The night air was cool, though not chilly, and from the back of Appa they had a clear view of the stars above and the land below.

Aang paid no attention to either, instead keeping his focus on their destination. It was his fault Ba Sing Se had fallen. It was his fault that Katara and Toph were now hurt. Now that he was once again out in the world, he was determined to never let anyone else get hurt because he wasn't there to protect them.

He glanced behind him, and took in the two sleeping girls toward the back of the saddle. Both had been exhausted by the fight with the unknown assassin, and now that the danger was passed, both had drifted into a somewhat calm sleep.

Aang winced as his gaze passed over Katara's bruises, and he shuddered when he saw the bandage covering the place where Toph's eye should have been.

He closed his eyes, and faced forward again.

"It's not your fault, you know."

Aang turned around, surprised to find that Zuko was still awake.

"You did what you needed to do. And you showed up in time to save us. Don't think you failed just because you can't be everywhere and protect everyone. You may be the Avatar, but you're not omniscient."

Aang lowered his gaze. "Maybe. It's just...I feel responsible. It's my duty to restore balance to the world, but I haven't been doing such a good job of that. We have only one more chance to win the war. And lately, everything has been going wrong."

Zuko chuckled. "Yeah, well, I remember when I tried to capture you, everything constantly went wrong for me. But things turned out alright in the end, just not how I expected."

Aang considered this, then nodded. "You're right. We've come too far to give up now."

A moment of silence passed between them, broken only by a small grunt from Appa and the steady breathing of the two sleeping girls.

"Oh, and I think I know what you're going to say next. It's okay, don't worry about it."

Zuko looked surprised. "How'd you…?"

"Katara told me that you've had a hard time accepting that we can forgive you so easily. But what good would holding a grudge do? And I can tell that you've changed, Zuko. It's time to focus on the person you are, not the person you were."

Zuko nodded slowly. "Yes, you're right. Still, a lot has happened in a fairly short amount of time, and I'm still trying to come to terms with what happened."

After a brief pause, Zuko added. "You seem to have mastered the Avatar State. Think it'll be enough to defeat my father?"

Aang looked up to the stars. "I hope so. But, I don't know for sure. I still only have so much experience, while the Fire Lord has honed his abilities for decades."

Zuko shrugged. "Well, you made short work of Azula and Tikaani. How much harder can my father be?"

Aang closed his eyes. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see."

He turned back around. "Do you think they'll be okay?"

Zuko followed Aang's worried gaze toward the two girls. "I'm sure they'll be fine. It'll take more than that to stop them."

Still, whenever Zuko saw Toph's bandaged face, he felt a pang of guilt. If Katara hadn't used up half of the spirit water on him, she might have been able to restore Toph's eye, maybe even her sight…

Zuko shook his head. It didn't do to dwell on things he couldn't change. He'd just given that advice to Aang, so he might as well follow it himself.

Some more time passed, and the land below them gradually contained fewer and fewer trees until they were out of the forest and over a plain, which looked pale and desolate in the moonlight.

Zuko rested his gaze on the waterbender for a moment, his expression thoughtful.

"You love her, don't you?"

Aang whipped his head around. "Wh-what do you mean?"

Zuko gestured toward Katara with his head. "Katara. You really care about her, don't you?

Aang blushed. "Well...yeah, I mean, I care about all of you...but...yeah, especially her."

Zuko shook his head. "You're a little young to be thinking of romance, you know."

"I'm also a little young to be responsible for restoring balance to the world, but what choice do I have? Besides, she's the first person I saw when I came out of the iceberg, and our travels together have only made my feelings stronger."

Zuko clasped his hands together. "So why don't you tell her how you feel?"

"I don't know. I guess I'm afraid. What if she doesn't feel the same way? I wouldn't want her to feel guilty for not reciprocating my feelings, and I wouldn't want things to become awkward between us. And even if she does feel the same way, we're in the middle of a war. We have a lot to do, and we don't know who's going to make it to the end alive. This isn't really the right time."

Zuko bowed his head. "I can understand why you're saying that. But still, you never know which day might be your last. Why wait if this is something that's bothering you inside? What's the worst that could happen? I mean, you and I used to be enemies, and despite that we're now friends. It'll take more than something like this to drive you and Katara apart."

Aang faced forward again. "I suppose you have a point. I'll have to think it over."

They remained silent for a few moments, neither one noticing the absence of Katara's quiet snores, though this may have been because of Toph's less than quiet ones.

"So, is there any special girl in your life, Zuko?" Aang asked cheerfully.

Zuko rubbed the back of his neck.

"Yeah, sort of, I guess. I'm hoping we'll be able to meet up with her in Omashu."

Aang's face became serious again. "Right. Omashu."

He shifted his gaze forward, and did not speak again for some time.

Several hours later, the sky began to lighten, and both Katara and Toph awoke from their slumber.

"Ah, good, you're awake." Zuko smiled. "We were just about to plan out our route."

Katara yawned, while Toph grumbled sleepily. Both revived somewhat once they'd had something to eat, and then Aang spread the map out so that all four of them could see it.

"We need to get to Omashu as fast as possible, but we need to do our best to avoid being seen." Aang said. "I'm thinking we should take this route here."

He pointed toward the map.

Zuko nodded. "We'll also need to find secure places to stop and rest. I know of some pretty good places here, and here…"

Toph sighed impatiently. "Well, seeing how I can't see your dumb map, I have no idea what you're talking about. However...I think I might know one place that would be safe for us to stop and rest for a while."

"Where?" Katara asked.

Toph scowled. "My parents estate."

Jet swung his hook sword toward Jin's legs, trying to trip her up. She leaped out of the way, bending several stones toward her opponent. He retreated, stepping back to avoid the stones, before renewing his attack.

Thinking quickly, Jin used the earth around her feet to move quickly around Jet, circling behind him. Before she could strike, however, Jet hastily spun around, forcing her to retreat.

They eyed each for a few seconds, when Jin suddenly raised up the earth into a cloud of dust, obscuring the visibility of the area.

Unable to see his opponent, she was able to surprise Jet and knock him down. He grunted with pain as his back hit the ground

"What on earth are you two doing?"

Jet and Jin looked around to see Hakoda walking toward them, a shocked expression on his face. A few paces behind him was Saru, who looked apprehensively at the two young people.

"We were just sparring." Jet said. "Jin wanted to learn how to fight, and I need to get back into shape after lying around for several weeks."

Hakoda calmed down slightly, though he frowned as he glanced at the earth covering a good portion of the deck.

"Well, I suppose that's all right. Just be careful, and I expect you to clean this area up once you're done."

Jin nodded, nervously brushing a little bit of dirt off her shirt. "Of course."

Hakoda descended below deck, and Saru followed him shortly.

Jin shifted. "I guess I did make a mess of things, huh?"

Jet chuckled. "Yeah, but you did pretty well for someone who's never fought before."

Jin blushed. "Thanks. I do hope I can find someone to train me in Omashu, as I doubt I would have done as well without my bending."

Jet coughed, and wiped off some of the dust that had settled on his shoulders.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Here, let me help you with that."

Jin waved her arms, and all of the earth clinging to Jet moved away from him, settling in a little pile around him.

"Thanks." Jet said appreciatively.

"Excuse me."

Jet and Jin turned around to see who had spoken, and saw one of the Kyoshi warriors walking toward them.

"Have either of you seen Suki anywhere?"

Jin shook her head, while Jet answered. "No."

The Kyoshi warrior looked slightly annoyed. "Ugh, I have something I need to talk to her about, and I can't find her! She's been doing this more and more lately."

"What did you need to talk to her about?" Jin asked curiously.

The Kyoshi warrior froze momentarily, before replying quietly. "It's a...personal matter."

"Oh. Sorry."

"No, it's okay." The Kyoshi warrior sighed. "I also haven't seen Sokka around today. I wonder where he went to?"

Jet and Jin exchanged a brief look, before returning their attention to the Kyoshi warrior.

"Well, I'm sure Suki's around here somewhere." Jet said confidently. "Maybe she's just...busy with something."

The Kyoshi warrior nodded absently. "You're right. It's just kind of frustrating."

She turned to look at Jet. "By the way, that one friend of yours...Smellerbee, was it? She's recovering well, though her arm will need to be in a sling for a week or two. Most of the people who were injured during the pirate attack are doing all right, but there are some whose fate is still uncertain."

Jet nodded grimly. A few days before, one of the Water Tribe warriors had passed away, as a wound one of the pirates gave him had been too severe for his body to heal. Several more looked like they might not make it. The circumstances served as a fresh reminder of the reality of war, and that there were no guarantees for tomorrow.

But Jet was determined to do what he could to prevent someone else from dying, and Jin also wanted to be able to fight when the time came. So they had promised that they would help each other become stronger, and decided to begin training at once.

"Thanks for letting me know. It must be driving her crazy being stuck in the infirmary."

The Kyoshi warrior nodded. "Yes, she did seem a bit cross. But if she doesn't rest, she won't get better."

The Kyoshi warrior turned around. "Well, sorry to interrupt your training. I'll go check and see if Sachi has seen Suki around."

"Wait." Jin bit her lower lip. "I'm sorry, I should know it by now, but I can't remember what your name is."

The Kyoshi warrior laughed. "It's okay, I'm not very good with names either. My name is Kai. Yours...starts with a J, right?"

Jin nodded. "Yeah, my name is Jin. And this is Jet. I'll try to remember your name."

"And I will try to remember yours. Well, see you later."

Kai descended back down below deck.

Jet held up his swords. "So, do you want another round?"

Jin assumed a fighting stance, gathering the earth around her. "Of course."

Zuko cringed as he watched the shouting match between Toph and her parents.

They'd traveled a great distance by this point, and were most of the way to Omashu. Stopping by Gaoling took them slightly out of the way, but they decided it was safest to avoid regions where Fire Nation troops were more prominent.

They'd arrived in the late evening, so that hopefully no one would see Appa. In addition, they'd decided to keep Zuko's name and identity secret, as Toph felt dealing with her parents would be hard enough without them wondering why the Fire Nation prince was with them.

Watching the argument unfold before him, Zuko decided that Toph had been right.

"Stop interrupting me, young lady. I told you wouldn't be safe if you went with the Avatar, and I was correct." Toph's father said, an angry scowl on his face. "One of your eyes is gone! And who knows what could happen to you next? It's far too dangerous for a little girl like you to be fighting in the war."

Toph seethed. "It's not like I needed the eye anyways, and I'm not some helpless little kid!"

For emphasis, she stomped her foot into the ground, and three stone pillars shot up from the floor, smacking the ceiling very hard.

Toph's mother interjected. "Maybe not, but you're still young and inexperienced. We just want to protect you from…"

"Protect me?" Toph shouted. "You think hiding me away from the world and never letting me do anything for myself is protecting me?"

Aang and Katara were standing a ways back from Toph, their eyes darting back and forth between the two parties.

It had gone on like this for some time, with Toph trying to explain to her parents that she could take care of herself, and her parents trying to convince her to stay home now that she had returned. Needless to say, things had gotten heated very quickly. At one point Toph's father had tried to drag Aang into the argument, claiming that he had 'stolen' his daughter, but Toph shot that down at once, incensed by her parents refusal to accept her own decisions.

After a while, once Toph and her parents had shouted themselves hoarse, they finally came to a compromise.

"Enough." Her father raised up a hand. "It is clear to me that you will stay with the Avatar, with or without my approval. Very well. You and your friends can stay the night, as you requested, and then you will depart tomorrow. But don't think this ends the discussion about your disobedience, Toph. Once the war is over, we will talk again. Assuming you don't get yourself killed because of your foolishness, that is."

Toph scowled angrily, but let the last remark go. "Fine. Let's go, Aang."

The four friends quietly exited the room, grateful that the argument was, for the moment, over.

Toph flopped down onto her bed, her solitary eye glaring angrily at the ceiling. The other three didn't say anything for a while. Eventually, Aang left to go to his own room.

Zuko rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, for what it's worth Toph, your father isn't as bad as mine."

Toph didn't say anything.

"I'll just go now." Zuko muttered, walking out of the room and into the hall.

Katara stared at Toph for a moment before speaking.

"You know they do care about you, right?"

Toph scoffed. "They've sure got a funny way of showing it."

"It's true that they are overprotective. But they just want you to be safe, and I think they were really upset and worried about you running away."

Toph muttered. "Yeah, whatever."

Katara said gently. "Don't give up on them just yet. You'll regret it if you do."

Sensing Toph's irritation, Katara left the room, leaving Toph alone with her own thoughts.

"Damn it." Azula growled, stomping her way out of the forest. Tikaani followed close behind her, his expression uncharacteristically subdued.

The Avatar had sent them flying toward the Eastern Air Temple, and it had been some time before she had been able to dispel the sphere of air around them. Once it was gone, she and Tikaani had lept to safety, Azula using her flames to slow her descent, while Tikaani used his abilities to carefully climb down a tree and onto the ground.

They were alive and uninjured. That was the good news. But things were not going at all how Azula had planned. Now that the Avatar had left the Eastern Air Temple, she did not for sure where he would go next, and that damned bison could move much faster than any person on foot.

And now they had lost an enormous amount of time making their way back to Ba Sing Se. With the head start the Avatar had at this point, there was no point in trying to track him down until she had some solid leads.

As she made her way back to the occupied city, her expression was cold and angry.

You might have won this round, Avatar. But I'm not done with you yet.

Author's Note: Meant to have this up sooner, but most of my free time lately has been spent binge watching FMAB. Really good show by the way. I still like ATLA more, but it's close.

So yeah, thanks for sticking with me, and have a Happy Halloween. For those who need some safety tips for Halloween, this video should help: