In Which Tents Were A Waste Of Money
"Can someone please explain to me, what's going on?" Sokka asked.
"We're talking to spirits." Aang declared.
"Well, can you do that in privet, it's kind of creepy?"
"Deal with it, filthy peasant." Azula hissed. Azula didn't know that Zuko was going to bring all of the Avatar's friends along. She should have mentioned that she only wanted Aang there. Frankly, Katara was the last person Azula ever wanted to see.
Her eyes wandered down to her wrists. Mixed within the lovely marks left by Xin and the other spirits, as well as the newly discovered black mark, were the scars left by the chain Katara bound her with on the day of the comet.
Azula hadn't put much to the chains since that day. Not until just now anyways.
Perhaps the water peasant had noticed Azula absent-mindedly rubbing at the scars, for she refused to meet the Fire Princess' gaze. Or maybe it was simply the bad blood coursing between the two. Either which way, Katara refused to look Azula in the eye.
What an awkward couple of days this would be.
How foolish was it to think that it'd only last a few days?
"So, when do we start?" Azula asked.
"Well, I was hoping to go one of the Air Temples…" Aang started.
"Why can't we just do it from here!?" Azula frowned.
"I feel like I have a better connection to the spirit world when I'm in the Air Temples."
Yup, definitely foolish to believe this would be a three day deal.
"Are all of them coming with us?" Azula motioned to the rest of the group.
"Whether you like it or not." Toph shrugged.
"Can all of us even fit?" Chan asked.
"You're not coming with us." Azula repeated.
Zuko spoke up "I actually think it would be a good idea to bring Chan and…"
"Ta-Yoon." Ta-Yoon filled in.
"Chan and Ta-Yoon along. You could use someone you don't…hate."
"But I do hate Chan." Azula pointed out. "Fine, Ta-Yoon can come. Chan has to stay."
Of course, despite all her protests, Chan was seated way too close to her on Appa. He and Ta-Yoon were already chatting it up about how exciting this was. Azula just couldn't wait to land, get into the spirit world, get this over with, and put it behind her.
Something told her that would easier said than done.
"Why are we landing?" Azula frowned.
"For one thing we have to get some camping supplies. For seconds Mai and Ty-Lee are also coming with us.
Azula dug her nails into Appa's saddle. "Exactly how many people do you think Appa can hold, Zu-zu. Without getting slowed down?"
"Appa will be fine." Zuko assured her. "Besides, what harm could a longer trip be?"
"The longer the trip takes, the less time I have to keep them from consuming me." Azula replied.
"I'm sure you'll have plenty of time."
"And I don't want to waste any of it on Mai and Ty-Lee!" Azula practically screamed. And at the poorest time too—Mai and Ty-Lee had walked up to Appa.
"Thanks Azula." Mai muttered.
"Anytime! Thanks for supporting me when I needed it." Azula shot back. "You get the supplies Zu-zu, I'll wait here." She climbed back on to Appa. The beast gave a slight bellow, leaving Azula to wonder if her presence bought the poor thing any discomfort. Honestly, she cared more about his comfort than the others', at least Appa never hurt her.
She waited for them all to disappear within the shop before beginning her rather embarrassing conversation with Appa. "I hope I'm not bothering you…if I am…well you bothered me first with your shedding. But I think we can both look past that."
Appa gave a lazy snort. So Azula continued. "I like you better than any of these guys." Azula pointed to the store and gave Appa's fur a stroke. Maybe she could—at the very least—win him over.
Appa seemed to relax a little so she kept it up. "If you ever get tired, just remember, it's Zu-zu's fault for inviting so many of his dumb friends." Azula rolled her eyes. "I tried to talk him out of it." She added.
That would be the best conversation she had that day, the rest of them were either awkward or ended in fighting. Azula found herself thinking how absolutely pathetic it was that her best conversation was with an animal…that her favorite traveling companion (and the only one she got along with, for that matter) was a bison.
How keen were her social skills?
Apparently they were bad enough that Azula ended up getting shunned by the rest of them. Team Avatar conversed with each other. Zuko stuck to Mai and Ty-Lee. And surprise surprise, Chan and Ta-Yoon had each other.
Azula wanted to carry out another conversation with Appa, but she didn't want to earn herself anymore glares. Nor did she want to be the subject of one of their conversations.
By the time the group landed it was sunset. Azula had wanted to keep going, despite Sokka's 'I'm tired' complaints and Zuko's 'it's getting to dark to fly' comments. She gave in when Aang mentioned how tired Appa was. If she and Appa were going to be friends she'd have to care about his needs.
"Who's tent is Azula sleeping in?" Ty-Lee asked.
"We'll I'm not staying with her." Azula pointed at Katara. "I also refuse to stay with Chan and I don't care to stay with Toph either she's always doing something filthy."
"What!?" Toph yelled.
"And I don't want to talk to you or Mai either." Azula added.
And then came the tears. Ty-Lee cried over the stupidest things. At least Azula hadn't stabbed her in the back.
"Azula!" Mai snapped.
"What? It's not like I haven't made her cry before." Azula shrugged. "Anyways, I can't stay with Ta-Yoon because she's rooming with Chan. Sokka is with his sister…but I didn't want to sleep in his tent either…"
"So whose tent are you staying in, Azula, mine or Aang's and Toph's."
Azula scowled she didn't care to stay with any of them. "I'll just sleep out here. Alone."
"Come on, that's ridiculous." Zuko sighed.
"Not as ridiculous as spending a night in a tent with one or two people I can't stand."
Ty-Lee's sniffles turned into all out bawls. Azula had no plans to make amends. She deserved the tears. She deserved the hate Azula was giving her. Right?
"Azula, leave her alone." Mai hissed.
"What are you going to do? It's not like we have a friendship to worry about or anything."
"At least Ty-Lee was trying to get along with you." Mai spat.
"Why are you even trying to help her?" Katara shouted at Aang.
"Because…" Aang started.
"There is no good reason." Toph cut in.
"No good reason!? I could die!" Azula threw her arms skyward.
"And that's our problem?" Toph questioned.
"Maybe it would be for the best if you did." Katara snapped.
"Why couldn't you just stay with one of them?" Zuko pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Because I don't like these people, and they hate me even more! I can take a hint, no one wanted to stay with me anyways." The tears now prickled at Azula's eyes. "I was doing everyone a favor by not staying with them."
Everything seemed to stop. Sokka's angry expression seemed to soften.
"Are you guys really falling for this?" Katara asked. "Chan for one didn't do anything to Azula."
"Well, actually…" Zuko started. "He was pretty much a jerk, Mai can vouch for that."
"Look, I don't care. My point is, Azula has been picking fights with us all day, and you're just going to believe her when she puts on this little victim act?"
Azula whipped away the tears. "It doesn't matter. I said I was sleeping by myself anyways."
"Then do it, stay by yourself in the forest. We don't care." Katara yelled. "We're done letting you push us around."
"Guys, can we just go to bed. Please?" Ty-Lee asked.
"I agree, I think we should go to bed." Ta-Yoon nodded. "Talk this over in the morning."
"We still have to decide where Azula is sleeping." Aang pointed out.
"We already have. Remember? She just told us all that she'd rather stay alone than with us 'filthy peasants.'"
"Azula, please at least stay with me. I'm your brother. Believe it or not, I do care."
Azula ignored him as she curled up next to Appa. She'd stay by him. Not only did he seem to appreciate her, but he was warm and soft and a suitable substitute for a pillow.
"Come on, be reasonable."
"I am being reasonable. Appa needs company too. At least he likes me. I think." Azula's voice was barely a whisper by the end of her sentence.
Zuko slid himself down next to her and pulled her into his arms. "Then I guess I'll stay out here with you."
"I don't want you to." But her voice had lost all its fight. Truth be told, she did want him there. She wanted anyone to just hold her and tell her it would be okay. Between the ghosts and this little journey, Azula didn't know how much more she could take.
She let a choked out sob and tried her best to suppress the next. "I hate them all and they hate me."
"That's not true." Zuko pulled her closer.
"I don't know what to do, Zu-zu." Azula confessed. Her tears didn't slow. At this point she was practically crying for crying. She promised herself not to cry again. "They're going to kill me and no one wants to help me without some incentive. What if I can't get into the spirit world? What if the Skull Spirit comes back? Or they find me and take me back to the asylum? And what about Shou!? She wouldn't come with me, and now they have her."
"I—I don't know." Zuko admitted. "But we'll figure it out. Try not to think about it so much." Easier said than done. Zuko knew that.
"How am I not supposed to think about it?" Azula asked. "Even when I'm sleeping I think about it. Do you know how many times I dreamed about getting consumed?"
"That whole fight wasn't about where you were going to sleep was it?" Aang asked. "You're afraid and confused and…you just want someone to help."
And there it was, out in the open for everyone to see and know. As if the whole crying situation wasn't embarrassing enough.
"It's alright. Zuko was the same way actually. Ya know, when we first met him." Aang laughed.
Now Zuko had his face hidden within Appa's fur. Embarrassment seemed to be a family event. Azula couldn't help it, she gave a slight laugh.
"You want me to show you how to restore your honor?" Zuko rolled his eyes and gave a laugh of his own.
"Perhaps." Azula sniffed and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Just don't get father involved, I don't think he has enough honor to spare."
At this point the laughter was now circling around the group.
"Clearly we've all had a rough day." Aang remarked. "Perhaps we can all just wipe the slate clean and start over tomorrow?"
"Or we can start over tonight." Ty-Lee chirped.
"Awesome." Chan smiled. "…So, where's Azula going to sleep?"
"Except for him. We won't get along with him." Azula had to retain some of her sassy reputation. With the exception of Chan, the group shared another laugh.
"Maaaybe we should just forget about the tents, find the softest piles of dirt, and go to sleep, just like old times." Sokka suggested.
"Yes, because Toph wasn't gonna help anyways." Katara remarked.
"Ha ha." Toph smiled and gave Katara a playful punch on the shoulder.
Azula rolled herself out of Zuko's arms, and back on to Appa.
"This arrangement okay with you?" Zuko asked as he sprawled a blanket over her.
With a yawn, she nodded.
Perhaps this field trip wouldn't be as bad as she had assumed.