurious office out of the window all over Ba-Sing-Se. It was a dream and he had deserved it so much. Well, other, more competent people did most of the work, he was aware of that, but Sung stood for his men and as a representative he was meant to have some privileges. Being a member of the council of five was just one of those privileges, but at the moment, Sung liked his office the most. It was large and majestic, at least as majestic as an office could possibly get. The general liked to think of it as his own throne room, even though he was smart enough not to ever voice that thought in any way.

However, right now even the pleasures of his position, all his titles and privileges did very little to lighten up Sung's bad mood. He read the report again and to his (un)surprise the letter didn't change. Why would it? It still read the same alarming text than before.

Sung reached for a glass of fine red wine, which was standing on a flat slate-rock coaster, he lifted the glass to his dry lips, letting liquid flow into his mouth and anticipating the exquisite bouquet spreading in his mouth, while he swung the ruby red liquid around in the light. It tasted almost divine. Slowly putting the filigree glass back at its place, he twined one of the arms of his fabulous mustache, before reaching for a bell. It was nothing special, a golden bell with a dark black wooden stick on one end to hold it. Sung rang the bell twice.

He loved the perks of his position.

The door to his office opened and a subordinate of him came in, hurrying up to Sung's large dark green, but not quite black desk. The subordinate came to an halt in front of Sung, before he bowed deeply to the general. "You have summoned me, Sir?"

"Corporal, I would like you to send three troop-carriers to the town of Ku-Roah. Please select a Sub-Commander, who is capable of dealing with delicate situations" Sung said. He was curious if what the report said was true. He would soon find out.

"Delicate in what way exactly, Sir?" the subordinate asked.

"As in cover up and get rid of." Sung smiled.

The corporal bowed "Of course, Sir. Right away" he said.

Sung stopped him from turning around by rising his hand. "Please let me know which sub-commander you chose. Oh, and one more thing, Corporal." Sung reached into one of the drawers in his desk, pulling out a plain, black card.

"Would you please burn that for me? thank you."

-/-

Aang and Azula were going over all the papers they had gotten from warden Molt, who was currently locked away in the basement of the Jasmine Dragon. Well, locked away was maybe a little harsh, he was restricted to his room, which was Iroh's library in the basement. The old prince had set up his collection of scrolls and books down there, since it was the largest room and the humidity was just as constant as the temperature was, so the paperwork didn't get damaged. Iroh was very fastidious concerning his books. At any rate, Molt's 'cell' was more of a luxurious reading room, he surely didn't suffer.

While Molt could relax at least to a certain degree, the married couple a story higher tried to make sense of what they were reading. Relaxation was a foreign word none of them understood at the moment. They were methodically working through each protocol and every report they had, sorted by date. They soon found out, that each and every order was issued by Kuei personally. Which was completely nuts, why would he do that? It didn't make any sense. The earthking was an idiot and a loser, no one doubted that, but he didn't strike neither Aang nor Azula as someone outright cruel. So the big 'why?' remained.

"Are we sure he did it personally?" Aang asked, causing his wife to shrug

"Well, you tell me. Every document is signed by his signature and the royal seal. The seal alone I wouldn't buy, it can easily be copied and misused, but the signature, too? I doubt this is forged. Unless someone is able to mimic Kuei's signature this expertly, it was definitely him" she replied. It didn't make sense to her either.

"But why?" Aang wanted to know.

"I have been asking myself the same question." Azula skimmed through a stack of reports. "We have so much craziness here, it's unbelievable. The experiments. Kuei's signature at the bottom. The death-cells. Kuei's signature. Even the brothel, you guessed it... Yes, Kuei's signature" She frowned. "Why indeed." the princess leaned back in her chair shaking her head, letting the warm sun, which came in through the open window shine on her head for a moment. It was very refreshing and provided a difficult to describe feeling of new life-energy. Firebenders were always connected to the sun, the warmth of the huge fireball in the skies providing them with power. Maybe it was natural to feel more energetic with nice, warm sunlight shining on her nose.

"This is going nowhere, the only thing left to do is go and ask him in person. I am dying to hear his explanation" Azula said sternly, she exchanged a glance with Aang, who was thinking about everything his wife just said.

She was right, there was no way they could dig the reason up from these papers, the only thing they could do, if they wanted any answers, was to ask Kuei in person.

He nodded in agreement, but before he could voice his thoughts, someone rattled with dishes in the kitchen. Ty Lee came walking out, carrying a tray of tea with some snacks. She looked way better than this morning, her color was almost back to normal again.

"And you are certain that it was him? The Dai-Li had used him as well as far as I remember" she said, putting the tray down on the table and joining Aang and Azula in their discussion.

Azula rolled her eyes "What are you doing out of bed?" she asked tiredly, it wasn't like her best friend would listen to her. She didn't listen this morning either, so why would she listen now?

"C'mon, I'm fine. I had more than enough sleep the last two days, don't worry. Might as well sit here"

"Fine" Azula didn't feel like arguing with her best friend, besides, she was probably right. Sitting here and helping making sense of this mess was not going to hurt her. The princess glanced over to Aang never the less, who nodded slightly.

He agreed, it wouldn't do the acrobat any harm, at least not as long as she didn't make any harsh movements. As long as Ty Lee was sitting here, she would be fine. Walking was alright as well, as long as she didn't run. Taking things slow was important for her recovery now. Azula smiled at him, the way she only smiled at him. He was the one who put Ty Lee back together. If he said it was ok, it was ok. Azula knew she didn't know the first thing about healing, so she wouldn't argue with Aang's decision.

But that was hardly the topic now, was it? The princess cleared her throat, while reaching for the can of tea and filling everyone's cups "Long Feng was acting per procura. Kuei trusted him and allowed him to act in his name, yet his orders were still signed by Long Feng, not by Kuei. So if these orders are authorized by the king himself, it is safe to assume that no one was acting in his name." She explained.

"Couldn't someone have forged it?" Ty Lee asked, unaware that her two friends already covered that possibility.

"We thought about that already" Aang explained, sipping on the tea. He had to admit that it wasn't half bad, but Iroh's still was worlds better. "But royal seal and signature being forged seems unlikely. And even if. Who would have done that and why? It doesn't make any sense" he slouched his shoulders, when suddenly the front door to the restaurant flew open, followed by someone entering a few steps.

"We are closed!" Azula yelled, not bothering to look who it was. That didn't stop the intruder at all. All the princess saw was a black shadow rushing past Aang and straight towards Ty Lee, who was standing up in reflex. She had a happy smile on her face.

"You!" the new appearance roared with a furious female voice, one everyone on the table knew all too well. It was seldom hearing her pissed off -or even emotional at all- but there was no doubt who the visitor was.

"Mai, I-" Ty Lee started, but was stopped by the loud sound of a smack. The gloomy IMIS-officer slapped her girlfriend straight across the face, leaving a slight imprint on her cheek.

"That was for scaring the living shit out of me, you stupid idiot!" she yelled. It was seldom hearing Mai emotional, but today was one of those rare occasions. Aang and Azula chose to stay seated and let the couple figure their problems out on their own.

It was funny, in all their years together, Azula and Aang had their fair share of arguments. Especially in the beginning, even now they were contending from time to time. It was normal for couples to do that and there was no way around it. But no matter what happened between them, not once did Azula slap him. Well, ok, they did blow themselves up during the sparring-matches after their arguments, but that didn't count. She never slapped him in the heat of the moment.

Mai didn't wait a second and didn't give Ty Lee a chance to react, before she grabbed the acrobat on her collar and tore her closer, pressing their lips together like there was no tomorrow. Ty Lee was surprised at first, but quickly gave in to Mai's demanding touch. She relaxed in her determined arms, completely indulging herself in the kiss, her arms reaching up under Mai's to hold the assassin's shoulders from behind. It was a picture to be framed and put on a wall, the whole scene had something touchingly bittersweet.

"And that was for surviving it. Never scare me like that again!" Mai breathed after letting go of her girlfriend. She was so incredibly relieved to see her unharmed. Or at least for the most part. There was still bandage wrapped around Ty Lee's stomach, showing through that pink outfit with bare midriff of hers, which she liked to wear so much.

"Sorry" Ty Lee said sheepishly, looking away for a moment.

Mai grunted "Yeah, you better be, silly. How are you?" she asked, obviously still worried sick. True, her love was walking and talking and was alive, which was great. But was she in pain? Did she need anything? Despite being relieved that she was still with her, Mai was worried. Ty Lee had a shy smile on her lips, pointing at her bandaged tummy.

"Well, I might not be able to wear those belly tops you like so much anymore" she said "You know, because of the scar. But I'll be fine. It doesn't hurt or anything. Thanks to Aang it doesn't. Thanks to him I am still here."

"I don't care about scars" Mai said hugging her girlfriend once again "As long as you are fine" she said, making a mental note to thank Aang as soon as possible, not even realizing he was sitting right next to the spot she stood at.

Azula and Aang exchanged a sweet smile, this was just too cute. "Ty, I thought there were more major news?" the princess teased. She was actually pretty surprised that Mai was already here, it was just around midday, but she decided to not mention her thoughts now. They'd have plenty of time figuring out the next steps after the gloomy assassin had reunited with the bubbly acrobat.

Ty Lee squealed. "Oh yes! Mai, come with me! I have to introduce you to someone!" she smiled the widest smile anyone had ever seen on the acrobat's lips, as she reached for Mai's cold hands and dragged her along.

"Well, I honestly didn't expect Mai to slap her" a new voice called from the door.

Aang and Azula turned around to see the firelord standing in the doorframe. "Zuko?!" they both asked at the same time.

"I came as fast as possible" he said, as more and more people showed up behind him, entering the Jasmine Dragon. Suki and her team of Kyoshi-warriors, who acted as Zuko's bodyguards were coming in, they were, just as the firelord himself, disguised as simple tourists, so they wouldn't draw too much attention. The warriors weren't the only one with Zuko, he apparently brought the rest of Mai's elite IMIS-squad with him. They didn't bother hiding at all, clad in their black uniforms. The team consisted of two men, a waterbender and an earthbender and a woman, who was a firebender.

"It's not like we needed your help, Zuzu" Azula said with a smirk "But it's good having you here. Just in case. I hope you didn't forget about the airbenders?" she asked.

"Of course not. Yamomoto is taking care of it. He should be on his way to the western airtemple as we speak. Katara is with him as well, I figured they might be in need of an expert healer more than we are. Ty Lee is stable, I presume? Where is she?" Zuko replied, as he walked up to the table, taking a seat next to Aang.

"She is showing Mai their new son" the Avatar replied bluntly. Zuko looked quizzically at him. "She rescued a baby from the prison" Azula explained for Aang. This seemed to be enough of an explanation for the firelord to accept.

Suki stepped behind him "Lord Zuko, we will take care of the luggage and prepare a defensive perimeter just in case." she said.

"Of course, thank you Suki" he nodded, and the warrior walked off issuing orders to her comrades. Aang paid her no mind, but picked up that two warriors were ordered to watch the roof, while two more were to stand guard at the front door in a discrete manner. This was beginning to take epic proportions, he just hoped it wouldn't grow over their heads. Now with the firelord here in the earthkingdom, it was a ticking time-bomb. When they confront Kuei about what he did or didn't do and things would go wrong, who's to say there wouldn't be diplomatic incident? Leading to yet another war? It wouldn't be the first time things would go horribly wrong. The two leaders of the two most powerful militaries in the world would probably soon argue about what the hell happened to the airbenders while they were in the earthkingdom. There would be arguments, then there would be accusations and then everything would escalate into one big-ass war. Aang could already see it in front of his mental eye. He'd have to prevent this at all cost.

"What about Kiyi? Is she alright?" Zuko asked, bringing Aang back to reality.

Azula nodded. "Yes, she is fine. At the moment, she is out shopping with a local friend of hers and Jin"

"Who is Jin?" Zuko asked confused. "You know, why don't you start at the beginning? What the hell happened? Airbenders? A prison? Kuei? This all sounds like a bad joke, to be honest"

Aang snorted "Trust me mate, I'd wish for nothing more than this being a joke."

"Unfortunately it isn't" Azula interrupted. She figured Aang didn't really want to talk through everything they had seen, so she spared him the trouble.

-/-

"Milday, we are on the final approach to Ku-Roah" the stern voice of the leading airship's captain informed, as he bowed deeply to the firelady. She was standing in the middle of the bridge, looking over the heads of the crew and out of the windows in front of her, taking in the inhospitable landscape beneath them in. What place did they come to? This looked like a ghost-town.

Katara nodded, she didn't know the first thing about avionics and left everything to the captain. He always informed her about every minor detail nonetheless.

"Are there any enemies in sight?" Katara asked. The thought crossed her mind all of a sudden and she just had to voice it. What if the earthkingdom was already here? They were flying six completely unmarked airships miles deep into enemy territory. Shooting them down while they attempted landing would be a piece of cake. Katara knew, because she and the Gaang did this before, during the war. Just blow up the engines with a couple of rocks and these gentle giants of the winds were nothing more than huge sitting ducks.

"None, Milady. Everything is clear" The captain, a man in his late fifties, with light grey hair and a beard which reminded Katara of an old shellback, replied. The captain had spent most of his days on sea with the royal navy, but was transferred to the airship-program from the very beginning, due to his massive experience. Katara liked the man, he seemed highly competent and was very polite.

"Very well. Then please proceed as you see fit, captain." Katara said with a warm smile. The captain nodded quickly, before turning around to his crew, beginning to issue a row of orders. The crew was acknowledging each and every order with a quick confirmation, before they did what they were told. For a couple of seconds it was nothing more than shambolic talk, but somehow everyone seemed to understand what was said and what was meant for whom. Katara soon gave up trying to follow the 'converstation'

The heavy metal door leading into the bridge was pushed open with an ugly shriek. It was amazing how badly lubricated those metal doors were in basically factory new airships. Did they even oil the hinges at all? Questionable. Then again, it provided a good indicator for new arrivers, since the door was impossible to open silently. Katara turned around to see who was coming.

Through the finally open and subsequently silent door came Colonel Yamomoto, followed by four IMIS-operatives.

"Colonel?" Katara asked, rising a surprised eyebrow. She thought the colonel was coordinating the ground-personal.

"Milday" the Yamomoto also bowed deeply, as did the four agents following him. "I must insist on personal security, while you leave the ship" he said "Lord Zuko's orders, I am sorry."

Katara could stop herself from rolling her eyes in annoyance. Of course Zuko thought she needed a babysitter. Well, he was concerned and she wouldn't think badly of it, but still. The waterbender was a big girl, she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She would have a nice talk with her husband as soon as she'd see him again. But this was not Yamomoto's fault, he was just doing as he was told. No reason being mad at him. "Of course. Thank you Colonel Yamomoto." she said friendly, turning to the four agents following him. "I guess you four take care of my personal protection?" she asked.

"Yes, Milady" Yamomoto answered. "They are the four best I have at the moment. Lieutenant P'Li is in constant competition with Lieutenant Mai for the first place in our internal ranking." Yamomoto explained, maybe a little bit prouder than he wanted to. He liked P'Li as an officer, she did come a very long way and was doing an excellent job.

Katara had to smile a little. It was just like Mai to want to be the best, she was sure that the gloomy assassin tried to make it seem like she didn't care, but Katara knew her. Mai cared. She wanted to be the best. Long years in company of one hyper-competitive Azula surely rubbed off on her, no matter what she insisted on.

The woman standing behind the Colonel stepped forward to kneel down out of respect. Katara never got used to that, she was the firelady, true, but she still found it ridiculous to kneel in front of anyone. She was still a little embarrassed when someone bowed overly deep for her, but kneeling was just freaking the waterbender out.

"Stand, Lieutenant" Katara quickly said, pulling the woman up on her shoulders. The Lieutenant was really surprised by both the gentle words as well as the physical contact. She never had to do with the royal family at all and always imagined them to be some kind of untouchable family of godlike beings. She had just heard some stories about one certain princess Azula and how she was supposed to be. Though P'Li had no idea if the princess was the way they said, Katara certainly wasn't the way she had imagined anyone of the royal family.

"Thank you Colonel Yamomoto. I don't want to occupy your time any further" Katara said turning to the commander of the IMIS. The Colonel nodded firmly, before he took his leave. He liked the firelady. She had an eye for things, such as him being crazy busy at the moment. The waterbender returned her attention to the Lieutenant.

Katara's deep blue eyes looked into her amber-red ones, which bore a fierce determination and a unwavering sense of purpose. The pervasive expression which radiated off P'Li's eyes was enough for Katara to not notice the huge tattoo of a third eye on the Lieutenant's forehead at first. She of course saw it on second sight, it was rather hard to overlook after all.

"You are a combustion-bender?" Katara half stated half asked. She would have lied, claiming she wasn't surprised, simply because Katara indeed was surprised. There weren't a lot of combustion-benders, they were quite possibly the rarest sub-category of bending in the entire world. This might be because in order for a combustion-bender to even be able to exist in the first place, along their line of ancestors there needed to be a firebender and an airbender, who shared descendants. After a hundred years of extinct-believed airbenders this was difficult to achieve.

"Yes, Milady. I am" P'Li answered with a nod, she tried to not sound too proud, but probably failed. She was proud of being a combustion-bender. That was not always the case, though. Her father was a shame to the family. He sold himself to the highest bidder and fought only for money. He had no honor, no concept of family or anything connected to it. He was not only a horrible human, he was also a horrible father. P'Li was ashamed for what he was for too long, she was ashamed of her own roots and of her own nature, thinking that she would inevitably end up the same way as her father. As a dishonorable mercenary with neither principles nor fundamentals.

She was proven wrong when Yamomoto asked her to join the IMIS. P'Li quickly found new confidence and rose through the ranks like a rocket through the sky. This was a honorable position, a valuable contribution to a good cause. She would give everything for it and was proud of it. It gave her a new sense of self, a valid reason to be proud of herself and her abilities again. Proud of what she was.

"My friends and I once fought a combustion-bender" Katara remembered, not intending any harm with her words. She regretted having brought it up the second the words left her lips. P'Li's expression changed for the fraction of a second to something hurt and broken, before they returned to the way before.

"My father" she said meekly, bowing her head, before speaking with determined voice: "I swear, Milady, I am nothing like that monster. You can trust me with your life, for I will lay down my own to protect yours." she said firmly.

Katara blinked for a second, she really regretted having said anything. Had she know she'd strike such a tender spot, she would have kept her mouth shut. "I meant no insult, Lieutenant P'Li. Your loyalty was never in question. I am sure Colonel Yamomoto wouldn't have brought you here if he didn't trust you to his fullest. And because I trust him, I also trust you. All I wanted to say is, that the only combustion-bender I had to face was a very formidable opponent. I have the utmost confidence in your capabilities. Forgive me, should my words have caused you harm" Katara said warmly, before smiling at P'Li. The Lieutenant did look a little dumbstruck. She had heard rumors about the firelady being kind and warm to people, but she always thought it was either a facade or good propaganda. It didn't fit with her view of the royal family at all. But this was neither of those things. Katara was genuinely nice.

"I have to apologize, Milady. I shouldn't have brought it up." P'Li said, causing Katara to laugh a little.

"Don't worry" she said friendly "Now, who are your comrades?"

While P'Li introduced the firelady to her new bodyguards, the captain brought the airship down just outside of Ku-Roah. The fog made things more difficult than expected, but he managed to get the airship down save and sound. When the captain announced that the ship was secured and deployment had begun, Katara decided it was time to leave the metal giant as well. She headed through the narrow corridors deep inside the stomach of the machine with unerring precision, followed by her bodyguards, who were hardly keeping up with Katara's pace. The firelady did know the insides of these airships quite well, seeing how she accompanied Zuko all the time, whenever he was flying somewhere. In fact the only time she wasn't with him, was during his trip to the south pole, where she was left at home, for obvious reasons.

Katara walked down the ramp of the airship and followed a small path leading to Ku-Roah. She saw Yamomoto's men gathering supplies and carrying them wherever they were ordered to bring it. There were some concertinaed barricades being unloaded and deployed, Katara wasted a quick thought as to why exactly they would need any barricades, but she decided it had to be protocol or whatever. It didn't matter.

The firelady had to admit, there was a strange atmosphere lingering heavy in the air. It was rather dark, even though it had to be just before midday, but the fog blocked out most of the sunlight, leaving nothing more than a faint grayness as light, which barely shined through the fog. Also, it was unnaturally quiet. There was not a single sound of nature, no trees rushing in the wind, no birds singing, nothing. Just heavy steps of military boots on mushy ground and the occasional order. It was spooky.

The town itself was completely abandoned, just like it looked like from the sky. There was no trace of no one and Katara was beginning to wonder. Shouldn't there be like around four-hundred people waiting for evacuation? Where was everyone? She expected a big commotion of people, who cannot wait to finally leave this place. Instead there was no one around. They were at the right place, right?

"I don't like this" P'Li murmured, walking ahead of Katara. "Close formation. Eyes open and check your angles." she ordered in that emotionless, plain and tersely tone, which was so typical for military personal. Whenever they were stressed and concentrated, they would all fall into this one specific tone, which miraculously sounded exactly the same, no matter who spoke.

"I am sure there is a very logical explanation to the rather vacant environment, Lieutenant P'Li" Katara offered, she could feel the combustion-bender's tension through the air between them. It wasn't like she didn't find this strange herself, but her freaking out now surely helped no one. One of the first things she learned of what it meant to be the firelady was, that people expected her to be strong, no matter the situation. The nation looked up to her and Zuko for guidance and strength.

"Possibly Milady, but you know how they say. Better safe than sorry." she returned, while she kept looking around with vigilant eyes, as they were heading for the civic center. They didn't come across a single airbender. No one apart from the IMIS-agents was anywhere to be seen.

A couple of minutes later Katara reached the civic square, where a large group of black uniforms had already gathered. P'Li relaxed visibly now that there were more friendlies around her. Out of the black ado emerged one visibly stressed out Colonel Yamomoto.

"Milady, we have a problem" he stated. "They won't come out" he said.

"I am sorry, Colonel, but I cannot follow. Who isn't coming out of what?" Katara asked, blinking in confusion.

"Apologies, I was talking out of context. The airbenders are here. They have barricaded themselves inside the houses and refuse to leave them."

"I knew we were being watched" P'Li murmured to herself, while Yamomoto continued.

"We tried talking to them, but they do not believe us." the IMIS-commander explained. "They think we are just going to imprison them again. I have no idea what to tell them. I don't suppose you want us to just blast the door open and force them to their luck"

"Spirits, no" Katara exclaimed. "I will handle this. Please have everyone leave the civic center for now, Colonel."

Yamomoto hesitated for a moment, before he nodded "As you wish" he replied, before waving his hand in a circular manner to sign everyone to abandon their current positions and retreat.

"Milady, I strongly have to advise against this. We don't know anything about the people here. They might just as well attack you on sight" P'Li objected with all the seriousness.

"I don't think this will happen, Lieutenant." Katara replied warmly "But if it makes you feel better, you can stay. But please order your friends to leave us for now and also please do nothing harsh" Katara looked at the Lieutenant and could tell that the soldier didn't like this one bit. Even though the firelady usually tried to make everyone happy, this was a different case here. P'Li was here to follow orders, she didn't necessarily have to like it. Not that Katara wouldn't have preferred if she did, but the waterbender would do this her way.

She waited for everyone to leave, before she walked up into the middle of the civic center, her bodyguard right behind her. P'Li's red eyes were rapidly checking the surroundings, ready to blow up anything which even seemed to move in a suspicious manner.

"Hello everyone!" Katara spoke up loudly, her friendly voice was echoing over the center way louder than she initially thought. "I am Katara and even though I might not look like it at the moment..." she looked down on her deep red gown with the golden details, which was so very firenation, it was almost scary. She looked an awful lot like Ursa in these dresses. Ursa with darker skin. "... I am actually from the southern watertribe. I am also the wife of firelord Zuko." she continued. "You don't need to fear us. I know you all must be terribly scared, but I promise you, no harm will come to you. The Avatar is a good friend of mine, we all are here because Aang's wife wrote a letter to my husband asking to bring everyone to safety. I am aware that you don't know anyone of us and it is hard to trust anyone after everything you surely have been through. But I assure you our only intent is to bring you to safety. I was told that Aang worked with one of you to free everyone. His name was 627, is that right? Why don't you come out and talk to me for a minute 627? If you decide we aren't trustworthy, we will leave again" Katara said as loud as she could. She was sure that she managed to shout herself hoarse, but it didn't matter.

"Milady..." P'Li whispered.

"Oh, right" Katara continued, misinterpreting the lieutenants silent interruption "This is lieutenant P'Li, she is just here to protect me. And because she takes her duty very serious, she doesn't leave my side. Do not worry about her, she will not do you any harm."

"This is not what I meant, Milady. Is it wise to tell them we will leave, if they don't trust us?" she asked. Katara had to admit, it was a gamble. But they had little choice.

"I am not going to force them to anything, so should they not come with us, what do we do? Wait until the hunger drives them out?"

"Sounds effective to me" P'Li shrugged.

"Please" Katara rolled her eyes. Suddenly a wooden door creaked and a figure stepped out of it. He was slowly walking towards the firelady and her bodyguard.

"That is quite close enough!" P'Li exclaimed, when he was a few meters away, but Katara held an arm out to stop her. She could understand the lieutenant's concern, but this was not the place for harsh words.

"Relax" Katara whispered, as she stepped -much to her bodyguard's shock- forward to walk up to the unknown person.

"I guess you are 627?" she asked with a warm voice. The man nodded clearly.

"That is right" he said with an old and heavy voice. He was wearing nothing more than rags and was barefoot, but his eyes radiated wisdom off. "I apologize for our distrust" he said.

"Don't worry, I would be skeptical myself" Katara admitted with a supportive smile "Now, what do you want me to do to prove our good will to you?"

"Mind me asking some questions?" the old man wanted to know.

"Not at all" Katara replied, wondering what questions the airbender had in mind. She was sure he had thought about something, or else he wouldn't have gone this way.

"The Avatar was travelling with three more friends. What were their names?" he asked.

Katara had to hide a smile. This old man was clever. Starting things with a trick-question was bold, but surely effective against anyone who wasn't in the know of things.

"He didn't travel with three more friends. He had one friend and his wife with him. Ty Lee and princess Azula, respectively" Katara answered.

"Yes, that is right. Who of the three was wounded?" he asked, letting a legit question follow the trick-one. That tactic was actually pretty good. Should Katara not have been who she said she was and somehow known the correct answer to his first question, chances were she might not have known someone was hurt and thought about it as a trick-question as well.

"Ty Lee was. She got stabbed by a katana" Katara replied calmly.

"Yes." The man nodded. "Last question: What was the name of the young girl the princess freed and took with her?" the old man wanted to know.

Katara rose an eyebrow in confusion. She thought about it for a second, but could not remember a single word about this in the letter Azula had written to Zuko. She nervously cleared her throat "I am sorry, but to be honest, I don't know anything about this. Azula didn't write about a girl she saved in her letter, so I am afraid I cannot answer you this question." she admitted.

"Figured as much" the old airbender nodded "You are honest, Katara of confusing heritage. That makes you trustworthy" he said, cracking a smile. Katara released a breath she didn't realize she was holding and felt a weight lifted from her shoulders.

"So you are going to come with us? We have blankets and warm food for everyone" Katara was hoping this would be a piece of cake from now on.

"Yes. Please let me apologize for our mistrust and thank you for your kind help" 627 replied, bowing deeply. Katara waved P'Li to her, asking her to tell Yamomoto the news.

-/-

Inside a welcoming and rather well frequented restaurant somewhere in Ba-Sing-Se's upper ring Kiyi was sitting on a table with Jin. They were sharing lunch together, or at least that was the plan. Lunch wasn't here yet, Johanna had yet to get it. It was a self-service restaurant, which was highly popular among the younger generation for some reason. Well, Kiyi did see the charm somehow. The furnishing had a modern style to it and was apparently brand new. Even though there was no personal serving the customer, the prices weren't exactly low. Kiyi didn't mind, there was no shortage of money, for obvious reasons, but what she did mind, was Johanna insisting on paying for lunch. She said it was the least she could do, since she caused Kiyi so much trouble the other day. After some back and forth, which rather confused Jin, Kiyi gave in and allowed Johanna to pay for the three meals.

The three girls have spent the whole forenoon in the city, shopping for clothes for Jin to wear and were both exhausted and basically famished by now. Kiyi recalled the day so far and came to the conclusion, that everything went a lot better than she had expected. Jin and Johanna had a surprisingly good start, they got along rather well. Jin was skeptical at first, but that changed rather soon. Kiyi's trust in the new woman seemed to be enough reason for Jin to trust her as well. The gorgeous redhead took a quick liking in Jin's shy and seclusive personality and even though Kiyi might have been a little bit jealous of the attention Jin got from Johanna, she couldn't say she wasn't happy they got along so good. Johanna of course still had no idea who the white-haired girl really was or what happened to her, but she didn't ask any questions. Jin was just accepted the way she was and Johanna did a good job just overlooking the times the white airbender (not that she had know Jin was an airbender) acted weirdly. Which she did from time to time.

"So, what do you think, Jin?" Kiyi asked, to kill the awkward silence between the two of them. She looked over to the poor girl, who was staring at the ground, like something about it was extraordinarily fascinating. Kiyi wasted a quick thought about how cute Jin looked in that new attire of hers. The shy girl was wearing white trousers with a matching long sleeved shirt, both of which were very tight on her skin. Jin said she hated the feeling of fabric brushing over her skin, she wanted something which didn't move on her body. It took them some time to find anything, which met the requirements in a satisfactory manner, but after some digging (and some bribing of the saleswoman) they found what Jin was looking for. Over the white getup Jin was wearing a nicely tapered black leather jacket with a beetle banded collar and two large pockets on either side of the soft leather. The jacket had a beautiful, natural shimmer and was cut lower on the front than on the back, making the front end in the middle of Jin's thighs, whereas the backside was cut just above the wearers rear. Johanna had picked the jacked and Kiyi had do admit, she definitely took the biscuit with that. The black and white theme was really working for Jin, her white hair and pale skin along with those light grey eyes just added to that fascinating monochrome look. It was quite marvelous.

The white-haired airbender looked up to her savior's sister "Uhm... about what?" she replied insecure, not really sure what Kiyi was referring to with her question.

"Well, about anything, really. How did you like the day so far?" Kiyi asked, she wanted to make sure Jin had a good time. There were moments when the shy airbender seemed to come out of her shell for a little bit, before she quickly retreated again. Somehow this made Kiyi really sad.

"Oh, I liked it." Jin smiled shakily "You are so kind to me... and you two got me these nice clothes and..." Jin trailed off for a moment "Johanna is very nice" she whispered feebly.

Kiyi laughed a silent, but honest laugh "You like her?" she asked with a bright smile.

"I...do." Jin nodded "The two of you are cute together" she added, causing Kiyi yet again to laugh

"Oh no. Johanna and me are just friends. Nothing more" Kiyi waved it off, even though she couldn't deny that the redhead was stuck in her mind for good. But it was impossible, Kiyi knew there was no way this could ever work out in her favor. Her mother would never allow it, she would bring shame over her family and Kiyi would not allow that to happen. No, her personal feelings didn't matter. It was nice that Johanna and Jin seemed to like each other. That made it easier for Kiyi to stay out of it.

Jin turned almost as red as fire, deeply ashamed for her misinterpretation "I'm so sorry!" she squealed. "You were so familiar with each other, so I thought. I... I... please forgive me!" she stuttered.

"Jin, calm down. No offense taken. I just don't swing that way, ok?" Kiyi smiled the best she could. What a brazen lie. She swung exactly this way, there was no denying it. The sister of the crown princess was into girls and to her own surprise, she had absolutely no idea why. She didn't know when it happened, all she knew was when she was made aware of the fact.

Once she had kissed a boy from her school and it just felt so wrong. So unnatural, so against her own personality. Kiyi's insides convulsed in an really uncomfortable manner the moment her lips touched his and she had to excuse herself quickly, storming to the nearest toilet. Kiyi didn't know what she found so repulsive that day, the boy was sweet, nice and a true gentleman, but he still appalled Kiyi, causing her to lock herself into the toilet for the better part of an hour, until she finally calmed down again. The whole experience was horrible to her, like a nightmare she could not wake up from. It took Kiyi a while to figure out what happened and even longer to content to two realizations. First of all, she was into girls and second, she would never be able to give into her desires. Even though Kiyi was in no line of succession to the throne, a lesbian in the royal family would be a disaster for sure. Yes, the laws stated it wasn't illegal but most of the nobility still despised same-sex relationships. No, Kiyi would never have what she desired and she knew better than to mention her sexual preferences to anyone, especially not her mother. She wanted to tell Azula someday, but up until now didn't find the right opportunity.

"You don't? Strange..." Johannas voice spoke up behind Kiyi, as she placed down a tablet full of delicious looking food on the table. It didn't only look delicious, it also smelled like heaven on earth. Kiyi's mouth watered, despite her discomfort in Johanna overhearing her last words.

"No, I... don't" Kiyi said as firm as she could, looking sternly at the redhead, who bore the faintest of smiles and the slightest of nods. She understood Kiyi, now that she knew from which family she descended better than yesterday, where the fierce firebender wasn't making a lot of sense to Johanna, considering the way she behaved. It was strange, like she tried to not recognize her own whishes and consciously acted against them. Now Johanna understood. A same sex relationship in the royal family of the firenation. It would be a scandal all across the world. Even though technically legal, acceptance of these kind of relationships was still very low.

"Of course not, I understand" Johanna winked at Kiyi with a bright, teasing smile, which indicated that nothing good would follow. "That would be royally out of place now, wouldn't it?" she teased without any ill intent, sitting down next to Jin, while passing her a plate of food. "Dig in, darling" she said to Jin, while Kiyi crossed her arms over her chest, breathing out slowly.

"I am glad you understand" Kiyi said relieved. Funny how they were able to discuss this with words no one else was able to understand.

"Of course, don't worry." Johanna replied with a smile, before she too helped herself with the food.

Kiyi followed her lead and soon had to find out that, whatever it was Johanna got them, didn't only look good, nor did it just smell heavenly, no. It also tasted wonderful. Maybe that was because they all were close to starving and would probably have liked a bowl of dry rice just as much, but this was delicious nonetheless.

From then on the girls spent lunch time in relative silence, all three of them way to busy with annihilating the edible contents of their plates, stopping only short of eating the plate itself as well. Shopping was exhausting after all.

"I'll get some more to drink for us" Kiyi said, grabbing the empty pitcher from the middle of the table, before she walked off to refill it. There was a small line of people waiting to get their drinks refilled, so Kiyi had to wait a little bit, but she made good progress and after only a couple of minutes worth waiting, she had a full pitcher of moon peach juice, which seemed to be everyone's favorite, at least by the look of things.

Kiyi politely thanked the kind woman, who filled her cruse with the sweet liquid, paid and then returned to her table. She was only half way back, when she saw that Jin and Johanna weren't alone at the table anymore. For a moment Kiyi actually thought nothing of it, but then she saw the expression of horror written over Jin's face, who was desperately holding on to Johanna in sheer panic. The beautiful redhead was obviously angered as she sneered at one of the four boys standing around the table. Kiyi didn't like that at all. The four were not looking friendly, despite them standing with the back facing the firebender. Their whole posture and how they gestured rang all the alarm bells in Kiyi's young but surely not stupid head. She accelerated her step, quickly closing distance between her and the table.

"Don't you see how much you scare her? Bugger off you morons, a no is a no" Johanna hissed, visibly pissed off by the whole situation. She had no idea why Jin was acting the way she was, but Johanna had absolutely no doubt that this must be beyond horrible for the white-haired girl. She was clinging tightly to her arm and would not let go of it.

"Ahh, c'mon ladies" one of the four boys exclaimed in excitement "We'll give you a good time, promised!" he laughed maniacally and apparently didn't seem to realize how quiet the restaurant had suddenly gone. Neither one of the four boys realized that, just like Jin and Johanna didn't. The former four because they were stupid, the latter two because they were scared. In fact it had not only gotten quiet in the restaurant, the customers collectively turned their attention towards the commotion.

Kiyi's mind was slowly filling itself with rather murderous thoughts, while she walked up to her table. Can't one have something as basic as a peaceful lunch in this city? Was this a thing here? Table-molesting, or what? This was the second freaking time she had to put up with something like this in the matter of a few days. Seriously, what was wrong with people?

"Yeah!" another one of the boys added "Two beautiful flowers like you should see the city only like we can show it! It will be fun, have some faith"

Johanna's eyes narrowed as she leaned forwards over the table. "Are you blind or stupid? Can't you see how much you are freaking my friend out? Fuck off, or..." she hissed with all the force she could muster. If Jin wouldn't have clung to her the way she did, Johanna would have sprung up and slapped the bastard across the face. But he had three friends with him and this didn't look good at all. What were they thinking pulling a stunt like this in a restaurant in broad daylight? Clearly, they had to be retarded.

"Or what, moppet? What'cha going to do? Ya an earthbender, or what? 'Cause that's cool, we are too. Try us." another dude from the group said, completely relaxed. "What'cha gonna do, moppet?"

This was the moment Kiyi was close enough. "How does it sound to be turned into nice, crisp chicken?" she snarled, her voice dripping with venom in an almost scary Azula-like manner. The group turned slowly around as Kiyi put the pitcher down on a table of a very surprised family with two kids.

"And what are you supposed to be, babe?"

"The grill" she said with an one-sided smile. The group looked at each other, then back at the girl and didn't seem to catch up entirely. "Let me dawn light on you" Kiyi said holding her hand flat out to her side, where a small flame sprung to live. "Mh, this is more candle. You wanted grill" she said to herself, but for everyone to hear, as the flame in her hand went huge for a moment, before vanishing. Kiyi didn't want to burn the restaurant down, or anyone else for that matter.

Kiyi looked the leader, who suddenly didn't feel as cocky anymore, dead in the eyes. "I will only say this once before you will regret it." the firebender said sternly and with deadly determination "Leave my friends alone or suffer the consequences. Now bugger off you scumbags and don't you dare to molest girls ever again."

All of a sudden, the four wannabe thugs weren't so tough anymore. They were in fact pretty small. So small they could have probably gone parachuting underneath the carpet, at least if there had been any carpet to begin with. With an almost hilariously girlish squeal they stormed off, out of the restaurant, as fast as humanly possible.

Kiyi sighed in relieve, she grabbed the pitcher from the family-table she used to put it down for the time being and wanted to return with it to her own table.

Just as her hand had reached for the handle on the jar, her eyes fell on one of the kids who were seated with the family. The young boy, or at least Kiyi thought it was a boy, judging from the clothes he was wearing, looked frightened. Kiyi smiled at him.

"Hey what's your name?" she asked warmly.

"R-Rufus" the boy stammered, looking at his mom for help, who just smiled as well. She comprehended the situation, where her young boy didn't. Kiyi wasn't a bad person, nor was she dangerous, she helped her friends, when they were in need. A trait which was getting rather scarce lately.

"Rufus is a nice name" Kiyi replied with a supportive smile. "Do you know what a phoenix is, Rufus?" she asked. The boy nodded reluctantly

"You are a smart boy, Rufus. And did you also know there are tiny tiny little phoenixes, which accompany some firebenders as their friends?" she asked, cutely inclining her head to the side. Rufus shook his head no, but was curious.

"They don't show themselves often, but sometimes they do. Want to see mine?" Kiyi asked dramatically, getting an eager nod from Rufus. The young firebender smiled as she pointed towards the man on the other side of the table, who was probably Rufus' father. Kiyi had to concentrate a little to give her flame a certain shape, but she managed.

"Look over there, he is visiting your daddy" she said, Rufus' head followed her finger as a tiny little bird made of beautifully orange flames glided around his father's head, before it flew to the middle of the table, circling around the decoration and bottles standing there and proceeded to fly a few laps around Rufus, too before heading for Kiyi, who caught the fiery illusion in her hands, where it vanished with a silent pop. Rufus was awestruck, his eyes glistered with joy and amazement, he was too caught up in the moment to speak up.

"Thank you" The mother said to Kiyi with an appreciative nod. She did not know the young woman, but she surely must have a heart made of pure gold. She never heard anything positive about a firebender before, but today all of her opinions had been proven wrong. The mother was woman enough to admit her mistakes, at least to herself.

Kiyi smiled "Not a problem" she said, grabbing her pitcher and returning to her own table. She looked out for her friends, who watched the whole scenery alongside with basically everyone else. Jin looked grateful. Johanna looked grateful. Kiyi was happy. It would have been enough this way, but suddenly someone stood up and started clapping slowly.

And then someone joined.

And another one, on the other end of the restaurant. And another one. And a fifth, and a sixth. Before long the whole restaurant was standing and clapping applause.

Kiyi turned crimson-red in her face, she didn't want that much attention! Why was this happening?

"A certain someone is a heroine it seems" Johanna teased.

"Shut up!" Kiyi squealed embarrassed, as the applause slowed down again, before people decided to sit down and return their attention to their meals. "It was nothing. The nerve of some men, seriously!"

"But you don't swing that way, noooo" the gorgeous redhead taunted, turning Kiyi's face the color of her friend's hair once again.

"I...I don't. Can't you occupy that busy mouth of yours with something else?" Azula's sister asked, but immediately regretted her poor choice of words. The smirk on Johanna's lips was devilish at best and demonic at worst. Kiyi had to admit she handed her that one on a plate. The grin on Johanna's lips made it obvious that she declared victory and Kiyi had no other choice than to admit defeat with a roll of her eyes. At least Johanna was tactful enough to not dwell on it further.

"Well, I suppose, since you got some more juice, I could have some of that" she said giggling, while she filled her cup and Jin's as well.

"Thank you, Kiyi! I was really scared. And thank you, too, Johanna for not standing down." the airbender murmured, but still didn't let go of Johanna. The redhead cutely looked down to her, checking if she was alright. She really wondered what happened to the poor girl to become so distraught, but didn't want to ask. She'd ask Kiyi the next time she got the possibility.

-/-

"How many more to go, Colonel?" Katara asked, as she headed down the makeshift collecting point just in front of where the airships have been tied down.

"Almost through, Milady. two more airships and about 100 airbenders left to go." Yamomoto answered, he followed the firelady alongside P'Li.

"Very good. Thank you, colonel" Katara nodded, as a IMIS agent carrying a elderly woman came stumbling into the collecting point, not even acknowledging Katara nor the colonel. He was too fixated on carrying that woman, who looked like she had seen better days.

"Healer! I need a healer here!" the man shouted, as he carried himself forward. Katara rushed to his side.

"Put her down" she said, the operative obeyed and cautiously put the unconscious woman down. The firelady reached for her water-skin and pulled the liquid out of it. With expert hands she ran the cold and glowing water over the woman's body, determining what was wrong with her.

"She is just exhausted, nothing major" Katara said, pushing the water back into her skin.

The soldier bowed deeply "Thank you very much, Milady. I found her in a building and got worried."

"Don't be" Katara said. "You seem exhausted though."

"Ha!" the soldier said with a tired laugh "This is nothing compared to the shit Lieutenant Mai put us through in training. It's holiday, Milady." He picked the unconscious airbender up again and walked forward, carrying her to the airship.

On his way he was passed by a communications-officer, who seemed to be in a hurry. He sprinted towards Yamomoto and Katara at a speed, which P'Li found very suspicious. Before the man could reach the firelady, he crashed into the combustion-bender's arm, his own momentum flipping him over and sending him flying on his butt.

"Ahhh, what the hell was that for?!" the man shouted, as P'Li twisted his arm on his back

"You tell me, why are you charging the firelady like this?!" she hissed.

"I have a important message from one of the scout-teams securing the area" he pressed out over the pain "There are three earth-kingdom-airships en route to our current position. One has left formation to engage the airship we sent away last. They are running for it, Sir, but don't know how long they can fend the enemy off. The remaining earthkingdom-airships are almost here."

There was a moment of silence, in which P'Li let go of the messenger. Katara was the first one to speak up again

"Get every last airbender on board as fast as possible. Fill one airship until it can barely fly. Leave all the IMIS agents here, we will take the second airship once everyone is in safety." Katara ordered. "Hurry up."

"Milady, you should leave with the first airship" Yamomoto interjected, P'Li nodded in agreement.

"I will not." the firelady replied firmly. "Do you think I am some kind of coward? I will stay and fight too, just like I expect of everyone else. We will see to it, that we get everyone out of here alive. I will be the last one to leave, am I understood?"

Yamomoto gulped "Crystal clear, Milady."

"Good, then go to your soldiers and do your best, Colonel" Katara said and managed to smile supportive "Best of luck" she said, as Yamomoto ran off to coordinate both the ongoing evacuation as well as form a defensive perimeter.

"Milady..." P'Li said and genuinely sounded worried.

"You know" Katara smiled "I have spent the better part of my teenage life fighting the firenation, fighting against injustice and fighting for my friends and believes. I never ran away, if I could help it. Not once. We stood our ground and fought. I will not have my first go at cowardice now. Not with so much at stake. The future of the airnation is decided today, what does my life matter. What is the life of one woman compared to a whole nation. No, I will fight" Katara said sternly.

"And I will fight right at your side. It is an honor, Milady."

-/-

The silence in Iroh's teashop was unbearable, there wasn't a single sound apart from the occasional picking up of a cup, or paper being turned. Everyone sat around a big table, drinking tea, but no one said anything. Mai and Ty Lee were sitting next to each other, Ty Lee had her legs over Mai's lap, while the gloomy assassin was holding the baby. She didn't look gloomy at all now, having a wide and loving smile on her lips, while she gently stroked the baby's red cheek. It was a heart-warming scene and Azula had to poke Aang in his side, winking at him, like she meant to say 'Hey, look! This is going to be us soon!' Aang beamed back at his wife, he understood what she wanted to tell him. The more he thought about it, the less he could wait. Hopefully things would turn out good, because he honestly had enough of international crisis, immanent apocalypse or other minor catastrophes.

Zuko was sitting on the same table than anyone else. He was currently reviewing the files his sister retrieved from and if he didn't see the documents with his own eyes, he would have laughed and called it a sick joke. But it wasn't. Not at all. Every word, which was written down with cruel diligence was nothing but the horrible truth. He rubbed over his eyebrows, while clearing his throat. As the first one after what felt like hours, he dared to speak up.

"If this is Kuei's doing we are stumbling heads first into another war." he said. "There is no way I will help him cover this up. I will present this during the next meeting of the world leaders and I guarantee, no one will overlook this. Arnook won't and I won't either." Zuko said sternly.

"The world does not need another war, Zuko. We are barely recovering from the first one, there is no way another one will do any good." Aang replied calmly.

"We could just take Kuei out in a covert operation." Azula shrugged. "Sneak in, kill him, sneak out. Done"

Zuko shook his head "Aang, I know another war isn't what the world needs, you don't need to tell me. I'm just saying that it is going to be, what will happen, when our little situation at hand is made public." he sighed turning to his sister "And I won't even comment on that, Azula"

The princess slouched her shoulders "You're such a bore, Zuzu"

"Let's not get sidetracked" Aang said, placing a gentle hand on Azula's knee "We still don't know for sure if Kuei really did it. Yes, the signs aren't in his favor, but we do not know for sure. As long as I don't hear him take full responsibility for this, I don't want to buy it."

Azula rose an eyebrow. "Kuei? Responsibility? Notice something here?" she asked. It was something which didn't fit together. Kuei was a lot of things, responsibility was none of his characteristic qualities, so much was sure. Azula was convinced that Kuei admitting his deeds was just wishful thinking on Aang's behalf.

The Avatar sighed "Yeah... You're probably right." he admitted, while his wife just nodded. "Thing is, as long as Toph isn't here, we can't question Molt. And even when she is here, we can only tell if he tells the truth. Which is good to know, of course, but it doesn't mean anything as to Kuei's involvement."

"So, for now we wait for Toph?" Zuko asked. "Does she know about what's going on?"

Azula nodded "I wrote her the same night I wrote you and roughly told her there was something important going on. Don't worry I didn't say anything explicit, since she can't read it herself. She should be here soon."

And indeed, Toph did arrive sooner than expected. Two hours later she walked into the Jasmine Dragon like she owned the place.

"Can someone tell me, why we only see each other when the shit has hit the fan hard?" she asked, not bothering with saying hello.

"Hey, the last time you saw us was at my wedding!" Azula replied in faked annoyance. She had missed the cocky earthbender, mostly because of her attitude of not giving a single fuck. It was hilarious, at least to Azula.

"My point exactly, crazy-queen." Toph giggled

Zuko frowned putting his hand down on the table, maybe a little too harshly to be friendly "Toph, now is hardly the time for jokes."

Toph snorted, rolling her opaque eyes "You are such a bore, sparky" she said, causing a quick smirk on Azula's lips. "But ok, ok. It's business, I get it. No warm welcome party. So, where is the shithead who needs to be questioned? Not that I know what's going on or anything, so don't bother filling me in." Toph shrugged, pulling a chair back and letting herself fall onto it, before flopping her legs up onto the table. The stubborn earthbender did change quite a lot since Aang had seen her the last time. The dark and light green robe she was wearing suited her nicely and she was wearing something like metal boots. Toph was a lot taller and definitely became an adult over the last couple of years. Her face wasn't as round as it used to be and she radiated pure confidence off. Well, Toph always did, but this was different. It wasn't that childish stubborn confidence, it was a mature, adult confidence, based on experience and wisdom. Yet, despite her definitely more mature traits, she still was a cocky brat. And that's what everyone loved and hated about Toph.

The Avatar leaned forward from behind if wife, to give Toph the quick sum-up of what had happened "Azula and I got a tip, which lead us to Ku-Roah. We found a secret underground prison there, which was full with airbenders" he told her and intentionally paused at this point, to let the information he just gave her sink in for a moment.

Toph laughed loudly "Airbenders? Nice one. Sparky, I thought this was serious." she guffawed, totally amused. Airbenders, yeah sure. She just had to laugh in the first moment. But it soon died off. Aang didn't prank her. He was serious, she felt it so clearly, his heartbeat steady, his breathing rythmical, there was nothing out of place. This was the truth. "You aren't kidding, are you?" she asked from one moment to the next absolutely deadpan.

Azula shook her head in Aangs place "Unfortunately not. I managed to capture the warden. Which is the reason I asked you to come here. We want to ask him a few questions and want to make sure he is telling nothing but the truth."

Toph rose an eyebrow. "You?" she asked "You took a prisoner?"

"I did" Azula nodded.

"Well, there is a first time for anything I guess" Toph shrugged "What about the airbenders, what happened to them?"

Zuko, who was just sipping on his tea, put the cup down in front of him, before speaking up "They are currently brought to the western airtemple. Katara is taking care of it" he replied.

Toph nodded "Well, good to hear sugar-queen is making herself useful." she said "Then, where is that that prisoner of yours? Is he still able to answer or..." Toph didn't speak any further. The princess was infamous for beating information out of people she wanted answers from, to a point of them not really being recognizable as being humans anymore. But that time was long gone.

"He is unhurt" Azula replied uneasy, as she stood up to show Toph to the warden. Aang and Azula lead the way, while Zuko followed Toph, who in return stuck to the Avatar's heels.

"Well, you know what I meant" she offered, causing a small mildly amused giggle to escape from Azula's lips.

"I'm not the best with prisoners, I know" she admitted. Not the best the princess thought to herself. I killed the last prisoner in front of her daughter's eyes, because of revenge.

The basement Aang and Azula lead Toph to was actually rather nice, even though it mostly served as a storeroom for Iroh's teashop. But for a basement it was pretty neat. At least as far as Toph could judge things, it was neither moist nor was it cold and what she could see (feel) of the furniture, everything served a practical purpose without being ugly in a straightforward way. The various shelves filled with different blends of teas spread a wonderful aroma into the air and where neatly in order.

The sound of a doorlock being opened and the following swing of a wooden portal granting passage lead Toph to the conclusion that they arrived their destination. She yet again followed Aang and Azula into what had to be a library. The smell of tea was suddenly replaced by old paper and dust, not a bad aroma either, but Toph did prefer the tea.

Warden Molt was sitting in a chair next to a small round table, he was reading a novel version from 'love amongst the dragons' He was actually surprised how good it was. The firenation was not exactly the first place coming to mind, when someone thought about quality romance-literature. But this wasn't bad at all, he found himself unable to put the book away until his visitors arrived. He looked up to see the Avatar and his wife (which still sounded ridiculous, the red reaper, wife of the Avatar? He just did not see them fit together at all) arrive together with the firelord, which really surprised Molt, and an unknown young woman. Something about her caught his eye and he took a moment to realize that the nameless visitor was blind. Interesting.

"Warden Molt, this is Toph Beifong" Azula introduced shortly "She will be present to verify the validity of your statements"

"Ah, I assume it is time for interrogation then" Molt nodded.

"Indeed" Azula said, walking up to the place he was sitting and positioning herself in front of him, staring down at the warden, she eyed him carefully. Aang in the meantime sat down on a chair right next to Molt, crossing his legs British-style. He watched the interaction between the warden and his wife, not knowing what Azula was up to. She had agreed with Aang that she'd be the one asking questions, not only because she had experience in doing this, but also because she was capable of being really intimidating and could push matters more easy should the need arise. Zuko in the meantime closed the door again and stood in front of it, appearing to guard it. He didn't intend to say anything, he just wanted to be here and hear what warden Molt had to say.

"I have nothing to hide" Molt stated as if he wanted to say, that he is ready.

"It would be beneficial for your health that way, Molt" Azula hissed "Now, we narrowed it down to only a few question, this should be over soon." she began. It really didn't make a lot of sense questioning Molt too long, for the event that he did tell the truth from the beginning. If he searched for a way to bring Aang to him to ask for help, without being executed for treason and if the warden got his orders from Kuei personally than there was nothing they could ask Molt any further. Everything else would have to be discussed with the earthking, while Molt would have expanded his usefulness.

"What reason did you hire the assassin for?" Azula asked coolly.

"I told you already" Molt replied.

"Molt, I would recommend answering my questions, in detail if possible" Azula's voice was friendly on the surface, but her icy tone and the hidden hissing made it all the more dangerous.

Molt gulped "S-Sure" he said "I hired the assassin solely for the reason to contact the Avatar. The assassination attempt on the earthking was a diversion, to get the Avatars undivided attention. Sure, I guess if Kuei had died that day it would have helped me as well, but that was not the plan. I needed the Avatar to come to me, so my plan would work, otherwise it would have been too risky for me to change anything. I hoped that, if the Avatar would find the prison and if he'd see the documents I prepared for him, that he'd help me free the airbenders" Molt replied. Azula rose an eyebrow to look at Toph. The earthbender nodded once in confirmation.

"Truth" she said, calming not only Azula but also her husband down with that one word alone. Not that the princesss would have shown it, but to Aang it was apparent. The way she stood in front of Molt, tall and proud, just as usual, shifted ever so slightly, it was impossible to pick up if not for someone who sees her every day. Aang did see her every day and he always knew what she was thinking and feeling, at least more or less. She was relieved that Molt didn't lie to her all along. Though, if that was because he lived up to her initial impression of him or because he wasn't a bad person per se, Aang could not tell. He hoped for the latter, but somehow knew better that that.

"And you wanted to give those documents to Aang?" the princess inquired further.

"I did" Molt nodded, as did Toph a moment later.

"Yup" she said, content.

Azula was beginning to like the way this went, the more Molt would stick to his original story and the more of it was true, the easier it would be to deal with this. At least concerning the immediate future. It would mean to deal with Kuei. In the long term, exactly that could cause sheer endless problems. Somehow they had to handle this in a satisfactory manner without starting another war. Not that Azula minded war, but she didn't want to give birth to a child in times of war. She did not want her children, Aang's children to grow up during war. No, in the long run a rogue subordinate of Kuei would be better. But so far everything of Molt's story was true, so chances were the part of Kuei's orders were too.

The princess crossed her arms over her chest. "And you also intended to free the airbenders?"

Molt shifted uncomfortably in his chair "Well, in the long run, yes. I didn't plan it the way the Avatar and you ended up doing it. I hoped to settle things with Kuei first and then freeing them on a legal basis." he answered.

"Also correct" Toph threw in.

"You are a coward, Molt, you know that?" Azula asked rhetorically.

"I-I'm not!" was is answer.

"That's a lie, he knows it" Toph said, not even paying attention to what the question was. She could feel Molt's heart skip a beat and wouldn't she been blind, she'd have seen the awkward blush, which showed itself for a moment on the warden's cheeks.

Azula rolled her eyes, as she was walking up and down in front of Molt "Anyway, last question: Where did you get your orders from?"

"Kuei"

"personally?"

"Yes. I have discussed this matter with him once or twice already, but he didn't change his mind at all. Those orders and transcripts came from earthking Kuei personally or were sent back to him, also personally." Molt said. Azula halted her back and forth walking, looking at Toph for confirmation. The earthbender just nodded silently, causing a grunting noise from Aang, who all of a sudden seemed very displeased with the whole situation. Almost like he harbored his anger in the hopes of it being unnecessary, but was now left with no other choice. There it was, the naked truth laying in front of him, Molt's words lingering heavy in the air. It was very uncomfortable.

"Well" Azula said, turning to look at Aang and Zuko. "It seems we'll have to go and have a little chat with our beloved earthking. After all it would be very impolite of you to not say hello when you are in the city, don't you think, Zuzu?" The firelord just nodded.

"I will grant you political asylum in the firenation, Molt" Zuko spoke up for the first time "After we have confronted Kuei. Until then you are no longer restricted to that room, but I guess it goes without saying, that I wouldn't leave the house for your own security's sake."

Azula listened to what Molt and her brother had to say for a few moment, when suddenly a warm hand reached out for hers, grasping it tightly. She looked to her left, where Aang was suddenly standing close, she was easily able to pick up the suppressed anger he was feeling. All the time he had still hopes that everything which happened was some kind of secret operation. Something the earthking knew nothing of. Maybe even something which was forgotten during all these long years the secret prison existed, that all the cruelties which happened there were only to blame on all the dead guards. That they have gone rogue and acted on their own.

But that wasn't the case.

Kuei knew. Kuei ordered it.

"Oh Aang" Azula whispered, squeezing his hand back, trying to confirm that she was there for him.

"Can we go for a little walk? I'd like some fresh air now." he asked absent minded.

Azula nodded with a one sided smile on her lips "Of course"

-/-

The situation in Ku-Roah was chaos. Pure and utter chaos, the only other word which came to mind was war.

Neither Katara nor Yamomoto had any idea where those three earthkingdom-airships even came from, but they were here nonetheless. The two airships which arrived directly dropped a massive amount of soldiers near their current location, but the IMIS was able to withstand for quite some time. That changed when the third airship returned, either having destroyed the airship it pursued or given up on following it. Whatever it was, the situation was dire for the IMIS on the ground.

The soldiers of the earthkingdom had surrounded the collecting point and there weren't enough IMIS-agents left to defend it properly. Their positions were overrun and even though the IMIS squads were highly competent, they were made for special operations, not full frontal battle. Which was exactly what was going on. Katara hated to admit it, but they were done for. All they could do now was trying their luck with stalling-techniques. The enemy had too many soldiers, the lines of the IMIS were being zerg-rushed. The worst part about it was, that the airship, which was supposed to bring the rest of the airbenders to safety was still being loaded.

There had been three defensive circles established, the third and outermost one had been lost a while ago, shortly after the third earthkingdom troop-carrier arrived, while the second line of defense was rapidly crumbling. As the defenders were losing numbers, they had to retreat to the smaller circles, in order to maintain a decent men to length of defense ratio.

Now Katara was suddenly very grateful for those barricades the soldiers set up earlier today, never in her wildest dreams would she have thought they'd need them so desperately.

"How many more to go?!" Katara yelled over to Yamomoto, who was fending off a group of earthbenders, who tried a flanking maneuver through one of the makeshift barricades.

Dust and dirt-cumbs blew in Katara's face, when a projectile made of stone hit the ground a few meters to her side, decapitating a soldier standing there. She had to look away, as his head was turned to nothing more than mud.

"Almost done!" The colonel replied in the heat of the battle. He witnessed how Katara formed a ice- lance, which impaled two approaching soldiers clad in green uniforms, before she quickly shielded herself from an incoming chunk of stone. The projectile shattered on the shield with a loud bang and Katara gracefully liquefied her shield again to use it as a water-whip against another enemy. In doing so she left herself wide open to enemy attacks, but she didn't need to worry. P'Li was there to take care of it.

A distinct line of superheated air flashed past Katara, blowing the location she was being shot from up in a huge explosion, before P'Li ducked back in cover, tearing Katara along with her.

She was breathing heavily "This is bad" she coughed, holding her eyes open for Yamomoto, while Katara was quickly healing a deep cut on the arm of her protector.

"Thank you very much, Milady" P'Li said gratefully, still keeping an eye open for the colonel. She found him after a long moment "Colonel! We are overrun. Our whole right flank is gone! I cannot cover that any longer!" she yelled, before yet again setting her sights on an enemy team, before it too was vaporized in a huge and loud explosion. The psychological effect her bending-abilities must have had on the enemy surely had to be enormous. P'Li had no range-limit, one of the enemy airships had to learn this the hard way. The combustion bender blew it out of the sky without hesitation, as it approached, but she wasn't able to completely destroy it. The airship crash landed, leaving most of its crew unharmed.

"Understood! Retreat to the last line of defense!" he yelled, there was a fraction of a second delay, before one of his subordinates blew a whistle as loud as possible. All remaining IMIS-agents were hereby ordered to fall back to the last line of defense they had left. Katara prepared to make a run for it, as yet another soldier close to her was killed by a stone-projectile piercing through the barricade. The woman went limp before Katara could help her. The waterbender's healing was good, but resurrection of the dead was a miracle even she could not perform. At least not without a decent amount of spirit water.

"How many more, Colonel?" Katara asked, as she sprinted alongside of Yamomoto, huge junks of stone crashing down to her left and right in a shower of shots, as they were dodging as good as possible. A few more fast steps and Katara reached another barricade, jumping over it and dropping to cover behind it. The colonel, who was right next to her, didn't answer, he looked out for someone with information on the matter. Like the spirits had listened to their prayers, someone with a clipboard bombed towards them.

"Colonel! Colonel!" the messenger shouted, she was rather young, but looked determined. Or maybe panicked. Possibly a mix of both. "Loading procedure complete, we are good to go"

"Do it! Get them out of here!" Katara shouted in Yamomoto's stead. The woman bowed hastily, before she raced back into the belly of the airship, waiting close behind them.

"Alright Colonel" Katara yelled, catching another rock in her water, before tossing it back at its source. The dull sound of its impact indicated it had most likely connected with human flesh. "Time to pack up. Grab everyone and run for it!" Katara ordered

"But Milady!" Yamomoto objected. She surely wasn't serious about this, was she?

"Don't Milady me now!" the waterbender hissed. "I will buy you as much time as possible, but grab your legs and RUN!" Katara was furiously fending off attackers with her truly impressive waterbending. Her form was flawless, her motions gliding from one stance to the next

"I refuse to leave your side, Milady" P'Li insisted, as she too did her best to keep the enemy at bay. At least her ability to blow up everything she set sight on seemed to scare the enemy enough to not just outright charge them in a full frontal assault. For now that was, who knew how long they'd going to take to work up the courage to just do it. But for now they were granted a brief moment of pause.

Behind them one of the two waiting airships took off as fast as it physically could, the engines roaring loudly under the stress, swirling dust up into the foggy air, before the metal giant zoomed off. Katara was almost thrown off balance with the sudden wind emitted from the huge airship leaving with the last remaining airbenders.

"Fine, my personal security will stay if that's what they want, but everyone else will leave! Now!"

"Milady!" Yamomoto roared, trying to talk sense into her "This is madness. I will stay as well"

"You won't Yamomoto. You know too much, you are too valuable an asset to lose to the enemy. Go! Make sure this works out the way Azula planned it!"

"You are the firelady!"

"I am but one person and other than personal value to Zuko I do not have much."

"Think about the peo..."

"GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE YAMOMOTO, THIS IS A DIRECT ORDER!" Katara yelled at him, grabbing him at his collar and shaking him roughly, all while transforming the huge block of ice, which she just used to not get squashed by a equally huge rock, back into liquid.

The colonel gulped heavily "As you wish, Milady" he said, before reluctantly returning to the last remaining airship. Someone yet again blew a whistle. Katara took a moment to turn around and watch the men and women left returning to the airship. Some were carrying wounded comrades, some were limping badly. They were few who seemed unharmed. Katara had to swallow.

"Alright" she said more to herself, than to anyone else. "Let's make sure they won't be able to get into the airship until it took off" she said to P'Li and her squad-members, who all nodded in agreement.

Katara reached up to her head and was about to pull out her golden crown, which she got so used to over the last years, she hesitated for a second, before throwing it into the dirt below her.

"What are you doing, Milady?" P'Li asked harshly.

"I am the firelady, miles deep in a country I am not supposed to be, helping to free prisoners, which are not mine to free, killing soldiers I should not kill. I do not want to start a war here." she replied firmly.

P'Li reached down to the crown, quickly handing it back to Katara "Without this, you are but a beautiful woman about to be captured by a lot of very lonely, horny men. Trust me, you don't want this to happen. They will not dare to lay hand on the firelady, no matter how stupid they may be." she said. Katara took a moment longer to realize the dark meaning her protectors words carried, she hesitated for a second, waging her options, but came to the conclusion that she couldn't look Zuko in the eyes anymore, should she manage to maintain some form of sanity after spirits knows how many men would have had their way with her. She quickly put the crown back on her head, the comfortable weight of the gold plate back in its place.

Katara froze a group of soldiers approaching from the right, before her lieutenant blew them up. She saw how the loading ramp of the last remaining airship slowly closed.

"P'Li, you don't have a crown either" Katara said, the thought suddenly struck her, she was a woman too, how would she...

The combustion bender laughed, as some more enemies found their untimely demise. "My crown is tattooed on my head. I am perfectly save, don't worry. I am a very, very dangerous rape victim." she replied, knowing that they wouldn't stand a chance for much longer. More and more enemy soldiers were pouring over the makeshift blockades, rushing the last remaining airship. Katara, P'Li and her team tried the best to hold them off as long as possible, but things became tight. They had lost one of P'Li's squad at the very beginning of the battle and now two more followed this path with one strike of precision earthbending. Katara was really getting angry at Yamomoto. What was taking him so long?! If they wouldn't run for it now, there wouldn't be much she and P'Li could do to save them.

Finally, the airship behind them maxed its engines, as it too took off into the clouds. And just in time that was, as a moment later the brave two remaining defenders were completely surrounded by the soldiers of the earthkingdom. It all happened so fast, way faster than the waterbender wanted to admit, but almost as soon as the airship was gone, they found themselves surrounded in a small circle of men wearing the same stern expression on their faces. Katara let her water drop into the dirt with an unusually loud splash, before she put her hands up in the air, admitting defeat. The heat and noise of the battle was gone and the battlefield was filled with an uncomfortable, strangely out of place silence, which was almost unbearable.

"My, my" someone out of the green wall of uniforms surrounding them said, as soldiers stepped aside, forming a corridor for the new appearance. "If that isn't the firelady herself" a tall and slender man in the earthkingdom sub-commander uniform laughed, as he stepped into the circle which surrounded Katara and her bodyguards. The sub-commander had long, black hair, which was very shiny and reached down way past his shoulders. His brown eyes had nothing warm or friendly, they were cold and piercing, his face was narrow and long and the grin on his lips was more on the wicked than on the evil side. "My orders were rather vague, but this is surprising nonetheless" he said, his smirk still malevolent.

"We surrender" Katara said with the firmest voice she was able to muster at the moment. She knew full well that weakness was something she could not allow to show now. The situation was bad and it was her duty to make the most out of it.

"Of course you do" the sub-commander laughed. "Take them and throw them into a cell. Separated." he walked past P'Li. "And stick her head into a box before you do anything else." he eyed her from the side.

"You..." P'Li hissed.

"Now, now. If you resist, I'll have to hurt your precious firelady. And we don't want that now, do we?"

"...No" So much for the dangerous rape victim...

"Good girl." he grinned diabolically, brushing over PLi's cheeks with the back of his hand, the combustion bender tensed up visibly. For a short moment she contemplated blowing this disgusting scumbag up, but that would have most likely killed Katara as well. The earthkingdom-officer proceeded to grab her chin with his thumb and index finger, before saying: "If you are smart you play along and no one will do anything to the firelady. At least nothing, which would taunt her honor. It should be a good deal. Yours for hers." The sub-commander laughed, while Katara gritted her teeth in anger. Her hands were roughly grabbed and cuffed behind her back.

P'Li looked over to Katara "Do not worry about me, Milady. I will be fine" she tried to reassure, but Katara was able to pick up the faintest of trembling in her bodyguard's voice.

Chapter Text

"Zula, where are you dragging me off to?" Aang asked hastily, as he was stumbling after Azula, who was pulling him along on his hand. It was late afternoon in Ba-Sing-Se and the couple had left Iroh's teashop probably about an hour ago. The sun was still warm on the sky and there was not a single cloud to be seen. Beautiful weather all in all. Normal couples would have gone for a picknick or would have a romantic date in one of the many exclusive patio-cafés. But that was boring, Azula wasn't good with normal. Her life had never been normal before and she wouldn't start now.

It was a good thing they decided to confront Kuei tomorrow and not do it today, this way everyone had some much needed time off.

"It's a surprise, dum-dum" she rolled her eyes. "You wouldn't come along if you knew" she laughed, drawing one or two views to them, but neither Azula nor Aang paid them much mind. The princess didn't wear her dark red and black armor today, she instead opted for something more earthkingdom in from of a tight dark green combat-kimono, which she had borrowed from Suki. She had her hair down, letting it fall freely over her shoulders, it made her more girlish, had almost something playful, which just let her vibrant charm explode. Her natural beauty was even more alluring this way and all it took her to enchant everyone around her was nothing more than a quick, mysterious glimpse. Her beauty was radiant. And if Aang wouldn't have wondered where they were heading to, he would have blindly followed her into the deepest pits of hell. Not that he wouldn't do that anyway, but today even more so.

"That doesn't reassure me at all!" he complained in a squeamish tone, causing his wife to giggle. She didn't let go of him, as she dragged him through the crowded streets in the upper ring of Ba-Sing-Se. The gorgeous princess glanced quickly over her shoulder and gave Aang a bright and loving smile

"You wanted to go out and get some fresh air didn't you?" she asked with her smirk of doom following shortly after.

"I did, but..." he tried to interject, but Azula would have none of it.

"But me no buts! You need to get your mind off things and we are going to do exactly that" she said, determined and would not accept another word of backtalk.

"Ugh, fine..." Aang gave in, he followed his wife to something which looked an awful lot like an arena. No. It was an arena, a rather big one that was. Aang began having second thoughts, what exactly were they doing here? The arena was standing in the middle of some kind of market place, it was elliptical and made from light brown sandstone. To be honest, the building had something monumental and looked rather majestic. Aang liked the aesthetics, but still wasn't sure what they were doing here. Surely Azula didn't plan on fighting, did she? Or did she want to watch someone else fight? That didn't really sound like her now, did it?

Azula walked in a straight line up to a cashier, who was waiting in a small box next to the entrance of that arena thingy. Whatever it was exactly. She reached into her pocket and slammed two golden coins on the counter. The eyes of the cashier, who didn't seem like he was overflowing with work and looked to be rather bored, went wide as he laid his gaze upon those divine sparkling gold-coins, lying right in front of his nose, there on the counter. He gulped.

"I'll take the biggest sparring-field you have" Azula said casually. "And I do not like interruptions. Consider this the fee and the repair-cost as well."

Aang wanted to speak up, but Azula quickly covered his mouth with her hand and an ridiculous attempt at an innocent smile. It did look rather cute, though.

The cashier gulped again, he weighted his options. Sure, two gold coins were tempting, but this stranger was already including possible damage, which usually wasn't a good sign at all.

Azula rolled her eyes, not pleased with his hesitation at all, as she tossed him another two golden coins. "Better now?" she asked, like she just gave him her spare change and not the annual income of an average family.

"I apologize. The biggest field is yours to use as you please, Madam" he said, turning around and reaching for a key, which was hanging on a keychain in from of a braided green cord. "Your key to the field, Madam. Have a nice day and please come again" he said friendly, albeit a bit dumbstruck, as he bowed overly deep.

"I will" Azula took the key and once more grabbed Aang to drag him along. He did take some while to figure out what his wife had in mind. And once he did, his legs automatically initiated the emergency brake system, bringing both him and Azula to a halt.

"Zula!" he spoke loudly, "what in the name of the spirits are we doing here?"

"Well, obviously we are going to have a sparring match. We didn't do that for quite some time now, did we?" she said in faked innocence, as she blinked at Aang with her best angel eyes.

"You. are. pregnant." he said like it was the explanation to every problem he hadn't voiced.

"And?" Azula shrugged. "I am pregnant. Not fatally wounded." Honestly, it was no big deal. She was in her second month at most, so it wasn't a problem. She knew what she was capable of, Azula didn't plan on overdoing things.

"Yes, you keep saying that. Are you crazy? We'll not spar with you bearing our child!" he almost hissed that, which he didn't mean to do. He was just so angry lately. And this reckless behavior of his wife didn't help him. He clenched his fists and pressed his eyes closed, waiting for that stinging pain in his chest to go away. It was just so much the last days. Everything came together at once. His people were alive! Azula was pregnant! Two good news of galactic proportions in a row, two life changing events happening basically at the same day! He should have been happy about it. But all his positive expectations, all his hopes and joys were clouded by that lingering shadow of evil, which was hanging over the events of the last couple of days. It felt... really strange. He didn't really understand himself, everything was like a distant dream, like it wasn't even real.

Suddenly Aang was pulled back to reality as he became aware of a warm hand softly brushing over his cheek. Quickly he opened his eyes, to see Azula looking at him with worry written all over her face. The way her beautiful golden eyes glistered told him everything she was feeling now. With a short step the princess closed the small distance between her and the Avatar, before she rose herself on tiptoes to give Aang a loving and caring kiss on his surprised lips.

"As I already said: I am pregnant, not fatally wounded" she winked at him with a teasing smirk "Relax and trust me. You need this. And as long as you don't plan on stabbing me from behind, me and the baby are completely fine." she smiled at him, seeing how the tension inside her husband was slowly starting to fade away. "You are always the one doing nice things for me. Now let me return that favor, at least for once"

"...I guess... one friendly round" he tried to convince himself. Of course he trusted her, that wasn't even a question. He was just afraid that he'd do something stupid. It was retarded, during all their sparring, the worst thing which happened were minor cuts. They would be alright.

The smirk on Azula's lips quickly transformed into her trademark smirk of doom, which only she could pull off. "Oh" she said in a clearly up to no good manner "I get it. You are just afraid I'll wipe the floor with you, almighty Avatar" she jingled the key with her unparalleled ability to tease.

Aang's eyes narrowed, as his competitive side pushed to new life "Oh, you are on!" he exclaimed, as Azula took off towards the sparring-field, the Avatar chasing right after her. This was actually rather fun for Azula. She knew exactly which buttons to press in Aang to get him motivated. Coming to think of it, that talent was something she always had, one way or another.

The sparring arena was truly amazing. It held close resemblance to the ancient coliseum, the field in the middle was divided into a couple of areas of roughly the same size with one extra big one in the middle. Everything was surrounded by multi-storied terraces, which were currently sparely populated. Entering the terraces on an ordinary day was free of charge, only the use of the sparring-fields was connected to a fee. Down on the fighting-ground some secure lanes lead up to each of the fields. In order to provide safety for those coming from or going to the separate courts, the fighting-areas were completely encased in high fences made from chicken wire and large nets on top of it. A locked metal doorframe with chicken wire allowed entrance into the field. Azula put the key in, unlocked the door, shoved Aang inside and took the key with her, before closing the door again. The princess got out of her kimono and hung it over a bench made for resting. Underneath she was wearing her beach bikini.

"Ohh" Aang said as he ran his eyes over her perfect body "I like" he said, not resisting the urge to grab his wife's behind real quick. Azula shrieked "You just wait" she said playful, also smacking his butt, as he got out of his shirt, to reveal his perfectly trained and muscular upper body. He still did have quite a couple of scars, which Azula recognized as hers. He gave his wife a quick peck, before the Avatar walked off to the far side of the court.

Aang was currently facing Azula, who was at the other side of the field they had paid for. This felt foreign and yet so very familiar at the same time. The sun was shining on their noses, which was probably the strangest part, and the colors were off. Where Aang was used to the different shades of red in the indoor arena of the royal palace back in the firenation, this was -obviously- kept in greens and different browns. It soon wouldn't matter anymore.

The Avatar's grey eyes locked with Azula's, she had that fiery spark in them, the way her golden iris lit up with anticipation was something Aang knew all too well. The princess adored their sparring matches, knowing full well that he was the only one, she could always let loose with. She didn't need to hold back, he could take everything she got, no matter how bad her mood was. At the end of the day, he'd stand and give her a proud smile. Then, and only then, whatever it was, which was worrying Azula, was simply... gone. Vanished. Only Aang could do that. He had probably no idea how much he truly did for her and sometimes Azula was glad it was this way. It was a little bit embarrassing after all.

Luckily today wasn't for her, she didn't have anything bothersome on her mind apart from her husband. His misery was of course affecting her. She didn't want to see him suffer. Why would she, Aang meant the world to her. So naturally Azula wanted to help him. He needed to clear his head, at least for a little while.

"Are you going to open or do you want me to?" she asked, getting in an aggressive stance. One foot precisely in front of the other, standing slightly sideways, her predatory eyes fixed on Aang, one hand extended to her target, the other one pressed closely to the side of her chest, her elbow high above the shoulder-line. Azula was ready to blast him away at a moments notice.

"Hit me!" was Aang's answer. Azula didn't need to be told twice. From one moment to the next the sparring area the size of a football-field was filled with hot and deep purple fire. The heat radiating off Azula's f