DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, NOR DO I CLAIM ANY RIGHTS TO IT, ANY OF THE CHARCTERS, OR LOCATIONS IN THIS FAN FICTION STORY. I ONLY OWN THE PLOT.
Azula walked into her cabin and sat down at the fireplace. She formed a blue flame in her hand and smiled into it.
"Soon father. Soon I will take over from my weak brother and make you proud," she said.
"Azula, my child..."
"Don't talk to me mother! I am not your child! You always preferred him over me, didn't you? You couldn't see me as anything but a monster! I needed you and where were you?"
"Azula," came another voice behind her.
"Father. I found him again. He has another woman now. I'll take care of her and make sure I crush him into the dust. He won't be able to stand in my way again. I'll challenge him to another Agni Kai and this time, he won't be able to stop me. You will be proud of me, won't you?"
Her father looked down at her and kissed her forehead wordlessly. Her mother let a tear course down her cheek and she turned away like she always did. Azula didn't care. Her mother never understood. Lately she had been trying to get back in Azula's good graces, but it wasn't going to work. Her mother had always liked Zuko best, and for that, he had to suffer!
Passing villagers stared at the house with the strange woman who always talked to herself. If they weren't so afraid of what she might do to them with her fire bending ability, they might have found out who she was already, but nobody dared.
Zuko found Toph by the beach again in the afternoon. He had gone for an urgent meeting and Toph had had to spend the day alone. She had been sitting there for a while and she smiled when she heard his familiar footsteps. He sat beside her wordlessly for a few moments then broke the silence.
"What's on your mind?" he asked taking her hand absent-mindedly and began stroking it gently with his thumb.
"My family, our friends... us," she said turning to him. Zuko smiled and tucked a stray strand behind her ear.
"What about them?" he asked again.
"Where they are now, where they will be in future. And about us, well, just stuff. My mum will be glad to know we're... more intimate friends and my dad would be more than happy about it..." she leaned against him, wrapping her arms around him and sighed, "do you think we'll get that far?" Zuko chuckled.
"I'd like to think so," he said and kissed her hair.
"So, how was your meeting with the representatives?" she asked. She thought it might be nice to change the subject a bit.
"The same as usual. Uncle wasn't wrong. Those meetings are usually boring. I have no idea why they have to be so long, and I have to stay awake through the whole thing, being the Fire Lord and all..." Toph laughed.
"Boy, am I glad I'm not in your shoes," she said and kissed his cheek, "it went okay though?"
"Yeah, pretty much," he said shifting, "now, enough about my boring day. We are going to do something together."
"What's that?" she asked hearing the mischief in his voice.
"You and me are going to swim," he said. Before she could protest, he had picked her up and was walking with her to the water.
"Put me down Zuko! Don't you dare!" she screamed at him fighting. He laughed and carried her to the edge of the sea where he put her down. She started to shrink away from the water clinging to his shoulders.
"It's okay, the water's not deep. I promise we'll take it one step at a time... Ow!"
Toph hit his arm and glared at him as only she could.
"Fire Lord or not Zuko, do that again, and the Fire Nation will be looking for another leader."
"Sorry," he said and he meant it, "I just thought that since you can't swim, you might want a lesson or two, at least so that you can float."
Toph sulked for a bit then relented. He was trying to be nice.
"Alright then, teach me. But I'm serious. If I die out there, I will never forgive you Sparky," she said with a small smile.
"I won't let you go. Trust me," he said and took her hand as he said so. He began to lead her towards the sea until the water was up to Toph's waist.
"I think this is deep enough," he said and Toph was visibly relieved. Zuko laughed and taught her to float. She splashed a lot of water in his face a few times in panic, but he finally got her to relax.
"There now, you see? Not so bad, is it?" he asked hugging her.
"No, it's not," she said and splashed water at him. He splashed water back and the game began. Finally, exhausted and wet to the bone, Zuko and Toph headed for the beach where they sat side by side again drying slowly.
"Thanks," she said at last breaking the silence.
"Will you be up for another lesson tomorrow?" he asked moving next to her.
"I can't wait," she said sarcastically and kissed his cheek. So far, the summer was turning out better than she had expected. Even Zuko had changed. She actually felt his heart beat a little faster when she was around. Smiling to herself, she snuggled against him and shut her eyes. Everything was going to work out just fine.
They were walking back to the beach house when Toph shoved Zuko into a bush and dodged a lightning bolt. Looking back to where she had taken an earth bending stance, Zuko wondered what had happened. One moment they were walking and talking without a care in the world then the next he was inside a bush.
"Toph, what..." then he saw it. There was a figure in the road ahead of them. He couldn't see the face of whoever it was, but they were definitely Fire Nation and they wanted a fight. Zuko stood gauging their adversary and took up a fire bending stance beside Toph.
"Who are you and what do you want?" he asked.
Toph felt the figure twitch and in a moment, she had erected a wall around both her and Zuko as more lightning was aimed at them.
"I don't think they want to talk," she said and moving the earth wall, aimed some rocks at the figure. Zuko watched the figure dodge the rocks one by one and aimed his flames at it. Jumping lithely, it reached a tree above them and stared down at Toph. Zuko saw what was in those eyes and froze for a split second. He knew those cold and lifeless amber eyes. He had known them for a long time...
"Azula..." he said incredulously. The figure leapt through the trees and disappeared in the distance.
"She's gone," he said and brushed himself off.
"Are you sure it's her?" asked Toph relaxing.
"I would know that look anywhere. That was Azula. We had better get back. I should put the rest of the house and guard on high alert. She didn't look alright and I don't believe she was here for a happy reunion."
Toph frowned as she let Zuko lead her back. Their perfect holiday was ruined. Zuko would worry about her now, and she didn't want him to. She could only hope that he didn't change too much for her to bear.