Author’s note: In which there are undercover missions, fashion tribulations, secret dates, dancing and Sokka being Sokka.
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A strange cloud appeared over the little island. No one bothered to look at it but if someone had, they’d have seen in steadily losing altitude.
“I think I see a cave below,” Aang said, squinting his eyes to see through their self-created cloud.
“Shush… keep quiet!” Sokka scolded him. The cloud disappeared thanks to Aang’s airbending and Sokka jumped to the ground, looking around suspiciously. He crossed his arms and frowned disapprovingly. “Great job with the cloud cameo, but next time, let’s disguise ourselves as the kind of cloud who knows how to keep its mouth shut.”
“Yeah, we wouldn’t want a bird to hear us chatting up there and turn us in,” Toph scoffed.
“Hey! We’re in enemy territory. Those are enemy birds!” Sokka insisted. One bird landed on his head and squawked. The rest of the teens laughed and climbed off Appa. There was a cave near them and they moved to get in. Sokka jumped in front of them, scanning the ground. Zuko rolled his eyes and yanked him to his feet.
“You’re being paranoid,” he told him.
Sokka glared at the older boy before turning to the others.
“Well, this is it. This is how we’ll be living until the invasion begins. Hiding in cave after cave…after cave…after cave…” His expression fell at the prospect. Katara sighed.
“Sokka, we don’t need to become cave people. What we need is some new clothes.” She raised her Fire Nation cape to show her clothes. Aside from being Water Tribe they were in desperate need for mending.
“Yeah, blending in is better than hiding out. If we get Fire Nation disguises, we’ll be just as safe as we would be hiding in a cave,” Aang added.
“Plus…they have real food out there. Does anyone wanna sit in the dirt and eat cave-hoppers?” Toph underlined her words punching the wall. A few cave-hopers appeared and Momo rushed to stuff his mouth. Aang turned slightly green.
“Looks like we got outvoted, sport,” Sokka told the lemur. He turned to the others. “Let’s get some new clothes.”
It didn’t take long for them to find a laundry place nearby. Katara and Lia started immediately to scan the lines from afar, looking for something to wear.
“I don’t know about this,” Aang said unsure. “These clothes belong to somebody.”
“I call the silk robe!” Katara took off, having spotted her future outfit. Lia was immediately after her.
“I call the dress!” they heard her say. It looked like fun.
“But if it’s essential to our survival…” Aang began and smiled, “then I call the suit!” Interestingly it was Sokka who took the most finding something he liked. Zuko just picked up a vest and stored his armour on Appa’s saddle next to Lia’s. It felt strange to be in civilian Fire Nation clothes after so long.
“Ta-dah! Normal kid!” Aang said tying a headband on his head to hide his arrow. Sokka was also ready. Toph seemed to have a slight problem. Her clothes resembled her Earth Kingdom ones (thanks to Lia) but now she was supposed to wear shoes for the first time in many years.
“Hmm…I should probably wear them,” she said hesitantly, “but then I won’t be able to see as well. Sorry shoes!” She sat down and popped the soles out of her shoes. They hit Sokka in the face. Standing up again, Toph sighed. “Finally, a stylish shoe for the blind earthbender.”
“How do I look?” they heard Katara ask. Zuko and Aang took a look at her and turned red. She was wearing scarlet capri pants with a lighter red silk skirt and a top that left the one shoulder free. Aang noticed something.
“Uh…” he said tentatively. “Your mom’s necklace.” Katara’s expression fell as she realised the problem.
“Oh…oh, yeah. I guess it’s pretty obviously Water Tribe, isn’t it?” she took it out and stored it along with her clothes.
Zuko fingered reluctantly the small package in his pocket. He had been working on it for quite some time now but still was reluctant to give it to Katara. Lia nudged him as they began walking towards the nearest town.
“Go give it to her,” she told him, motioning towards Katara.
“But what if she doesn’t like it?” Zuko asked unsure. Lia rolled her eyes.
“She loves you,” she said plainly. “Of course she’ll like it!” With a last wary look the firebender sprinted to catch up with his girlfriend. Lia watched their exchange with an amused smile that only widened when Katara squealed and hugged Zuko.
“What’s the big deal?” Toph asked, confused by their vibrations.
“Look what Zuko gave me!” the waterbender showed everyone her new Fire Nation-style necklace.
“Wow! It looks wonderful!” Toph said sarcastically.
“Sorry,” Katara said sheepishly before handing it to the younger girl. Toph traced the carvings carefully.
“It is nice,” she decided finally. “Good job Sparky.”
There was a small town nearby where they bought a few accessories to go with their new outfits. Lia also bought a vest to stop Zuko’s grumbling. Her dress was tying with two thin strings around her neck and her brother insisted that she should wear something over it. Aang made sure to hide Momo inside his jacket, wanting to avoid any questions.
“I used to visit my friend Kuzon here a hundred years ago. So everyone just follow my lead and stay cool. Or as they say in the Fire Nation – “Stay flaming”!” Zuko raised an eyebrow but said nothing. This should be entertaining… he thought amused.
“Greetings, my good Hotman!” Aang called to a random citizen as they walked by.
“Uh, hi. I guess?” the man said unsure. The rest of the kids passed trying to look innocent.
Sokka laid them to a butcher’s shop.
“Oh, we’re going to a meat place?” Aang said disappointed.
“Come on, Aang,” Sokka said exasperated. “Everyone here eats meat,” he pointed at a hippo-cow. “…even the meat!” Aang made a face of disgust.
“You guys go ahead,” he decided. “I’ll just get some lettuce out of the garbage.” The teens entered the shop as Aang started nodding to the passer-bys.
“Hotman, hotman, hotman hotman hotman…” he stopped short when three officials approached.
“It’s over, we caught you,” the leader said.
“Who me?” Aang asked, trying to sound innocent.
“It couldn’t be more obvious that you don’t belong here,” the man pointed out. Aang tensed, ready to be arrested. “Next time you play hooky, you might want to take off your school uniform,” the man said sternly. Aang laughed awkwardly before following them to the school building near the end of the town.
Aang returned to the cave at night, his clothes full of soot traces. Katara stood when he entered, her hands on her hips.
“Where have you been? We’ve been worried sick!”
“I got invited to play with some kids after school,” Aang said cheerfully.
“After what?” Sokka and Zuko shouted simultaneously.
“I enrolled in a Fire Nation school, and I’m going back tomorrow,” Aang explained, still smiling. Sokka looked ready to have an aneurism.
“Enrolled in what?” Toph kicked his legs forcing him to sit down. Aang took his seat near the fire and told him about his day.
Zuko had been schooled by tutors at the palace so it wasn’t his place to speak, but even that experience had been so horrible that he couldn’t understand why would anyone want have a go. Sokka seemed to share his sentiments.
“Aang, I’m trying to be mature and not immediately shoot down your idea. But it sounds…really terrible,” he said.
“Yeah, we got our outfits. What do you need to go to school for?” Toph made a noise of disgust when she said school.
“Every minute I’m in that classroom. I’m learning new things about the Fire Nation. I already have a picture of Fire Lord Ozai.” Zuko flinched at the sight of his father. “And here’s one that I made out of noodles!” Aang continued taking out another paper. Lia snatched it out of his hands.
“That’ll be good for target practice…” she muttered.
“Impressive, I admit. But I still think it’s too dangerous,” Sokka insisted. Aang raised an eyebrow.
“I guess we’ll never find out about the secret river then. It goes right to the Fire Lord’s palace. We were supposed to learn about it in class tomorrow…” he trailed off. Sokka paused thoughtfully.
“Hmm… I am a fan of secret rivers.” He stood up. “Fine, let’s stay a few more days.” Aang jumped to his feet ecstatic.
“Flamey-o, Hotman!” he shouted before rushing on Appa’s side to inform his friend of his plans.
“Flamey-o??” Sokka asked Zuko. The prince shrugged, equally clueless.
When Aang returned at noon the next day his face had a look of impending doom. After his explanations silence reigned for a whole minute. Then his words sunk in.
“What do you mean you have to bring your parents?” Zuko yelled at the boy, the campfire almost reaching the ceiling behind him.
“It wasn’t my fault…” Aang tried to say, feeling very much like he was being scolded by a very strict father.
“It doesn’t matter Aang!” Zuko pinched the bridge of his nose frustrated. “Which of us do you think could be passed as your parents? What have you even told them at that school?”
“That I’m from the colonies,” Aang said in a small voice.
“I could be the father,” Sokka said behind them in an over-exaggerated adult’s voice. They turned to see him sporting a beard and a very stern look. Aang gulped. “Katara could be the mother,” he continued. Indeed after Lia had fixed the waterbender’s hair and had rolled Zuko’s vest under the girl’s vest, she could pass as a young pregnant woman.
“I hope this works,” she sighed.
The headmaster was a stiff, old man that could be mistaken for an Admiral rather than a teacher.
“Thank you for coming, Mr and Mrs…”
“Fire!” Sokka said in his fake voice. “Wang Fire. This is my wife, Sa Fire.” Katara sent him a mild glare before smiling pleasantly at the headmaster.
“Sapphire Fire, nice to meet you.”
“Mr and Mrs…Fire,” the headmaster sighed. “Your son has been enrolled here for two days, and he’s already causing problems. He’s argued with his history teacher, disrupted music class, and roughed up my star pupil.”
“My goodness!” Katara feigned shock. “That doesn’t sound like our Kuzon.”
“That’s what any mother would say, ma’am,” the headmaster said calmly. “Nonetheless, you’re forewarned. If he acts up one more time, I’ll have him sent to reform school… by which I mean the coal mines. Are we clear?”
“Don’t you worry, Mr Headmaster. I’ll straighten this boy out something’ fierce.” Sokka turned to his “son”. “Young man, as soon as we get home, you’re gonna get the punishment of a lifetime!” he yelled.
“That’s what I like to hear,” the headmaster concluded.
Sokka waited until they were safely back at the cave before he exploded.
“THAT SETTLES IT!” he yelled. “NO MORE SCHOOL FOR YOU YOUNG MAN!” He straightened his posture and stroked his beard in a self-satisfied manner. Zuko shuddered.
“You sounded like my father,” he told the Water Tribe boy. Aang sighed.
“I’m not ready to leave. I’m having fun for once, just being a normal kid. You don’t know what it’s like, Sokka. You get to be normal all the time.” Toph burst out laughing at that. Even Lia snickered a little. Sokka scowled at them.
“Listen, guys, those kids at school are the future of the Fire Nation. If we wanna change this place for the better, we need to show them a little taste of freedom,” Aang tried to convince them.
“What could you possibly do for a country of depraved little fire monsters?” Sokka asked. Zuko slapped him on the head.
“I’m gonna throw them… a secret dance party!” Aang said enthusiastically. Everyone’s jaw hit the floor from the shock. Sokka was the first to recover.
“Go to your room!” he said in Wang Fire’s voice.
It took a lot of pleading but Aang managed somehow to convince them to host the party in the cave. By way of revenge Toph had dragged Aang away for some earthbending practice with Lia as their referee, while Sokka set on organising their schedule until the invasion. Zuko and Katara had sneaked away to enjoy a small picnic. They were sitting on the top of the cave, looking at the sunset.
“Aren’t the colours beautiful?” Katara said motioning at the sky.
“You are,” Zuko whispered, too busy looking at her to watch the sky. Katara blushed a little. She was still getting used to on being showered by complements.
“I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you too,” He said back before he kissed her.
Before things had a chance to escalate a cough was heard from the background. Toph appeared from behind some rocks.
“Excuse me lovebirds but Sokka needs your help setting up.” The two teens looked up in irritation.
“Can’t you see we’re busy?” Zuko said before returning to kissing Katara.
“Oh, okay,” Toph turned to leave. As she walked away they heard her shout something. “Sokka, Katara and her boyfriend are busy right now!”
“What?” the warrior said, running up the cliff. He simply saw the two teens gathering their things from the picnic.
“We were just coming down,” Katara said annoyed. Sokka shot them a suspicious glance, but followed them without a comment.
The cave was almost ready for the party. Toph had made a stand for the band, Zuko and Lia had lighted candles all over the place and Katara was preparing beverages.
“I can’t believe we’re having a dance party. It seems so… silly,” Sokka said to no one in particular. He still couldn’t get how they talked him into this.
“Don’t think of it as a dance party, but as a cultural event celebrating the art of fancy footwork.” Aang gave an example of the fancy footwork. Even a three-hour practice with Toph hadn’t quelled his energy. Suddenly the earthbender looked up alarmed.
“They’re coming! Everyone stop bending!” Aang approached Appa.
“Sorry, buddy. You should probably wait out back.” Appa groaned but walked further inside the cave nevertheless. “I know,” Aang said. “You’ve got fancier feet than anybody…and six of them!”
A few of the kids had brought musical instrument and were now playing a quick melody. Aang was ecstatic.
“Ladies and gentlemen, The Flamey-os! Yeah, this ought to get everybody moving.” He looked around but none of the Fire Nation kids were moving from their places at the walls of the cave.
“Now what do we do?” a boy asked.
“This is when you start dancing,” Aang explained.
“I don’t think my parents want me dancing in a cave,” another boy said nervously.
“Yeah, what if someone finds out?” his friend said scared. On the side Aang caught sight of Zuko shaking his head.
“Oh, boy!” Aang scratched his head and took a determined expression. “Listen, guys…dancing isn’t something you think about. It’s a form of self-expression that no one can ever take away from you.”
“Maybe it was different in the colonies, Kuzon. But we don’t do that here,” the first boy said.
“Sure you do. You have for generations.” Everyone’s eyes turned to Lia as she walked up next to Aang. She gave him a mischievous smile. “It just so happens that I know several classic fire nation dances. A hundred years ago, this was known as ‘the Phoenix flight.’” She did the move, he dress and her trailing behind her like the wings of a bird. Aang took his cue.
“And this was the ‘camelephant strut’.” He did another, more complex move, landing in front of a few girls who blushed and giggled before jumping back to the centre of the cave.
Katara and Toph were sitting nearby, observing Aang. Toph’s face broke into a smile.
“Who knew Twinkletoes could dance?” she wondered, her mind drifting to the first nickname she had given him: the Fancy Dancer. Aang landed in front of a girl who had introduced herself as On Ji and led her in the middle of the dance floor.
“And this is how they do it in the ballrooms of Ba Sing Se,” he showed her the move and she began coping him. Soon more kids followed their example and began loosening up.
“Wow,” Sokka said impressed. “They look pretty good together.” Toph frowned.
“Eh, if that’s what you like,” she said dismissively. Aang appeared out of nowhere and dragged her to her feet.
“Come on Toph!” he said as he led her to the dance floor. “Yeah, that’s it. That’s the sound of happy feet. All right, go with that. Everybody freestyle!” he instructed the rest of the kids.
Katara sat nervously alone. Even Toph was dancing now, only with Aang of course, but she seemed to be having a great time. Katara wasn’t so sure she could walk up there and try the same. A shadow fell in front of her and she looked up to see Zuko extending his hand with a shy smile.
“I don’t know, Zuko. These shoes aren’t really right for dancing, and I’m not sure that I know how to…” she trailed off nervously.
“Take my hand,” Zuko said softly.
“Okay,” Katara allowed him to lead her to the dance floor.
“Remember our fights,” he whispered and they started circling each other, their arms in the air, wrists barely touching. Noticing the new pair most kids stopped dancing and turned to their direction.
“Zuko, everyone’s watching,” Katara muttered nervously.
“Don’t mind them,” Zuko whispered back. “It’s just you and me now.” Katara blushed and they continued on with their dance more confident. Lia paused from her own dancing a little further and turned to look at them. With a small smile she took a discreet firebending stance. Their audience looked awed as two thin trails of fire, a red for Zuko and a blue for Katara followed their movements. They finished in a pose way too intimate for Sokka’s taste and the crowd cheered.
The party was now in full swing. Even the most embarrassed and awkward kids had loosened up and were dancing, in various degrees of skill.
“This is incredible. It’s like my inhibitions just disappeared!” A boy said. Suddenly a few shadows appeared at the entrance of the cave. The school’s headmaster had obviously been tipped about the party and he had come, bringing along soldiers. The Fire Nation kids froze. “Okay. They’re…back again,” the boy muttered. Aang passed oblivious, still dancing. He froze when he heard the headmaster.
“He’s the one we want. The boy with the headband!”
“Uh-oh!” Aang gulped and disappeared running amongst the kids.
The guards dashed frantically amongst the students, trying to find Aang. The airbender managed to sneak unnoticed at the back of the cave where the rest of the gang waited for him. One of the kids turned and winked at them as they made their exit. Aang bowed Fire Nation style before closing the tunnel behind him with an earthbending move.
In a matter of minutes they were on Appa, flying away.
“We’re safe, Sokka,” Katara said with a smile from her position snuggling on Zuko’s warm chest. “You can take off the moustache, now.”
“Oh, no, I can’t. It’s permanently glued to my skin,” Sokka answered in the voice of an emperor. Apparently the role of Wang Fire suited him.
“Way to go, Dancypants. I think you really did help those kids. You taught them to be free.” Toph smiled at Aang’s direction.
“I don’t know. It was just a dance party, that’s all,” Aang said blushing at the compliment.
“Well, that was some dance party, Aang,” Katara chuckled. Surprising everyone, Toph leaned and kissed softly Aang on the cheek.
“Thanks for the dance,” she muttered softly, before turning her back to everyone and pretending to sleep. Aang looked at her with wide eyes before smiling and lying down himself.
“Goodnight Toph,” he said softly. “Night everyone!”
Sokka chuckled at the exchange and turned to make a comment to his sister. The words died in his throat as he noticed her and Zuko asleep in each other’s arms. He sucked a breath ready to yell at them but Lia placed a hand in his mouth silencing him.
“What does this mean?” he hissed, pointing at Katara and Zuko’s direction.
“What does it look like?” Lia answered calmly. Sokka’s face turned purple.
“But my sister… he… Fire Nation… enemy…” he managed to choke out. Lia rolled her eyes and lied down.
“Goodnight Sokka,” she said, leaving a very pissed Water Tribe boy to stir Appa.