Pairings: Katara/Sokka, mentioned Azula/Zuko and Ozai /Azula (NonCon)
Summary: Zuko faces an unexpected test of trust.
Warning: Incest (figures, ne?), Mention of child abuse (multiple kinds), Drinking. Some OOC-ness.
"Why do we always fall in love with the wrong people?"
"Huh?" Zuko's drink was inches from his mouth when Sokka confused him. After the last few weeks, joining the Avatar's group after a violent attack in a previous village, learning of his sister's defeat at the hands of a misdirected Master Pakku (he and his Waterbending students were blown off course by a violent storm), and having his heart broken, he promised his uncle that he would try to find a way to relax and unwind at the next village.
However, Sokka still did not trust him enough to let him go out on his own, so he made Zuko vow not to go anywhere without him and Toph, who was currently winning in her drinking challenge against several grown men, possibly soldiers.
Sokka, too, was frustrated and dealing with some personal issues, but he decided that he would, "Gripe it out and enjoy the pubs, tonight". However, after his first drink, the Water Tribe warrior seemed a bit melencholy. He, like Zuko, had already had a couple of drinks, except Sokka neither paced himself, nor did he eat anything earlier.
'And when Sokka won't eat,' thought Zuko, 'Something is definetly wrong.' The two were not good friends in any sense of the word, but they were attempting to develope at least a level of respect.
"Human beings. We tend to find somebody that normally, we know that we shouldn't get involved with them the way we want to, but we do it anyways." Zuko was glad that Sokka was still understandable.
"You're talking about....her, right."
Sokka, nearly coughed up the last drink, saying, "Nooo, not Toph..."
"No, I know that, but I know who you're talking about." Zuko took a bite of the meat and a piece vegetable, then sipping his drink as Sokka continued.
"We knew it was wrong from the get go, but after a few weeks, we didn't care!
Then Aang comes along. Don't get me wrong, he's a good kid, I think of him as a lil' brother at times, but this whole journey just made everything go 'kaplooey'."
"Kaplooey," said Toph as one man passed out, crushing the piture that had liqour.
"Ah yes," said Zuko, swallowing the last of his food. He raised his drink and declared, "The Firenation: whether you're a Firebender or anybody else, they'll screw you over."
"Amen," tosted all the patrons, including Toph, who began to chug from a clay jug on the table.
"I promised I wouldn't betray her, that I wouldn't forget 'us', but after meeting all the girls I met, it was as if I never made a promise in my life."
Meanwhilpe, Toph took all seven of her current challenger's drink, downing it before he could react. He was not amused.
Sokka looked at Zuko and asked, "Can I trust you with what I'm about to tell you?"
Zuko breathed in, remembering how much he had to restrain himself during the boy's other trust tests, remembering this is his best shot at surviving. "Go on."
"She and I....uh...you...know...a few weeks ago. It was like starting all over. Exect I missed what I could have had if I ended up with somebody else; being able to express how much I love her in front of anybody."
"And now you feel guilty because you still love her."
"How d' you...."
"I was in a similar situation. Azu.....my 'lady' and I had a troubled relationship. Even though she tried to apprehend me, kill me even, she always left me messages and hints that she wanted me back, that she never threw away my letters."
A few feet away, Toph was pressed face down on the table, chalenger spanking her for so arrogently taking the rather pricy drinks he personally paid for. Even while crying and tipsy, it was obivious Toph was read to start something.
"So what happend between you two?"
"...Father took her traveling with him. This was long before my cousin died (Agni, rest his soul)."
"You had a cousin?"
"Uncle's only son. Anyways, father wanted somebody he could mold in his own image. He felt that I was 'soft and too much like his mother'. On that trip, he did....," he strungled to continue, trying to block the images in his head, "..things to her."
Sokka raised his eyebrow. "What kind of...."
"Horrible things. Harsh words, beatings, torture, starvation, and...just terrible things no man who deserves to live could do to a child, especially a little girl." He leaned close to Sokka, who was begining to look sickened, despite his intoxication, whispering, "Especially to his own daughter, who loves and trusts him more than anybody he knows."
"....." Sokka downed three more drinks, trying to shake the horror her felt.
"Yeah, he really is a monster. I wish I had realised that sooner, that way I wouldn't have wasted all those months, years even, trying to regain the favor I never had."
After the man finished, a couple of guys, one old and one young, helped Toph up, her still wimpering over the humiliation and pain. A fatherly looking man handed he a drinks, something smooth and creamy, hoping to calm her down. 'It's go time,' she thought.
"She was an innocent little girl before. As sadistic as she became, in time, things happened between us, I couldn's say 'no' to her because I loved her, even though she lied all the time. When she wounded Uncle, I felt betrayed, like a man who saw his wife murder his own father. I wanted to kill her, to make her suffer, to humiliate her in defeat."
Toph stomped on the ground, causing a wave of stone to lift the man who swatted her up to the cealing, catipulting him across the room by a wedgie, much to the delight of Blind Bandit's fellow drinkers.
"When Uncle and I got attacked by those bounty hunters, when we met Master Pakku afterwards, I was told that my love and her friends were defeated in battle, that she nearly died. When they healed her, they used water from that Oasis at the North Pole.
"The Spirit Oasis," mumbled .
"She realised what she had done, what was done to her, how she became nothing but a living weapon. When I saw her again, I no longer saw arrogance and malice in her eyes. She seemed calmer, but sad, lost, and full of regret."
Zuko saw the shadow of the man Toph launched flying at them. He grabbed Sokka, who snatched both of their drinks before the man crashed through the table, the tavern owner rolling his eyes.
"And then it hit me."
Zuko and Azula stood by the beach, listening to the sounds of the waves. Neither one realised before how beautiful a sound it really was.
"Zuzu..." she waited for him to snap at her, only to feel him wrap his arms around her tightly. "I want to say that I'm sorry for all the mean things I did to you, and..."
"It's alright, Azula. I know what Father did to you. You were hurt, sick, unable to tell right from wrong. But it's alright now." He cupped her chin with his thumb and forefinger. "We finally have a chance to be happy."
He pressed his lips against hers, softly, affectionately, like he did when they were mutch younger. Before they knew why they had to keep it a secret.
Still, Zuko noticed tears welling in her eyes; for the first time since she was robbed of the innocence, of a true childhood. He pulled away, telling her, "I'm sorry."
"Zuzu...Zuko, I can't. Even before the healing, I began to see somebody else. Afterwards, I realised that I how much I really wanted to be with them, that they wanted to spend the rest of their life with me if I could stop being so coldhearted."
"Oh. ....Well, I hope he takes good care of you. After what was done to you, you really deserve somebody who can." Zuko stepped away, head bowed in shame and regret. 'I should have known her love was a lie.'
"No, Zuko." The prince stopped, turning towards the princess. "It can never be a 'he'."
Sokka's jaw dropped in complete disbelief. "Is that why she always spent so much time with those two girls?"
Zuko shook his head. "Besides their skills in battle, deep down Azula still held some caring towards her childhood friends. Besides, Ty Lee may take both sexes, but anything with Azula was only physical. So Ty Lee wouldn't get hurt as badly."
"Was it the scary girl, then?"
Zuko downed the rest of his drink. "Oh, yes. Who'dve guessed daddy's girl'd chose somebody she couldn't completely dominate."
Zuko looked at Sokka, who was pouting over an empty shot glass. "Sokka, I finally understand why my uncle lives the way he does."
Sokka sat down, struggling to balance.
"My cousin was like a brother to me. Like his father, I saw a bright future for him. His death was unexpected, and heartbreaking. Uncle realised that we never know how long we have in this world, so it's better to find happiness whenever we can, and just enjoy it."
He looked at the other warrior. "I made the mistake of not doing the same, and I ended up wasting my time, and nearly my life, obsessing over things that I should have let go."
Sokka, thought a moment. He couldn't feel any buzz and could recall and think of what his Firebending drinking partner told him.
"So, what should I do? And Zuko," he leaned closer, looking the scar faced teen in the eyes, "Don't screw around."
Zuko shrugged, realising he's not Iroh and probibly not the best person to give guidance, but he figure at least if her screws up, he'll get a painless death since his intentions were good.
"Just enjoy your time with her. Just find any reason to be happy to be there. Oh, and make it a positive reason (maybe I should take Uncle's advice). Except in your case, it's more real than me and Azula." Sokka, whose hair was comming out of its tie, grinned at Zuko's words.
"Maybe there's hope for you after all."
Toph managed to stumble her way to the two boys, bringing them each a drink. She raised her's in the air, declaring, "To make the most of it all." The three teens touched drinks, downing them and slamming them down.
After helping Toph to her room at the inn (Zuko slept next to her, the blind girl proped on her side, facing him incase she needed anything), Sokka made his way to his and his sibling's room.
"Sokka, you're here so soon?"
"Yeah, well, Toph was winning bar bets and Zuko's not much for getting drunk and streaking throughout town." He kissed her on the lips, laying down next to her, pulling into a gentle embrace before the two lovers drifted off. 'It's peaceful tonight; nothing wrong with that.'
(Post fic stuff)
The author's rep, an Earthbender named Ai Lao, a boy with short brown hair, brown eyes hidden by the bangs. He approaches Toph at the tavern.
"Robinu told me to ask what the lesson was that he was supposed to learn."
"Why did that forgetful Punk-wannabe have you come to me?"
Ai Lao chuckle, saying, "Because he can remember things about as well as he can wield a Meteor Hammer."
Toph nearly spat out the Sapporo (which I do not own), laughing.
Then things go quiet. "Well?"
Ai Lao downed his shot of Saki and said, "He's no Gogo Yubari." Toph laughed again.
"Right, the lesson is: Robinu should write regular fics, because his lemons are as rotten as his attempts at wielding as three-section staff."