Tag Archives: Western Air Temple

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Southern Raiders

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Author’s note: In which there is a lot of shipping, Katara gets some character development and the gaang relocates to the author’s favourite setting in the Avatar ‘verse.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Southern Raiders***

A few weeks later everyone was sleepily preparing breakfast near the campfire in the courtyard. Aang was standing near Appa, feeding the bison a few melons when suddenly a bomb came hissing through the air. Before anyone else had time to react Lia jumped to her feet and kicked it back out of the courtyard, a fireball forming at her hand at the same time. The gang jumped to their feet as Aang airbended the doors of the courtyard closed. Safe for the moment they rushed to gather their things as more bombs rattled outside. The old structure started to protest. A part of the ceiling was beginning to crumble. Katara was kneeling under it next to a backpack, hurriedly stuffing it with supplies, unaware of the danger.

“Watch out!” Zuko called as he ran. Before the rock had a chance to crush them he pushed her out of the way.

“What are you doing?” Katara asked alarmed.

“Keeping rocks from crushing you,” came the answer as the prince tightened his hold around her waist. Katara gave him a small smile and raised an eyebrow.

“Well, I’m not crushed,” she said teasingly. “You can get off me now.” Zuko chuckled and helped her to her feet.

“I’ll take that as a thank you,” he said.

 

Haru and Toph hurriedly made a tunnel at the far end of the courtyard.

“Come on, we can get out through here!” Toph called to the others. Haru, Teo, Chit Sang and the Duke hurried with Lia and Suki following them. Aang was trying to pull Appa inside the tunnel when he noticed Zuko standing still in front of the rumble.

“What are you doing?” he asked alarmed.

“Go ahead, I’ll hold them off. I think this is a family visit.” The firebender explained calmly. Katara’s eyes widened.

“Zuko, no!” she made a move to follow him but Sokka put a hand on her shoulder to stop her.

“Come on, we gotta get out of here.” The waterbender bit her lip and turned to help the others pull Appa.

 

Zuko took one last look at them and then ran through the smoke to face the airships. Lia would take care of the gaang. The leading airship came into view, with a very familiar figure standing on it.

“What are you doing here?” Zuko called coldly. Azula gave him a half-crazed smile.

“You mean it’s not obvious yet? I’m about to celebrate becoming an only child!” Using the railing as leverage she sent fire through her feet. Zuko ran ahead, avoiding the deadly flames. The courtyard was slowly but steadily falling apart under his feet. He jumped towards the airship, sending a few fireballs towards Azula while at it. The princess jumped from the observation tower where she was perched before it was destroyed. She watched as her brother started falling, not having enough momentum to reach the airship safely.
Inside the still somewhat protected part of the courtyard Aang was facing a few difficulties.

“I can’t get him to go in there. Appa hates tunnels,” he grumbled to the others.

“Aang, there’s no way we can fly out of here,” Katara answered sternly.

“We’ll have to find a way,” Aang insisted. Sokka turned to the others.

“We need to split up. Take the tunnel and get to the stolen airship,” he told them. Katara’s eyes widened.

“No,” she exclaimed, “the Fire Nation can’t separate our family again.”

“It’ll be okay, it’s not forever.” Hakoda embraced his daughter and then his son before they rushed back to the Avatar’s side. Suki and Lia climbed to the saddle after them and Toph knelt to the ground, concentrating on its structure.

“I can clear that away and we can fly out through there,” she told Aang before jumping to the saddle herself.

“Umm, there’s an awful lot of fire in that general direction,” Suki said nervously, scooting closer to Sokka.

“We’ll get through,” Aang said resolutely. “Let’s go.”
Toph held the earth wall in front of them for the first few moments after they rushed out of the courtyard before letting the barrier fall. Azula turned to firebend at them but stopped when a chill ran down her spine. On the airship behind her stood Zuko, a resolute expression on his face. He took off running again and this time he managed to land on his sister’s airship. Azula did not hesitate to send her fire at him but Zuko blocked each attack and rushed forward with his own.

 

Behind them Appa was flying, trying to avoid the blasts from the airships. Katara was standing at the saddle, bending her water in the form of a shield, protecting the rest of the gang. Lia was flying next to Appa, blocking as many blasts as she could, while Aang struggled to keep the bison under control.

 

Back on the airship Zuko and Azula attacked simultaneously. The explosion sent them both off the airship and into the air as gravity kicked in. Appa rushed forward and Katara stood hurriedly, catching Zuko by the wrist and pulling him on the saddle, hugging him close. Lia landed next to them, quickly checking her brother for any burns. Zuko turned to watch Azula as she continued falling.

“She’s not going to make it,” he said in disbelief. His little sister, the one that had tormented him for so long, was going to fall to her death. Azula seemed to have other plans. Ripping the hairpiece that held her bun she propelled herself to the wall of the cliff and managed to stop her fall. “Of course she did,” Zuko sighed as they flew away.

They landed on a small deserted island near the mainland of the Fire Nation. The entire gang was gathered around the fire, sharing dinner.

“Wow, camping. It really seems like old times again, doesn’t it?” Aang laughed. Zuko rolled his eyes.

“If you really want to feel like old times, I could, uhh… chase you around a while and try to capture you.” Everyone but Katara laughed at that. After the morning’s excitement had died down the waterbender had been distant, ignoring the others and remaining deep in her thoughts. Zuko gave her a questioning look which she missed as she was staring at the fire. Sokka raised his cup.

“To Zuko. Who knew after all those times he tried to snuff us out, today, he’d be our hero.” Everyone but Katara rose their cups cheerfully, toasting at the prince.

“I’m touched. I don’t deserve this,” Zuko said, blushing a little.

“Nonsense!” Lia said in a sisterly bossing way. Katara suddenly rose to her feet and stalked away from the fire.

“What’s with her?” Sokka asked confused.

“I wish I knew,” Zuko sighed and stood as well to follow the girl. Sokka watched him even more confused.

“What’s with him?” he asked no one in particular.
Zuko found Katara by the beach, watching the nearly full moon. She started when she felt him near her but instead of going to him she hugged herself and stared stubbornly ahead. Zuko stopped behind her, close enough for the waterbender to feel his warmth but not quite touching her.

“What’s wrong?” he asked her softly.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Katara said, without turning to look at him. Zuko sighed and turned to leave.

“When you want to, please come. I’ll be waiting for you,” he said, a little hurt, and began to walk away. Katara turned sharply, suddenly regretting pushing him away. Reaching out she took his hand.

“Wait,” she said softly. Zuko turned to look at her. “I’m sorry,” she continued. “It’s just that… today was the anniversary of the day I lost my mother.” At the first sign of tears she turned from him and he embraced her from behind.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “If there is anything I can do…” he trailed as she shook her head.

“Just hold me.”

 

Zuko did so until she fell asleep and then he placed her softly inside her tent, before marching up to Sokka’s. Before he had a chance to get in someone bumped to him.

“Opps, wrong tent,” Suki said blushing.

“Sorry. Do you need to talk to Sokka too?” Zuko asked her tiredly. It had been a long day and it would only get longer.

“Nope.” Suki turned even redder. “Not me.” Rolling his eyes Zuko moved inside. And his jaw promptly hit the floor.

 

Sokka had lighted candles and was lying on his sleeping mat. Hearing someone entering he turned, a rose in his mouth.

“Well, hellooo…” he trailed off noticing who it was that entered the tent. He swallowed the flower and choked on it. Zuko hit him in the back wordlessly. “Uh, Zuko. Yes, why would I be expecting any one different?” he pulled himself together and sat opposite of his friend. “So what’s on your mind?”

“Your sister,” Zuko answered immediately, ignoring the way Sokka’s expression darkened. “She’s been a wreck all day and it has something to do with your mother. I know this may seem out of nowhere, but I want you to tell me what happened to her.” Sokka looked to the side.

“It’s not a day I like to remember,” he said grimly. “Many of the warriors have seen the black snow before and they knew what it meant. A Fire Nation raid. We were badly outnumbered. But somehow, we managed to drive them off. As quickly as they came, they just left. I was so relieved when it was over but, that’s because I didn’t know yet what have happened. I didn’t know we lost our mother.”

“Wait. Can you remember any details about the soldiers who raided your village? Like, what the lead ship looked like?”

“Yeah…” Sokka said slowly. “Sea Ravens. The main ship had flags with sea ravens on them.” Zuko nodded.

“The symbol of the Southern Raiders. Thanks, Sokka.”

“No problem! Thanks for stopping by.” Sokka shoved him out and sighed. “Thought he’d never leave.” He eagerly popped his head out. “Suki!’ he called quietly. Then he noticed Zuko still standing outside the tent. Sokka started whistling innocently as the older boy walked off shaking his head.

 

The next morning a surprise awaited Katara when she came out of her tent, not quite remembering how she had ended up there. Zuko was sitting on a rock in front of her, looking ready to fall asleep.

“You look terrible,” she told him concerned.

“I waited out here all night,” he explained rubbing his eyes.

“You should have come in,” Katara said lightly, even as blush dusted her cheeks, reaching to take her comb from her bag.

“I didn’t want to disturb you,” Zuko explained. “I talked with Sokka. I know who killed your mother. I’m going to help you find him.” Katara spun around and stared at him in shock before her eyes narrowed in determination.

 

They hurriedly packed a few things in their bags and walked up to where Aang was feeding his bison.

“I need to borrow Appa,” Katara said curtly. Aang took a look at them and chuckled.

“Why? Is it your turn to take a little fieldtrip with Zuko?” he asked. Neither of the older teens seemed to appreciate the joke.

“Yes, it is,” the waterbender said. Aang looked surprised at the seriousness.

“Oh,” he said. “What’s going on?”

“We’re going to find the man who took my mother from me.” None of them noticed Sokka and Lia walking up to see what they were talking about.

“Sokka told me the story of what happened. I know who did it. And I know how to find him,” they heard Zuko explain. Sokka’s eyes widened in alarm.

“Umm… and what exactly do you think this would accomplish?” Aang asked. Katara scoffed.

“I knew you wouldn’t understand.” She turned away, only to come face to face with her brother.

“Wait, stop, I do understand. You’re feeling unbelievable pain and rage. How do you think I felt about the sandbenders when they stole Appa? How do you think I felt about the Fire Nation when I found out what happened to my people?” Aang said hurriedly. He didn’t like seeing the usually cheerful waterbender like that. Zuko walked up next to Katara.

“She needs this Aang,” he tried to explain to the monk. “This is about getting closure and justice.” Aang shook his head and frowned.

“I don’t think so. I think it’s about getting revenge.”

“Fine!” Katara exclaimed frustrated. “Maybe it is. Maybe that’s what I need.” She lowered her voice. “Maybe that’s what he deserves.”

“Katara, you sound like Jet,” Aang said disapprovingly. The waterbender turned to face him angrily.

“It’s not the same,” she said. “Jet attacked the innocent. This man, he’s a monster!” Sokka walked up hesitantly.

“Katara, she was my mother too. But I think Aang might be right,” he said.

“Then you didn’t love her the way I did,” his sister snapped, ignoring his hurt look.

“The monks used to say that revenge is like a two-headed ratviper,” Aang said grimly. “While you watch your enemy go down, you’re being poisoned yourself.” Lia rolled her eyes.

“Perhaps, in theory. But this is the real world and some things cannot be laid to rest so simply.”

“Now that I know he’s out there, now that I know we could find him, I feel like I have no choice,” Katara insisted.

“Katara, you do have a choice. Forgiveness,” Aang pleaded.

“That’s the same as doing nothing,” Zuko scoffed. Aang shook his head.

“No it’s not. It’s easy to do nothing. But it’s hard to forgive.”

“It’s not just hard, it’s impossible,” Katara said darkly before walking away. Zuko and Lia followed her immediately, the Spirit blatantly ignoring the reproachful look from Aang.

 

Needless to say that neither Katara nor Zuko changed their minds. Late that night they dressed in dark clothes and sneaked out to Appa. They had nearly finished loading their bags when Aang and Sokka appeared from behind a rock.

“So you were just going to take Appa anyway?” Aang asked annoyed.

“Yes,” the waterbender answered curtly. Aang sighed.

“It’s okay, because I forgive you.” He smiled hopefully. “That give you any ideas?”

“Don’t try to stop us,” Katara insisted.

“I wasn’t planning to,” the airbender said seriously. “This is a journey you need to take. You need to face this man.” Katara smiled lightly and turned to climb on Appa. “But when you do, please don’t choose revenge. Let your anger out and then let it go. Forgive him.” Zuko rolled his eyes as he climbed to the saddle.

“Okay, we’ll be sure to do that guru-goody-goody,” he muttered through his teeth. Katara offered another soft smile to the Avatar.

“Thanks for understanding Aang,” she said before they took off.

 

“You know,” Sokka spoke for the first time, “you’re pretty wise for a kid.”

“Thanks Sokka,” Aang said surprised.

“Usually it’s annoying but right now, I’m just impressed.”

“I appreciate that.” Aang narrowed his eyes, not sure if that was a compliment or not.
“So… can I borrow Momo for a week?” Sokka asked suddenly. Aang looked at him alarmed.

“Why do you need Momo?” he asked surprised, to receive only a shrug as an answer.

 

Zuko had taken over steering Appa with Katara sitting tensely next to him.

“We need to find the Fire Navy communication tower,” he explained to her. “All the navy’s movements are coordinated by messenger hawk. And every tower has to be up to date on where everyone is deployed.”

“So once we find the communication tower, we bust in and take the information we need,” Katara summarized. Zuko shook his head.

“Not exactly. We need to be stealthy and make sure no one spots us. Otherwise, they’ll warn the Southern Raiders. Long before we reach them.”

 

Warning or no warning Katara moved silently next to her boyfriend, melding with the shadows, drawing from her days as the Painted Lady. They sneaked inside the tower through the ventilation system and crawled to where the archives were. A guard was sitting on a table there, painting a map. Katara silently bended the ink, making its bottle topple over the guard’s hands. She sighed in annoyance and went to clean up, not noticing the two shadows that jumped inside the room.

“Okay, Southern Raiders…” Zuko muttered as he went through some files. He pulled out a map. “There.” He pointed at a small insignia. “On patrol near Whale Tail Island.”

“Whale Tail Island, here we come,” Katara said, rushing back to their way out.

 

Zuko looked at her in worry as she took the reins once again. She had not slept the previous night and dark rings were beginning to appear under her eyes.

“You should get some rest. We’ll be there in a few hours. You’ll need all your strength,” he told her softly as he took a seat next to her and gently pried the reigns from her hands.

“Now, don’t you worry about my strength. I have plenty,” the waterbender said grimly. “I’m not the helpless little girl I was when they came.” She closed her eyes for a moment, reliving the day of the raid. “I ran as fast as I could to get help. But, we were too late. When we got there, the man was gone. And so was she.” Her voice broke a little. Zuko embraced her tightly.

“Your mother was a brave woman,” he said quietly, biting back the tears that threatened to escape. Katara clutched her necklace.

“I know.”

 

Zuko might hate to see her upset but at least now she had agreed to catch up on her sleep. He had taken over steering when a fleet appeared on the horizon. He shook Katara and when she opened her eyes, he gave her the telescope and pointed out.

“There! See those Sea Raven flags? It’s the Southern Raiders,” he explained. Katara looked at him determined.

“Let’s do this.”
Repeating the trick she had used during the invasion, Katara made an air bubble around Appa’s head and they dived underwater. Her eyes narrowed in concentration, she made them come out of the water near the flagship, following an enormous wave that knocked everyone off deck. Zuko took the lead while they navigated through the corridor, looking for the captain’s cabin and knocking guards out with his swords. They finally arrived at their destination.

“This is it, Katara. Are you ready to face him?” he asked taking a step back. Katara stood in front of him wordlessly, pulled down her mask and blasted the door off its hinges with her water. The captain turned at their less-than-subtle entrance and immediately attacked them. Zuko pushed himself in front of Katara, blocking the fireball and sending one back to the captain.

“Who are you?” he asked alarmed. Zuko’s eyes narrowed in anger.

“You don’t remember her?” he spat, stealing a glance to the glowering Katara. “You will soon. Trust me.” He firebended again and his opponent blocked but as he tried to move to attack again, he found himself not being able to move.

 

Zuko’s head snapped towards Katara and his eyes widened in horror. He had noticed the full moon outside, but he didn’t think she would go as far as bloodbending to punish the man. Biting his lips he turned back at the captain. This was her fight.

“Think back. Think back to your last raid on the Southern Water Tribe,” he ordered him.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please, I don’t know!” the man begged horrified. Zuko grew angry.

“Don’t lie! You look her in the eye and you tell me you don’t remember what you did.” Katara forced him to sit up, starring hatefully at his eyes. A flash of shock passed through her body and she let him go.

“It’s not him,” she said backing away. “He’s not the man.”

“What?! What do you mean he’s not? He’s a leader of the Southern Raiders! He has to be the guy!” Zuko asked incredulously. The waterbender turned away in disappointment but he wasn’t ready to give up yet. He grabbed the captain and pinned him to the wall. “If you’re not the man we’re looking for, who is?” he demanded.

“You must be looking for Yon Rha. He retired four years ago,” the terrified man barely had time to explain before he was knocked out.

 

A quick look through some of the papers Zuko had “borrowed” revealed where Yon Rha was living now. Zuko was giving worried glances to Katara during the entire journey. The closer they got to her mother’s murderer, the colder she became, the kindness and compassion that she usually exuded completely gone. As they sneaked around at the village they noticed an old man walking away, looking nervously around him.

“That was him. That was the monster,” Katara hissed as soon as she saw his eyes.

 

The two of them prepared a quick booby trap noticing absently that it began to rain. Yon Rha seemed to have sensed that someone was watching him because suddenly he firebended at a random direction.

“Nobody sneaks up on me without being burned,” he yelled with a hint of nervousness in his voice. As he turned to walk away he tripped right over the booby trap. A blast of fire made him freeze before he even had a chance to move.

“We weren’t behind the bush,” Zuko said calmly and took another step towards the cowering man. “And I wouldn’t try firebending again.”

“Whoever you are, take my money. Take whatever you want, I’ll cooperate,” Yon Rha said frightened. Katara walked up and pulled her mask down.

“Do you know who I am?” she demanded coldly.

“No, I’m not sure,” Yon Rha said hesitantly.

“Oh you better remember me like your life depends on it! Why don’t you take a closer look?” she yelled.  Yon Rha’s eyes widened in realisation.

“Yes, yes. I remember you now. You’re the little Water Tribe girl.” His mind flashed back to that day. “The daughter of the waterbender I killed.” Katara’s eyes narrowed and she bit her lips in an effort to calm down.

“She lied to you,” she said brokenly. “She was protecting the last waterbender.”

“What? Who?” he asked surprised. Katara’s eyes snapped in fury.

“ME!” she yelled.

 

She raised her hands and the rain stood still. The raindrops formed a dome around them. Yon Rha looked around him horrified as Katara formed icicles and with a yell threw them at his direction. The old firebender cowered, closing his eyes and waiting for the end to come. When nothing happened he opened his eyes hesitantly. The icicles were still hovering near him but Katara had held back. Wordlessly she released her hold on the water.

“I did a bad thing. I know I did and you deserve revenge. So why don’t you take my mother? That would be fair,” Yon Rha blurted out, a tone of hopefulness in his voice that made both teens want to puke.

“I always wondered what kind of person could do such a thing. But now that I see you, I think I understand. There’s just nothing inside you. Nothing at all. You’re pathetic and sad and empty,” Katara said disgusted.

“Please spare me,” Yon Rha sobbed, still fearing for his life.
“But as much as I hate you…” her voice broke. “I just can’t do it.”

 

She turned to walk away and Yon Rha looked up with a slight smile of relief that was wiped away when he noticed the glare Zuko was giving him. The prince walked away too, leaving the man weeping in relief. On the ride back Zuko wordlessly changed directions. Katara didn’t look up from where she was sitting on the saddle until she felt them landing. Looking around disinterestedly at first, her eyes widened in shock.

“Where are we?” she asked surprised as she joined Zuko on the ground. They had arrived at an abandoned beach house.

“It’s my family’s summer house. It’s closer to the capital than our campsite and we’ll be more comfortable here,” he explained, wrapping an arm around her waist.

“But is it safe?” Katara insisted. Zuko simply nodded and looked at her worried.

“Will you be okay on your own?” he asked worried. “I need to go pick up the others and you’re too tired to come with me.”

“Are you afraid of me?” Katara asked hesitantly. Zuko shook his head, understanding what she was talking about.

“You were angry and hurt. It’s natural to lose control,” he said calmly. “But I won’t tell the others,” he added reassuringly. With a light kiss on the lips he walked back to Appa and turned to look at her. Katara managed a small smile before the bison took off.

 

By sunset the others had arrived. While Lia and Suki were busy trying to bring the house in some semblance of order –Sokka and Toph having conveniently disappeared–, Aang and Zuko went to find the waterbender. She was sitting at the small dock that was on the side of the house’s private beach.

“Katara!” Aang called from behind. “Are you okay?” he asked awkwardly.

“I’m doing fine.” The waterbender didn’t bother to turn.

“Zuko told me what you did. Or… what you didn’t do, I guess. I’m proud of you,” Aang continued with a smile. Katara turned to glare at him.

“I wanted to do it. I wanted to take out all my anger at him but, I couldn’t.” She turned to look at the ocean again. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m too weak to do it or if it’s because I’m strong enough not to.”

“You did the right thing,” Aang insisted. “Forgiveness is the first step you have to take to begin healing.” Katara stood up and looked at him angrily.

“I didn’t forgive him. I’ll never forgive him.” Her face softened as she walked up to Zuko. “But I am ready to move on.” She threw herself in his arms, kissing him lightly before she walked back to the house.

“You were right about what Katara needed. Violence wasn’t the answer,” Zuko said softly.

“It never is,” Aang answered simply. Zuko turned to look at him with a grim look.

“Then I have a question for you. What are you going to do when you face my father?”

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – Daddy’s Little Girl

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Author’s note: In which nothing much happens but the author needed a break from all the emotional and action-packed scenes.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***Daddy’s Little Girl***

-Lia’s dream-

Fire and lightning were raining from the sky as two armies clashed. Lia could only watch from afar as lighting tore through the air towards her dream-self, when a man jumped in front of her, taking the hit. She fell on her knees next to him, heedless of the fighting that still raged around them.

“Not you too!” she sobbed as she turned him around so she could see his face…

-End of dream-

 

Lia’s eyes snapped open, tearing her from the dream she could not remember anymore. Raising a hand she absently noted that she was still crying. Burying her face into the pillow she closed her eyes and continued sobbing over the feeling of loss that she could not understand.

 

Taking Lia’s advice, Hakoda made sure to be the first to wake up. The previous night he had watched over his daughter and the prince, but they had just seemed friendly to him. There was hardly any indication of their affection, and Katara always made sure that everyone was asleep before sneaking to Zuko’s room, so Hakoda was still reluctant to believe his son. Nevertheless he made sure to be the first at the courtyard-turned-kitchen, hiding behind a pillar to wait for the children to wake up.

 

The sun had just risen when Zuko walked in. He quickly lighted the fire and started preparing breakfast. Once everything was going Katara walked in. Hakoda watched as she knelt next to the young man, kissing him lightly on the cheek. Suddenly Sokka’s words sounded much more reasonable. Zuko looked at her with a light smile.

“You prepared breakfast?” she whispered spying the pot that was sitting on the fire.

“I told you I’d help out,” he answered smiling. “You want me to wake everyone?” he asked. Katara nodded no.

“They’ll wake up soon enough.” The two teens ate breakfast, enjoying the silence.

 

Soon everyone was walking up to the courtyard. Hakoda was among the first to come by the fire. There was no point in hiding. Amazingly, Lia was the last to wake up. Usually she would be an early-riser, going around cheerfully from sunrise to sundown. Today though, she looked around hostilely as if daring anyone to talk to her. Zuko wondered if it had to do with the fact that she had sported Mai’s appearance for so long the previous day.

“What do you usually do here?” Suki asked curiously.

“Practice,” Katara said. “Toph, Zuko and I take turns with Aang. And every afternoon we spar.”

“Now that you’re here, I can get some actual practice too!” Sokka told his girlfriend excited. Suki smiled at the challenge.

“I’m taking Twinkle-Toes for today,” Toph announced.

“He needs to practice his firebending too,” Zuko reminded her.

“Not today,” Lia said suddenly. She was still glaring at the fire. “You’re having a lesson with me today.” Zuko looked at her worried. He hadn’t seen her moody like this before. It made him feel uneasy.

 

They walked up to one of the furthest courtyards of the Temple, where no one would be around to see them. Lia came to stand rigidly in front of her student, who was watching her nervously.

“I believe it’s time you tried lightning again,” she said simply. Zuko gaped at her.

“Are you sure?” he asked nervously. He could remember all too clearly what had happened the last time he had tried that technique. Lia nodded.

“You are much more mature than you were back then,” she explained. “I’m not saying you’ll master it from the first try, but at least we’ll know where you stand.” She motioned for him to turn and face the cliff. “Take your time,” she said softly. “There is no need to push yourself with this one.”

 

Zuko closed his eyes and concentrated. Feeling the energy flowing through him he slowly repeated the movement, without daring to open his eyes. A low rumble rewarded him. Zuko opened his eyes in disbelief to see a small smoking spot on the other side of the cliff.

“I did it?” he asked incredulously. Lia smiled and nodded.

“You did.” She watched as the boy sat down and wiped the sweat off his brow. “Take a break,” she told him. “Separating the energies can be strenuous the first few times.” Zuko didn’t need further encouragement. He plopped to the ground and turned to look at the Spirit who was still standing away.

“What is it with you today?” he asked her with a frown. “You’re never this moody.” Lia sighed.

“Nightmares,” she explained. “They’ve been more frequent lately and the worse thing is that I cannot remember what they are about. Only that they are bad enough to have me crying in my sleep.” She threw herself to the ground, next to Zuko and huffed. “It’s really annoying.” Then she turned to her brother with an apologetic smile. “Sorry I made you worry. I’m okay now.” Zuko gave her a suspicious look but let it slide, choosing instead to continue practicing his lightning.
Later that day, and after he had got lost a few times, Hakoda finally found the “arena” (which in reality was just a big, flat surface). He had expected to find everyone there, but he saw only Sokka, Zuko and Aang.

“Where are Katara and the other girls?” he asked surprised. Sokka just shrugged.

“Gone to get ready,” he said exasperated.

“We’re here,” Suki’s voice was heard. She and Toph were still in their previous clothes. Lia was wearing tight pants and a tank top on various shades of red and Katara was on her usual white training outfit. Hakoda frowned as he realized that the boys were also dressed lighter.

“Okay…”Lia began rubbing her hands together. Her mood had lightened significantly after witnessing Zuko’s growing familiarity with handling lightning.

“Wait!” Hakoda stopped her, looking sternly at his daughter. “You’re not going to practice like this?” Katara looked at him questioningly.

“Why not?” she asked confused. “I always do so.” Her father looked at her helplessly. How could he explain to her that he didn’t want her to go around like this on the chance Sokka was right? He couldn’t of course.

“It’s not proper,” he tried, with all the ease of a father just realizing his daughter had reached her teenage years.

“Nonsense!” Lia exclaimed. “It’s practical and that is what counts. So let’s just get over with it and started.” She sent an annoyed look at the Water Tribe chief. “It’s everybody against everybody.”

 

Everybody against everybody was an understatement. Within minutes everyone was ganging up on Aang, much to the airbender’s annoyance.

“It’s not fair!” he said dodging a boulder and a firewhip at the same time. “What are the odds of being attacked by both earth and firebenders at the same time?”

“Two words Aang,” Lia said as she pulled back to avoid a redirected waterwhip, “Dai Li.”

“She’s got a point there Twinkle-Toes,” Toph called, before surprising everyone and turning against the Spirit. Lia jumped out of the way unfazed and sent a series of blasts to the earthbender. Zuko and Katara were fighting a little further away; content to perfectly block each other’s moves as did Sokka and Suki. Everyone stopped when the sun began to come close to the horizon, taking a break before dinner.

 

The teens had all gone on their own business afterwards, leaving Hakoda once again wandering on his own. When they had been preparing for the invasion, he had been so happy to have his children near him; he hadn’t paid attention to how much they had changed. Now he felt as if reality had slapped him across the face. Even from a simple practice it was obvious that both his son and daughter, but their friends too, were much more experienced in combat than what he had witnessed during the invasion suggested. They did not need his protection anymore. Also, much to his displeasure, his children didn’t consider it necessary to listen to him. Hakoda was willing to understand them, after all they had grown up on their own, but his father’s frame of mind refused to believe that his baby daughter was old enough to have a boyfriend.

 

He was so absorbed by his musings that he didn’t realize he had reached a small garden, at the lowest parts of the Temple. He stopped dead on his tracks when he heard a giggle. He quickly hid behind a pillar, half-expecting to see the girls of the team sitting together, talking. He had recognized his daughter’s laugh. Instead he saw Katara laughing softly as she leaned her back on Zuko’s chest. The prince was whispering something in her ear that made her giggle again. Hakoda felt his stomach tighten as Katara turned to face the young man that was, quite obviously now, her boyfriend. They were standing far too close for his liking, a feeling that only strengthened as the two teens shared kiss after kiss.

 

When Katara had been born, Hakoda had decided to be reasonable, and when the time came for his daughter to fall in love, he wouldn’t react like all those over-protective fathers (his own father-in-law being foremost in his mind).  He would watch his daughter closely of course, so that he would be the first to understand it when this happened. Then why, he wondered as he left the garden unnoticed, had it taken him spying on her making out with Zuko to understand that his baby girl had grown up?

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Boiling Rock (Part II)

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Author’s note: In which there is an actual, decent plan for a change, planned reunions and veiled deaths threats.

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***The Boiling Rock (Part II)***

The prisoners had been lined up at the courtyard by the time Sokka squeezed his way to the front lines of the guards, trying to steady his breath from having run the whole way. Suki and Zuko had left to sneak back to their cells. The warden was marching in front of the new-arrivals.

“Welcome to the Boiling Rock. I’m sure you’ve all heard the horrible rumours about our little island. Well I just want to tell you that they don’t have to be true. As long as you do everything I say.” He stopped in front of Hakoda who had been looking at the ground the whole time. “Look me in the eye when I’m talking to you.” The man looked at the side.

“No,” he said simply. The warden’s face turned red in anger.

“Oh, you’d rather look at my shoes‌? Then take a look!” he caught with his boot the chain connecting Hakoda’s shackles and forced him to the ground. “I know exactly who you are, Hakoda of the Water Tribe. So strong-willed. But don’t worry, we’ll get rid of that in time. Now look me in the eye.” Sokka felt as if Katara’s waterwhip had punched him in the gut as his father looked up slowly. “See‌? Isn’t that better? You will all do as I say or pay the price.” He turned to address the rest of the prisoners. “You will all…” his words where cut when Hakoda moved his hand, causing him to trip on the chain. Much to Sokka’s amusement the arrogant Fire Nation man fell flat on his face.

As the prisoners were led inside the building Sokka crept at the shadows, following his father and then waiting until all the guards left the corridor. Opening the door hastily, and once again forgetting to take off his helmet, he turned to Hakoda.

“Thank goodness you’re okay!” he said cheerfully. Hakoda leapt to his feet and thrust a fist into the “guard’s” face.

“If you take one step closer you’ll see just how okay I am,” he said threateningly. Sokka lifted his visor hastily. “Dad, it’s me!” Hakoda’s eyes widened.

“Sokka, my son!” He rushed forward to hug the boy. As they parted he smiled. “You know Sokka, you should be more careful with that guard outfit on. I almost punched you in the gut.”

“Yeah,” Sokka said sheepishly. “I ran into that problem earlier.” He turned hastily to check the corridor before slumping to the ground next to his father.

“So where’s Bato‌?” he asked. “Where’s everyone else from the invasion‌?”

“The others are being held at a prison near the Fire Nation palace. They singled me out as their leader and sent me here.” Hakoda gave his son a wry look. “But before I left I met some young women who said they knew you. The Yoshinama Fighters‌?”

“You mean the Kyoshi Warriors‌?” Sokka asked confused.

“That’s right,” the chief said.

“Their leader Suki is here and she’s gonna escape with us,” Sokka explained.

“Good, we’ll need all the help we can get.”

Sokka wondered whether now might be a good time to break some more news to his father. It wasn’t easy, but it would be better for him to know in advance, instead of walking in to his daughter kissing the Fire Nation prince…

“And you remember Zuko?” he asked hesitantly.

“Of course!” his father replied surprised. “I hope he caught up with you.” Sokka nodded.

“He did. And he’s here with me now. I wouldn’t have found you if it wasn’t for him.”

“That’s good,” Hakoda said, remembering the young man fighting.

“And dad…” Sokka tried again. “I don’t know how to break this to you, but he and Katara…” he took a deep breath, “they’re together.” Hakoda looked at his son blankly for a moment and then it sank in.

“WHAT?” he asked, refusing to believe Sokka.

“I know,” Sokka shrugged. “I had the same reaction.”

 

It took a few minutes for Hakoda to calm down and return to the matter at hand.

“So, do you have a plan‌?” he asked his son expectantly.

“We had one,” Sokka said regrettably, “but some of the other prisoners got involved and ruined it. I don’t know if there’s another way off this island.” Hakoda patted his son’s shoulder.

“Sokka, there’s no prison in the world that can hold two Water Tribe geniuses.” Sokka looked down dejectedly.

“Then we’d better find two,” he muttered. Hakoda burst out laughing.
Sokka’s next stop was at Zuko’s cell.

“Zuko, are you there‌?” he called silently.

“I’m here,” came the whispered reply.

“I just got done talking to my dad. We came up with an escape plan together,” Sokka explained.

“What are you doing here?” a voice came from the corridor. Sokka jumped to see two guards standing suspiciously behind him.
“I was just telling this dirty lowlife what I think of him!” he stammered hastily.

“Well, you’ll have to do that later, he’s coming with us,” the guard said impatiently. Sokka looked at them and back at the door.

“Why?” he asked confused.
“Because we have orders straight from the warden. That’s why,” the other guard said.

“Could I just get ten more seconds to rough him up a bit‌?” Sokka asked, with a little whine in his voice.

“Fine, ten seconds,” the guard agreed, rolling her eyes.
Sokka rushed inside and grabbed the mattress, hastily passing it to Zuko. As soon as the prince was holding it, giving Sokka a clueless look in the process, Sokka started punching.

“Take that! And this!” he yelled. Catching on Zuko made a few pained sounds. “We have a new plan but it’s gonna need a big distraction. Be in the yard in one hour,” he explained in a quieter voice. Hearing the door opening he grabbed his friend and put him on a chokehold.

“Alright, that’s enough,” the guard said.

 

The two guards dragged Zuko to a room a few levels higher wordlessly.

“What are you doing‌? Where are you taking me‌?” the boy asked confused. They couldn’t have known of his plotting with Sokka. Without answering his questions, the guards threw him inside the room.

“I didn’t do anything wrong!” he called after them annoyed.

“Come on Zuko,” a cold, emotionless voice was heard behind him. “We all know that’s a lie.” Zuko spun to meet the source of the voice, eyes zeroing to a tall, pale girl with an annoyed expression. His eyes widened. “Mai?” he asked incredulous. “How did you know I was here?” The girl rolled her eyes.

“Because I know you so well?” she asked sarcastically. At Zuko’s clueless look she reached at her dress and took out a familiar pendant. “Surprised to see me little brother?” she said, her voice changing to the livelier tones Lia used. She pulled out a paper and began reading in an annoyed voice. “Need meat. Gone fishing.” She looked up at the sheepish boy. “Seriously Zuko? Where’s the other idiot?”

“Sokka’s still posing as a guard,” Zuko said, knowing better than argue with her characterisations. “Would you rather have him come here alone?”

“Why are you two here anyway?” Lia asked crossing her arms.

“Suki and chief Hakoda are here,” her brother explained simply. A look of understanding flashed through his sister’s eyes.

 

Suki hadn’t been sitting idle in her cell. She had finished practicing her high kicks when the door opened to reveal a grinning Sokka.

“Sokka, what’s going on?” she asked startled.

“I don’t have much time,” he said checking the door for any guards. “If I’m seen with you the guards might think something’s up. I just talked to my dad.”

“That’s great!” Suki said smiling.

“Yeah and we’re escaping today. On the gondola.” Suki gave him a confused look.

“What?” she asked.

“My dad and I came up with a plan together. We’re gonna commandeer the gondola and we’re gonna take a hostage with us so they won’t cut the lines.” Suki shook her head.

“We’ll never make it onto the gondola. There’s too many guards.”
“My dad already thought of that. He said we’ll need a distraction. That’s why we’re gonna start a prison riot.”
“Okay. Let’s say by some miracle this all works and we make it on the gondola. The warden will still just cut the lines, even if we have a captive.” Sokka gave her a mischievous smile.

“Not if the warden is the captive,” he said triumphantly. A noise was heard at the end of the corridor. “I have to go. I’ll find you before we start the riot.”
Before he had a chance to sneak away the two guards from earlier caught up with him.

“Hey you!” one of them called. “The warden wants to see you!”

“Why?” Sokka asked innocently.

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”

“Maybe I could schedule another time with him‌? How’s tomorrow‌?” Sokka tried to walk away but two heavy sets of arms stopped him.

“He wants to see you, now,” the guard stressed, pushing him to the right direction.
The warden looked at them when they came out to the courtyard.

“Put him in the line-up,” he ordered coldly before turning to face everyone. “One of you is an imposter who thought he could fool me. But now that person is going to be in a lot of trouble. Who is it‌?” he asked as Chit Sang was brought forward. Sokka paled. Now he was truly doomed.

“That’s him, warden.” Chit Sang said, pointing at another guard. “He’s the imposter.”

“What!” the man said outraged. “I am not. He’s lying! He’s a liar!” No one paid him any attention, least of all Sokka who was busy calming his heart-rate down.
As soon as they were released he rushed to the control panel. To his relief only one person was there.

“Hey, I just got orders. Let the prisoners out into the yard,” he said officially.

“But we’re in the middle of lockdown,” The guard said suspiciously. Sokka shrugged.

“Oh, okay. I’ll just go tell the warden you said that. I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear about you undermining his authority.” He turned nonchalantly to the frightened man. “What’s your name again?”
“Wait!” the man called. “Don’t tell the warden, I… I’m just a little confused.”
“Hey, I’m confused too.” Sokka walked back at the man, talking as persuasively as he could. “But the warden’s in a bad mood and irrational. So if you ask me, it’s best not to question it and just do what he says.” The man nodded nervously.
“Yeah, you’re right.” He pulled down a few levers and door began to open. “We’re letting them out.”
Sokka met up with his father and Suki at the yard not long before it was filled with the prisoners.

“This is it. We have to start a riot,” he told them, trying to catch his breath. Suki looked at him confused.

“Okay, but how do we do that?” she asked. Hakoda took a look around, looking for inspiration and smiled at the teens.

“I’ll show you how,” he said and ran up to a burly man that was standing a little ways. He shoved him abruptly. The man turned hurt.

“Hey, why did you do that for? That hurt my feelings,” he said.

“Aren’t you mad at me‌?” Hakoda asked surprised. The prisoner shrugged.

“Uhh, well normally I would be, but I’ve been working to control my anger.”

“This isn’t working!” Sokka groaned when a heavy hand landed on her.

“Hey you!” Chit Sang told the startled boy. “You’re lucky I didn’t rat you out. But my generosity comes with a price. I know you’re planning another escape attempt and I want in.” Sokka sighed before looking up to the man.

“Actually, we’re trying to escape right now. But we need a riot. You wouldn’t happen to know how to start one would you‌?”

“A prison riot?” Chit Sang scoffed. “Please!” He walked up to where most of the prisoners had gathered. “Hey!” he called. “Riot!” In a second all hell broke loose. Hakoda, Sokka and Suki looked shocked.

“Impressive!” the chief muttered.
The sirens were deafening inside the building. Zuko and Lia were standing next to each other inside the cell waiting for a guard to appear.

“Ma’am,” one of them called, entering the cell, “there’s a riot going on. I’m here to protect you.” Lia, still in Mai’s form, turned annoyed.

“I don’t need any protection!” she snapped. Zuko chuckled.

“Believe me, she doesn’t.” Nevertheless the guard came closer.

“I’m sorry, but I’m under direct orders from your uncle to make sure nothing happens.” Twin fireblades met him.

“Like I said,” Lia said as they exited and locked the door, “I don’t need any protection.” She turned to Zuko. “I’ll take care of the guards, you find the others.” He nodded and ran.

 

Outside the chaos made him pause and stare. Just what exactly had Sokka done? A guard tried to grab a hold of him as he rushed towards his team. Zuko knocked him over without even bothering to turn.

“Zuko, good. We’re all here. Now all we need to do is grab the warden and get to the gondolas.” Sokka said satisfied.

“And how do we do that?” Zuko asked, only to receive a blank look.

“I’m not sure,” Sokka admitted.

“I thought you thought this through!” Zuko told him exasperated.

“I thought you told me it’s okay not to think everything through!”

“Maybe not everything. But this is kind of important.” Zuko glared at the sheepish boy.

“Hey, uhh, fellas. I think your girlfriend’s taking care of it,” Chit Sang broke the argument, his eyes trained on Suki.

 

The girl rushed to the wall and climbed up to the level where the warden was standing in outrage. A few firebending guards came up against her but she dodged them, throwing a few of them to the waiting prisoners. The warden tried to fight himself, but her speed was too much for him.

“You wouldn’t dare!” he managed to growl before she tied him up like salami.

“Sorry warden, you’re my prisoner now.” Suki greened cheekily and slammed the man to the wall. Hearing the others coming up the stairs, she turned her attention to them. “We’ve got the warden, now let’s get out of here.”

“That’s some girl!” Hakoda manage to say while trying to catch his breath.

“Tell me about it!” Sokka wheezed.

 

They rushed to the upper courtyard, where the gondolas where. Chit Sang had shouldered the warden and took great pleasure in bumping him against any wall corner or railing him could.

“We’re almost there!” Suki called from the front. A group of guards was positioned in front of the gondolas and they took their stances immediately.

“Back off, we’ve got the warden,” Zuko said calmly. The men loosened their stances uneasily. “Let’s go.” Without anyone lowering their guard, the group walked up to the gondola and rushed in. Zuko stayed last to start up the contraption. As soon as it was moving he started kicking the lever until it broke. Only then he rushed after the gondola. Sokka caught him mid-leap and pulled him inside.

“What are you doing‌?” he asked torn between annoyance and concern.

“I’m making it so they can’t stop us,” the prince explained.

“Way to think ahead,” Sokka said impressed.

“We’re on our way,” Suki said, her eyes trained to the other side. Hakoda looked back at the prison.

“Wait,” he said. “Who’s that?” Everyone turned to see two very familiar girls.

“That’s a problem,” Zuko said. “It’s my sister and her friend.”

 

Azula measured the distance between the place she was standing and the slowly moving gondola. Grabbing a pair of handcuffs from a nearby guard she propelled herself to the line and locked the handcuff there. Using twin jets of fire she stated moving towards the gondola, with Ty Lee following her. As they came closer, Suki’s eyes narrowed.

“This is a rematch I’ve been waiting for,” she said. Zuko nodded next to her.

“Me too.”
The three teens climbed at the roof of the gondola and turned to face their opponents, Zuko and Sokka against Azula and Suki against Ty Lee. Azula’s eyes narrowed in annoyance as she was forced to dodge both her brother’s fire and the Water Tribe boy’s sword, leaving her no time to land any strikes of her own. A quick glance behind them told her that Ty Lee wasn’t faring any better against the Kyoshi Warrior. She wondered briefly where Mai had disappeared to. She had gone to see her uncle when they had arrived and had yet to appear again.

 

With everyone on the gondola focused on the on-going battle, no one noticed that the warden had managed to loosen his bonds. The old man jumped to his feet and pulled the tie from his mouth. Leaning from a window he called back at the guards.

“Cut the line!” Chit Sang knocked him unconscious but it was too late.

“He wants us to cut the line,” a guard said in disbelief, lowering his binoculars.

“But if we cut the line, there’s no way he’ll survive.”

“He knows that,” their superior said grimly and ordered for the gondola line to be stopped.

 

The teens lost their balance as the vehicle wobbled in place and Sokka nearly fell off before Zuko caught him. Ty Lee looked back at the prison.

“They’re about to cut the line!” she called alarmed. Azula looked up and took notice of another gondola approaching from the opposite direction.

“Then it’s time to leave,” she said, jumping to it, followed by Ty Lee. “Goodbye Zuko,” she called over her shoulder. Zuko, Sokka and Suki jumped back inside the gondola.

“They’re cutting the line. The gondola’s about to go!” Zuko explained grimly.

“I hope this thing floats.” Hakoda looked around at the metal surrounding them. This wouldn’t be pretty.
The line was cut almost halfway through when a barrage of stilettos pinned the guards away from it.

“What are you doing?” one of them asked confused the pale girl that had suddenly appeared on the courtyard. A pair of ferocious eyes met him.

“Saving my brother,” Lia, still in Mai’s form, answered before launching a new wave of weapons to the rest of the guards. Before more of them had a chance to attack her she rushed to the machine controlling the line and with a sharp kick she made it start again.

 

Back on the gondola everyone stumbled – Suki fell conveniently into Sokka’s arms – as the gondola started moving again. The Water Tribe teen looked out of the window.

“Who is that?” he asked confused. Zuko rushed to the window too and his eyes widened in shock as the pendant hidden under his clothes heated up a little.

“It’s Lia,” he explained shocked. Azula was sharing his sentiments as she stared at the girl she thought her friend.

“What is she doing?” she asked furiously. Next to her Ty Lee just shrugged. She knew that this girl wasn’t their friend. Her aura was far too bright to be Mai or any other human as a matter of fact.

 

The gondola came into a halt on the edge of the crater and everyone rushed outside.

“Sorry warden, your record is officially broken,” Hakoda called smugly at the man that was still out cold inside the gondola.

“Well, we made it out. Now what‌?” Zuko asked. Sokka stopped to think and noticed Zuko still staring at the Boiling Rock.

“Zuko, what are you doing‌?” he asked.

“My sister was on that island,” was all the answer he got.

“Yeah and she’s probably right behind us. So let’s not stop.” Sokka tried to make him snap out of it. The prince shook his head.

“What I mean is she must have come here somehow,” he explained and rushed to the other side of the cliff. “There!” he said pointing at a zeppelin that was docked near the shore. “That’s our way out of here.”
Back at the courtyard Lia had stopped fighting as soon as the gondola had reached safety and was now calmly facing Azula. Ty Lee was standing on the side, her eyes moving from one girl to the other nervously.

“Leave us,” Azula ordered the guards coldly. They were happy to obey. The killing intent was literally radiating from the princess. “I never expected this from you,” she addressed “Mai”. “The thing I don’t understand is why‌? Why would you do it‌? You know the consequences.” A bitterly smiling Lia suddenly took the place of Mai as she stared at the shocked girl coldly.

“I guess you just don’t know people as well as you think you do. You miscalculated. I love my brother more than I fear you,” she hissed the last word, addressing the presence that lurked inside the princess. Azula’s eyes widened in fury.

“No, you miscalculated! You should have feared me more!” she moved to firebend but before she or Lia had a chance to do anything Ty Lee attacked. She hit her friend and watched as she fell to the ground paralysed before turning to Lia.

“Please don’t her hurt her, Spirit!” she pleaded, standing in front of the fallen girl. Lia’s expression was unreadable for a few moments before she bowed her head.

“She should be thankful to have a friend like you,” she said softly before disappearing.

 

Their return to the Western Air Temple was by no means short of drama. Aang and Katara had nearly torn the zeppelin apart with their bending, before they noticed Lia flying next to it. Zuko and Sokka were the first to walk out.

“What are you doing in this thing‌? What happened to the war balloon‌?” Katara asked the two boys confused.

“It kind of got destroyed,” Zuko explained sheepishly.

“Sounds like a crazy fishing trip,” Aang said smiling.

“Did you at least get some good meat‌?” Toph asked eagerly. She was by no means whatsoever passing one more day on a fruit diet.

“I did,” Sokka said. “The best meat of all. The meat of friendship and fatherhood.” Suki, Hakoda and Chit Sang walked out of the zeppelin as well.

“I’m new. What’s up everybody‌?” Chit Sang asked, waving. Katara’s eyes widened.

“Dad!” she ran to her father elated.

“Hi, Katara,” the man said softly as the girl threw herself at him. The waterbender turned to her brother.

“How are you here?‌ What is going on?‌ Where did you go‌?” she asked in pleasant confusion.

“We… kind of went to a Fire Nation prison,” Sokka explained. Both he and Zuko were immediately tackled by Katara in a hug. Then Toph decided to break the moment.

“Seriously, you guys didn’t find any meat‌?” she asked exasperated. Lia and Aang laughed at that before the Fire Spirit walked up to the Water Tribe chief.

“Give him a chance,” she told the man looking at the still embracing Zuko and Katara. “He makes her happy and he truly loves her.”

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Western Air Temple

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Author’s note: In which the setting comes full circle, Combustion Man makes one final appearance, Lia reminds everyone why she is the personification of fire and the author had way too much fun with the reunion scene.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Western Air Temple***

Losing a battle is bad. Losing a battle because of something as silly as poor time management is worse. Losing a battle because of bad time management and being forced to leave almost everyone important to you behind is even worse. All this happening to you and having to walk to your new hideout though certainly takes the cake. Katara suppressed a sigh as she looked around her at the group. Toph, Haru and Sokka were walking in front of her, while Aang, Teo and the Duke were behind her dragging their feet – or in Teo’s case wheels – tiredly.

“This is humiliating,” she whispered.

“Do you mean getting thoroughly spanked by the Fire Nation, or having to walk all the way to the Western Air Temple?” Sokka asked grumpily. His sister shrugged.

“Both.”

“Sorry guys, but Appa gets tired carrying all these people,” Aang said apologetically.

“I wonder how the rest of the troops are,” Teo said. Haru shrugged.

“They’re probably on their way to a prison. Seems like my dad just got out, now he’s going back in.”

“I miss Pipsqueak,” The Duke sniffed. The little guy might have been a Freedom Fighter but he was by far the youngest of the group.

“I miss not having blisters on my feet,” Sokka whined. Katara’s eyes narrowed and she was about to start yelling at him when Toph stopped dead.

“Hey, we’re here. I can feel it!” she exclaimed relieved. Anger forgotten, the waterbender raised an eyebrow.

“I think your feet need their eyes checked,” she said taking a look at the cliff they were at. It was a long way down. Aang shook his head.

“No,” he said, “she’s right, we are here.”

“Wow,” Toph whistled, taking in the enormous size of the temple, “it’s amazing!”

 

The Western Air Temple had been carved on the side of the cliff, keeping it almost completely concealed from the rest of the world. Gigantic statues and carvings decorated the place, making Toph wonder how much of it had been designed by earthbenders. They landed in a courtyard with an hour-glass shaped fountain. Teo, The Duke and Haru were looking around amazed. Sokka and Katara, not so much. This was the third air temple they visited, and although it was beautiful they were more used to places like this.

“It’s so different from the Northern Air Temple,” Teo said impressed. “I wonder if there are any secret rooms.” Haru followed the other boy up the stairs.

“Let’s go check it out,” he said eagerly. The Duke hurried after them enthusiastically. Aang made a move to go with them but Katara stopped him.

“You guys go…” she called at the boys. “I think we need to talk about some things.”

“Why can’t I go?” Aang complained.

“We need to decide what we’re gonna do now. And since you’re the Avatar, maybe you should be a part of this,” Katara explained seriously. The Avatar crossed his arms sulking.

“Fair enough. So, what’s the new plan?” he asked. The gang gathered, sitting or leaning against the columns and stone benches.

“Well, if you ask me, the new plan is the old plan. You just need to master all four elements, and confront the Fire Lord before the comet comes,” Sokka said with his inspirational smile. Aang rolled his eyes.

“Oh, yeah, that’s great. No problem, I’ll just do that.” He stood and started to walk away.

“Aang, no one said it was gonna be easy,” Katara called after him. He crossed his arms frustrated.

“Well, it’s not even gonna be possible. Where am I supposed to get a firebending teacher?” Everyone’s thoughts raced to Zuko. Katara had cried herself to sleep after they had left him behind. Lia might have stayed with him but the waterbender couldn’t help but worry that he had been caught. Pushing her thoughts forcefully aside she sighed.

“We could look for Jeong Jeong,” she offered.

“Yeah right,” Aang scoffed, “like we’ll ever run into Jeong Jeong again.”

“Who’s…” Toph asked confused but shrugged. “Oh, never mind. If it’s important, I’ll find out.” Aang jumped to his feet, a little satisfied with the dead-end they had drawn.

“Oh well, guess we can’t come up with anybody. Why don’t we just take a nice tour around the temple?” he said taking off with Momo.

“What’s with him?” Toph asked confused, staring where Aang had disappeared. Sokka leaned against the stone he had been sitting at.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this but I really wish Zuko was here. He could teach Aang. Or Lia would.” Katara looked away sadly.

 

Sokka jumped to his feet again.

“Well, no point in just sitting here,” he said stretching. “How about that tour Aang promised?” he asked the girls. Katara followed him wordlessly as he dragged a loudly protesting Toph to Appa. Aang had been gliding nearby, enjoying the air rifts that were unique to each Air Temple. Hearing Appa groan he turned and did a few flashy moves, winking at his audience.

“Aang, can we talk about you learning firebending now?” Katara called over the wind. The Avatar suppressed a groan. Then he smiled deviously.

“What? The wind is too loud in my ears!” he fake-yelled before grinning at them. “Check out this loop.”

“Aang,” Sokka tried next, “I think we should be making some plans about our future.” They landed back were they had started.

“Ok, we can do that while I show you the giant Pai Sho table,” the airbender said carelessly. “Oh, you’re gonna love the all-day echo chamber.”

 

And they probably would but before anyone could move a blast was shot on the fountain. They all whipped around to see Combustion Man standing on a ledge nearby. The assassin took a deep breath and sent another blast on their direction, as the teens ran for cover.

 

Not too far away, with the war balloon secured, Zuko and Lia raced towards the edge of the cliff in time to see the first blast. Zuko’s eyes swept the courtyard where Appa was, locking on Katara. He watched as the second blast forced them to take cover. Wordlessly he took hold of a nearby vine. Lia gave him a curious look.

“What are you…?” she was cut off when he jumped of the edge, throwing himself on Combustion Man and causing his third blast to miss its target. Zuko jumped to his feet and raced to the assassin, his fist engulfed in fire. Combustion Man grabbed him by the shirt and Zuko tried to blast him but missed as Combustion Man threw him to the ground.

 

Aang looked up at the sound of fire, so different than the soundless blasts of Combustion Man. A shadow loomed over him and blocked another blast. Lia pushed a stray of red hair from her face annoyed as she watched her brother hurry to his feet again.

“Rushing to a fight without thinking…” Aang heard her mutter. “He’s Hisao’s reincarnation all right…” Grasping Aang from the back of his neck she pushed him where the rest of the gang was standing. “And stay here!” she ordered him sternly before rushing out again.

 

For Zuko things weren’t exactly looking good. True, he had diverted the man’s attention from Katara and the others but now Combustion Man was focused on only blasting him. He hastily cast a shield of fire to block an incoming shot. The impact sent him over the edge and he had barely time to grab hold of a vine before he tumbled to his death. Two cries tore through the air.

“Zuko!”

“Hisao!”

 

With a move faster than any of them could notice Lia had launched herself to the air, her body engulfed in flames and a murderous look in her eyes. Combustion Man turned to her, the only one unfazed by her anger, and tried to blast her mid-air. The blast dissipated before it even had a chance to touch her. White flames appeared in her hands and she hurtled towards the assassin. He ducked, but part of her blast grazed his shoulder, melting part of the wall behind him. Ominous flames appeared around the man, slowly approaching until he was engulfed by them. Thick smoke covered the plateau where he and Lia were standing.

 

Back at the courtyard a horrified gang was straining to see what was going on. Katara was crying silently, convinced that Zuko had fallen off the cliff. Sokka had an arm wrapped comfortingly around his sister’s shoulders shocked both by Zuko’s sudden appearance and disappearance as well as Lia’s reaction. Toph had dropped into a crouch, both palms flat on the ground, determined to understand what was going on. The distant crackling of fire as well as the grim silence of her friends weren’t exactly reassuring. As for Aang, he was standing in front of the others protectively, not sure what to do now that Lia lost her temper like that. And the unspoken question rang to the back of everyone’s mind. Who was Hisao?

 

Suddenly the smoke cleared and Lia was seen again on the plateau, no sign of Combustion Man anywhere. Aang took off on his glider wordlessly and landed next to her. She was standing in front of a small puddle of lava and molten metal and the airbender’s stomach turned at the thought of what must have happened inside the smoke. A sound of shuffling broke Lia out of the trance she seemed to have fallen and her head turned sharply to where Zuko had been blasted from. A hand appeared and slowly but surely Zuko climbed back on the plateau, breathing hard. In an instant Lia was at his side, muttering words that Aang couldn’t hear but which Zuko could and his face took an expression of pained understanding as he answered in a low voice. Lia nodded once at his answer and helped him to his feet.  The Fire prince turned with a smile to the Avatar.

“Sorry we were late,” he said calmly.

 

Aang flew back to get Appa since Zuko was too drained to bend anymore and too heavy for Lia or Aang to carry. The bison landed in awkward silence and Lia could feel the stare burning holes through her. Zuko next to her didn’t seem comfortable either.

“Hi guys,” he said nervously. Before he had a chance to add anything Katara rushed forward and threw her arms around him, tears still falling slowly from her eyes. He hugged her back immediately and looked down to tell her how much he had missed her, but before he had a chance to say anything, Katara’s lips were on his on a deep kiss. They only broke away for air, having completely forgotten about the others.

“Don’t you dare scare me like that again,” Katara breathed eventually. Zuko silently tightened the embrace, burying his face on the top of her head. They would have stood there, like this, for hours if it wasn’t for Toph.

“Sugar Queen, if you care for your brother’s wellbeing you might want to step away from Prince Sparky,” she said obviously enjoying the situation.

 

Sokka really looked like he was going to have a heart attack. He stared at them with wide eyes. There she was, his baby sister, still in the Fire prince’s arms looking at him nervously. His face steadily becoming red and his lips kept moving as he tried to form words. Toph punched him on the back, sending him to sprawl to the ground. That made him snap out of it. He leaped on his feet and pointed an accusatory finger at Zuko.

“You!” he yelled. “How dare you corrupt my innocent, little sister!” Everyone looked at him unimpressed and a little amused. Almost everyone that is. Lia was still shaken from nearly losing her brother. What had happened with Combustion Man had been too close to old, painful memories for comfort. She was still on edge, the adrenaline pumping through her veins. Her eyes narrowed.

“You have any comments on the matter?” she asked Sokka venomously. The boy looked a little scared and closed his mouth hastily.

 

Aang, eager to ease the tension, searched for something to say. With sudden inspiration and a smile he turned to Lia.

“We were all very worried for you.” She turned to look at him, the fury in her eyes slowly dying. “And now that you are here you can be my firebending master!” he said cheerily. To his surprise Lia shook her head.

“I am no master or even a firebender,” she said. “Zuko would be much more suitable as a teacher for you.”

“But you taught Zuko!” Sokka said confused.

“He’s a special case,” Lia insisted. “I would never make a good teacher. You need someone with self-control, but also someone who knows how hard it can be to master firebending.” Once again she turned to Zuko, her eyes lingering for a second on his scar. Aang’s eyes widened in realization and he also turned to address the stunned prince.

“I think you are supposed to be my firebending teacher. When I first tried to learn firebending, I burned Katara. And after that, I never wanted to firebend again. But I know you understand how easy it is to hurt the people you love.” He smiled encouragingly at the panicking boy. “I’d like you to teach me.” Katara squeezed Zuko’s hand and Lia nodded to him. With a deep breath he turned to the Avatar.

“I promise, I won’t let you down,” he said resolutely.

 

Later Zuko was unpacking in the room Katara had shown him. It was strategically placed between Lia’s and her own. He frowned as he thought of the Spirit. She had locked herself in her room and when he had passed by it earlier he could have sworn he’d heard crying. With a sigh he pulled out the next item from his bag; a picture of uncle Iroh.  A small smile lighted his lips as he thought back to when he had first arrived to the temple, before he had met Lia.

-Flashback-

Zuko tried his best to ignore the pain that still cursed through his face from the burnt and bandaged side of it as he stared resolutely at the impressive statues of the temple.

“If I have to, I will spend every day of the rest of my life hunting the Avatar. I know it’s my destiny to capture him.” Iroh placed a hand on his nephew’s shoulder and said grimly:

“You know, prince Zuko, destiny is a funny thing. You never know how things are going to work out. But if you keep an open mind and an open heart, I promise you will find your own destiny someday.”

-End of flashback-

 

Zuko smiled lightly at the memory of his uncle’s words. Now he knew what the old man had known all along. His destiny was tied with the Avatar’s, and bound him to stay by the younger boy’s side. A slight sound from the door made him look up. The smile widened when he saw Katara leaning against the doorway. He walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her waist pulling her to his chest. With a sigh the waterbender relaxed, the tension that had built since the invasion leaving her system. She let Zuko guide her to the bed and they lay there, holding each other. No words were exchanged as they slowly drifted to sleep. When they were both safely dreaming, Lia crept inside the room and pulled a blanket over them before brushing a few strands of hair from Zuko’s face. She was much calmer now, the all-consuming rage from earlier having died to the quiet simmer she was accustomed to.

“Goodnight brother,” she whispered before turning to the door and returning to her room. Zuko did not hear her as he turned to face Katara in his sleep, happy to be near her again.

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Invasion (Part 2)

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Author’s note: In which Zuko has a badass moment, the final epic battle does… not happen and there is an almost-meeting.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Invasion (Part 2)***

The sun was slowly becoming hidden by the moon and Lia paused, starting to feel a little lightheaded. Her powers weren’t completely connected to the sun but that didn’t mean she wasn’t feeling any discomfort at the moment. She knelt next to her brother and Sokka, while Toph a little further away was knocking tanks out of their way. Sokka winced when a rather loud explosion happened next to them before looking up. His face lightened up as he saw Katara and their father approaching.

“Dad! You’re on your feet again.” Katara helped Hakoda to sit next to his son.

“Thanks to your sister. I’m in no shape to fight but maybe there is some way I could help,” the Chief said.

“Everything’s going smoothly and the eclipse hasn’t even kicked in yet,” Sokka reported.

“Let’s hope our luck holds out.” Hakoda turned to his daughter to see her watching intently the horizon. “Katara, you seem distracted. Is something wrong‌?”

“Yeah… Is that… is that Aang‌?” the waterbender pointed at rapidly growing shape at the horizon.

“What?” Lia asked incredulously.

 

Indeed it was Aang. He avoided a couple of projectiles and landed in front of the rest of the gang, looking unusually grim.

“Please tell you’re here because the Fire Lord turned out to be a big wimp and you didn’t even need the eclipse to take him down,” Sokka said hopefully. Zuko snorted at the thought, his hand going involuntary to his scar.

“He wasn’t home. No one was. The entire palace city is abandoned,” Aang explained. Everyone palled.

“They knew,” Sokka whispered.

“It’s over. The Fire Lord is probably long gone. Far away on some remote island where he’ll be safe during the eclipse,” Aang said disappointed. Zuko shook his head.

“No,” he said. “Before I left there were some plans being discussed. They were going to make a secret bunker. Somewhere where fath…the Fire Lord could go so it’ll be safe during a siege but still be close enough to lead the Fire Nation.” Toph cleared her throat loudly. Once she felt everyone’s eyes on her she said:

“If it’s an underground secret bunker we’re looking for, I’m just the girl to find it.”
Sokka took out a small device from his pocket.

“The Mechanist gave me this timing device,” he explained. “It looks like we’ve got about ten minutes until the full eclipse. Ten minutes to find the Fire Lord.”

“We can still do this. We can still win the day,” Aang said hopefully but Katara didn’t seem to share the sentiment.

“Wait. If they knew we were coming, it could all be a trap. Maybe we should use the time we have left to make sure all of us get out of here safely.”
“Everyone who’s here today came prepared to risk everything for this mission. They know what’s at stake. If there’s still a chance and there’s still hope, I think they would want Aang to go for it,” Hakoda argued back. Everyone turned to Aang.

“What do you think‌? You’re the one who has to face the Fire Lord. Whatever you decide, I’m with you,” Sokka said seriously to the airbender. Aang took a deep breath.

“I’ve got to try,” he said decisively.

Katara decided to stay with the invasion force just in case. Before the rest of the gang left, Zuko took his sister to the side, to have a word with her.

“If anything goes wrong, keep an eye on Katara for me,” he said grimly.

“You think we’ll walk right into a trap?” Lia asked seriously. Zuko offered her a small smile.

“I don’t think so. I know. Azula had all the time and resources to learn of the invasion while she was in Ba Sing Se.” Lia nodded in agreement.

“Perhaps Aang can still beat Ozai,” she said, trying to keep uncertainty away from her voice. She hugged him briefly and then they walked over to the rest of the team. Zuko and Katara only nodded to each other, not wanting to consider the possibility of not seeing each other again.

 

The group took Appa and flew towards the volcano inside which the palace city was built. The closer they got, the tenser Lia seemed to get. Everyone jumped down as soon as the bison landed.

“Do you feel anything down there‌?” Aang asked Toph. She nodded, her eyes half-closed in concentration.

“Yep. There are natural tunnels criss-crossing through the inside of the volcano.”

“Anything else?‌ Is there a structure somewhere‌?” Zuko asked.

“There’s something big, dense, and made of metal deep in the heart of the volcano,” the earthbender added after a moment.

“Sounds like a secret bunker to me,” Sokka said, raising an eyebrow.

 

Toph made a tunnel into the ground and everyone hurried in. Aang turned to Appa and Momo.

“Stay safe. We’ll be back soon,” he said before he jumped inside the hole to land behind Toph. The earthbender was feeling the ground.

“This way! That one’s a dead end,” she said, jumping on her feet and rushing down the tunnel.

“What would we do without you‌?” Sokka asked as he raced behind her.

“Perish and burn in hot magma,” came the cool reply. The boy gulped as they passed next to a small waterfall of lava.

“Yeah, pretty much,” he squeaked.
They paused at the opening of a cave, filled with vents that could occasionally spit out steam and magma.

“The tunnel continues on the other side and it leads right to the bunker,” Toph explained. Sokka made a movement forward.

“We’ll have to be fast but careful,” he advised the rest of the group. One of the vents erupted right in front of him. Zuko grabbed him from the back of his armour and yanked him backwards.

“How was that careful‌?” he asked.

“I was wrong. We need to be fast, careful and lucky,” Sokka amended. With some careful running and dodging (and Zuko and Lia stopping a few vents before they could erupt) they managed to reach the other side of the cave. The sight that greeted them made everyone let out a sigh.

“There’s no floor! It’s just a river of lava.” Sokka whined. “How are we supposed to cross this?”

“That’s why you have me here,” Lia said, moving to stand in front of everyone. Moving her hands she made the lava rise at their level, before she bended the heat out of the molten rock, making a narrow bridge appear. Toph tested it and raised an eyebrow.

“Sweet.”

 

It wasn’t far from there that they stopped again, this time in front of an enormous metal contraption, with an equally huge entrance.

“That’s some door!” Sokka whistled impressed. Toph pressed her ear against it and knocked the metal before smiling.

“Not a problem.” A few jabs, punches and kicks later the door had an opening big enough for them to pass through. Toph took the lead again, pointing at the right direction.

“I am so glad we added you to the group,” Sokka called after her.

 

Outside, Bato turned to address the soldiers, having taken the lead once Sokka and Zuko had left.

“The eclipse is only minutes away. We should be able to make it up the hill by the time it starts and secure the entire palace by the time it’s finished!” he explained to the men. With a battle cry they started pressing forward again. Katara turned to her father. They had been moving at the back of the force since Hakoda was not in any shape to press himself.

“We can wait here if you want,” she offered.

“No. I want to press forward with the others,” he insisted and they continued moving.

 

As they ran through the tunnel the teens heard a gasp. Spinning on their heels they saw War Minister Qin pressed against the wall, his arms in surrender. In a second he had a sword, a staff, a small rock and two fireballs aimed at him.

“The Fire Lord’s chamber is that way down the hall to the left and up the stairs. You can’t miss it,” he blurted immediately. They all looked at him suspiciously for a moment longer before Aang gave him a cheerful smile.

“Thanks!” he said and they continued at the direction he had pointed. As they ran Sokka took out his clock.

“Only 30 seconds until the total eclipse,” he informed the others. They came to a halt in front of a door with the royal symbol etched on it. Aang took a deep breath and looked at the engraved flame with determination.

“I’m ready,” he said. “I’m ready to face the Fire Lord.” He made a move to blast the door when Lia stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

“Wait,” she said and turned to the earthbender. “Toph, how many people are in there?” she asked. Toph placed a hand to the ground and concentrated.

“There is one man sitting on the back, a line of guards behind him and…” she trailed opened her eyes and turning to the others. “Azula is there too.” The others shared a look of uncertainty.

“I still think we should go for it,” Toph said dismissively. Aang nodded.

“Yes, after all no one in there will be able to bend.”

 

Without further ado the door was blasted off its hinges, and the team rushed in. Ozai and Azula looked up from their thrones, a line of the Imperial Guard behind them standing in attention.

“So… you are alive after all,” Azula drawled carelessly at Aang, not sparing the rest of the group a look. Her father was glaring full-force at Zuko. “I had a hunch that you survived,” the princess continued as she stood from her throne. “It doesn’t matter, we’ve known about the invasion for months.”

 

On the hillside the invasion force was steadily advancing towards the palace city. The Mechanist paused to observe the sky. The sun and the moon were nearly completely overlapping.

“The eclipse is starting,” he warned the others. “Put on your eclipse glasses.” The men stopped for a second to put on the devices that would protect their eyes and then pressed on.

 

Underneath, inside the bunker, Zuko felt a sudden wave of energy leaving his body. Lia next to him looked a bit nauseous but otherwise fine. The eclipse had started. Aang seemed to gather his wits because he daringly stepped forward and pointed his staff at the Fire Lord.

“Fire Lord, your reign comes to an end today. Surrender or” here the boy visibly gulped, although his voice remained strong, “this will be a fight to the death,” he finished. Ozai did not answer but Azula stepped towards the small group with a mock-hurt expression on her face.

“You mean I’m not good enough for you? You’re hurting my feelings.” Wordlessly Toph encased her on a cone of earth.

“The eclipse has started Azula,” Zuko said shaking his head. “There is nothing you can do.” His younger sister smirked when suddenly the rock encasing her shattered.

“When I left Ba Sing Se, I brought home some souvenirs.” Two Dai Lis landed in from of her. “Dai Li agents. Do you still think that there is nothing I can do Zu-zu?” Aang tried to blast the earthbenders away with his airbending but they made a wall rise protecting themselves and the royalty behind them.

 

Outside the invasion force had reached the edge of the crater. Bato turned to give the next set of instructions to the men.

“Surround the periphery! We have to secure the palace by the time the eclipse is over. Otherwise, we’ll be in for the fight of our lives.”

The invasion force scattered around the capital, all of them heading towards the palace. A small group of earthbenders came across some guards.

“Stop! Surrender peacefully and we won’t harm you,” one of them, Tyro, said.

“We’ll never surrender!” one of the guards said arrogantly. He started moving his arms frantically but not even the smallest flame came out. He shared a nervous look with the rest of him team. “Okay, we surrender,” he amended hastily.

 

Katara and Hakoda had paused to catch their breath at the edge of the crater. The beauty of the relatively peaceful city took the waterbender by surprise. She suddenly knew why Zuko had been so desperate to return.

“There it is. The Fire Nation royal palace. We’ve come so far,” her father said in admiration. Katara shook her head.

“It’s not over yet,” she said as they began their descent.

 

Toph and Aang burst through the stone wall. The Dai Li attacked Aang who blocked their attacks with ease. Toph came to his side and drove them away, before bending a stone wave towards Azula. The Princess used it as leverage and jumped back on her throne. Zuko and Lia were forced to stand to the side along with Sokka. At this point they would be more of a hassle than help for the two earthbenders on their team.  Aang turned his attention to Azula and tried to blast her away but the Fire princess cartwheeled out of reach, avoiding his blasts with ease. With the help of the Dai Li agents she jumped through the hole of a wall that Toph had made later and landed near her brother. Aang and Toph rushed after her, the girl having the good sense to block the exit with another wall.

“I can’t pin her down. She’s too quick!” Aang panted. Toph nodded and paused long enough to detain the agents with a few quick metalbending moves. The two of them return to cornering Azula when suddenly Sokka called them.

“Wait! Aang, Toph, stop attacking.” Everyone looked at him in shock. “Don’t you see what she’s doing‌? She’s just playing with us. She’s not even trying to win this fight!”

“Not true, I’m giving it my all,” Azula sing-songed.

“You’re trying to keep us focused on you and waste all our time!” Toph exclaimed.

“Um, right. I think your friend just said that genius. And since you can’t see, I should tell you I’m rolling my eyes,” Azula snorted. Zuko made a move to lunge at her but Lia held him back.

“I’ll roll your whole head!” he snapped at his younger sister angrily.

“She’s just baiting you again,” his older sister said calmly.

“Okay, so what do we do‌? Just ignore her‌?” Aang asked confused.

“We don’t have a choice,” Sokka decided. “We need to focus on the Fire Lord.”

 

They turned to leave when Azula’s voice was heard.
“It’s a trap. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Everyone stiffened at her words and Aang and Toph almost turned back.

“Ignore!” Sokka said shrugging. The princess frowned before trying again.

“So, Sokka’s your name right‌? My favourite prisoner used to mention you all the time.” Sokka stopped and turned around shocked. “She was convinced that you were going to come rescue her. Of course, you never came and she gave up on you.” Forgetting his previous words the boy lunged at her with a yell, missing her smug smile.

“Come and get it…” Azula mattered under her breath. Before she could throw the dagger in her hand she found herself pinned to the wall while Zuko was struggling to hold Sokka back. With a jerk the Water Tribe warrior freed himself and rushed to Azula.

“Where is Suki‌?” he asked furiously. “Answer me!” he demanded when the girl remained silent.

“Sokka, she won’t talk,” Aang said calmly. Sokka hesitated for a moment before turning back at Azula.

“Where are you keeping her‌!” he yelled. Azula smirked smugly.

 

Lia was about to physically drag Sokka away from the princess when a wave of energy hit her. Zuko next to her must have felt it too because he doubled over. On the other side of the room Ozai stood and with a single fireblast cracked the earthen wall.

“Oh. Sounds like the firebending’s back on.” Azula blasted herself free, satisfied to see the horrified realisation in her enemies’ eyes.  She blasted the wall again, causing it to crumble.

“I’m sure dad will be glad to see you now,” she said cheerfully.

 

Indeed Ozai was slowly approaching them with an emotionless face and an impressive fireball ready to launch. Lia shook her head slightly and the fire went out. The man’s impassive expression turned to one of annoyed surprised as he failed to keep his fire going long enough to throw it at anyone. Lia gave a look to the teens around her.

“I believe it’s time to take our leave.” Aang was about to protest but thought better of it. They started backing towards the door when Azula sent a fireblast to their direction. Lia turned to block it, her attention momentarily diverted, which was more than enough for Ozai. Lightning crackled and launched towards the retreating Avatar. Zuko stood protectively in front of the boy, catching the lightning in his hand. The electricity surrounded him and he nearly lost his balance but managed to follow through the movements Iroh had taught him and send it back to his father. Ozai was blasted to the wall as smoke filled the room. When the atmosphere cleared the Avatar and his friends had disappeared.
“I fell for it!” Sokka lamented as they hurried to the surface again.

“It’s not your fault, Sokka. Azula was ready for us. She had every move planned out,” Toph tried to cheer him up. It didn’t work.

“And now it’s too late,” he sighed.

“The Fire Lord knew we were coming this time. We thought we had surprise on our side but we didn’t. It just wasn’t our day. What we need to do now is go help the others,” Lia interjected calmly. “Aang will get his chance soon.” They exited the tunnel and stopped to survey the scene. Suddenly Zuko started to run away.

“Where are you going?” Aang asked confused.

“To find uncle,” Zuko explained, looking back at them. “I can’t leave him here.” The others looked ready to protest but the Fire prince ignored them. With a sigh Lia laid a hand on the Avatar’s shoulder.

“I’ll make sure he doesn’t kill himself,” she promised, hurrying after Zuko.
With low spirits, Sokka, Aang and Toph climbed back on Appa to meet up with the invasion force. When they landed Katara ran to them with an anxious expression. Aang hung his head, not wanting to admit his failure.

“It was all a trap. Azula knew we were coming and she’s plotted out every move,” Sokka explained. “We’ve got to get to the beach as fast as we can. If we can make it to the submarines, maybe we can get away safely.” Everyone cast a nervous look at the war balloons that were rapidly approaching.

“They’ve got air power, but so do I!” Aang said resolutely. “I’m going to do what I can to slow them down.” He flew away on his glider.
“Appa, you and I can help too,” Katara said, jumping on the bison’s saddle. She desperately wanted to know what had happened and more importantly where Zuko was but now was not the time. She bit her lips in worry and gazed at her targets. Hopefully he was safe.
As it was, Zuko was running towards the Capital’s prison. He was aware of Lia following but his sole focus was getting his uncle out of his cell and meeting with the others. The door of the building lay in shambles and the interior was not in any better condition. Zuko ignored everything, focusing solely on finding Iroh, but Lia paused surprised. The invasion force hadn’t reach this far. What had happened there? Reaching the last cell Zuko burst in.

“Uncle!” he called frantically. The only person there was a guard. Zuko ran to him and grabbed him by the collar.

“Where is my uncle‌?” he demanded angrily.

“He’s gone. He busted himself out. I… I’ve never seen anything like it! He was like a one man army!” the man stuttered shocked.

“He’s gone Zuko,” Lia said calmly. “We need to get to the others.” Zuko followed her wordlessly although in his mind he was screaming.

“I shouldn’t have left him in Ba Sing Se,” he only said.

As they raced outside the sounds of bombs greeted them again. A fleet of zeppelins and air balloons was heading for the subs. Zuko and Lia watched in horror as one by one their means of escape were blown away.

“How will we escape?” Zuko whispered, his eyes scanning the land beneath him for the invasion force. A hand on his shoulder made him turn to where Lia was pointing silently. The familiar figure of Appa rose in the horizon, his back loaded with passengers.

“Katara and the others are probably on Appa. At least the younger ones,” she reasoned. “Now we just need to catch up to them.”

“With one of these,” her brother finished with his eyes trained on one of the war balloons, a familiar spark in them.

“What goes around, comes around I guess,” the Fire Spirit sighed in wry amusement.

 

They found one unguarded balloon and set out on figuring out how to make it take off, which was much simple than they expected. Once in air and concealed by the clouds, Zuko started scanning the horizon for Appa. He could just barely make out his form in the distance but it was enough for him. After all it wasn’t as if he had never been to their destination before.

“Looks like we’re going to the Western Air Temple,” he announced.