It had been nonstop drills with Toph in the early hours of the morning and continuous weapon practice with Jeong Jeong till Aang thought he was preparing for a war. It was nearing midnight when he made it back to Toph's condo.

"Wow, you look like you've been through hell and back, Twinkle Toes." Toph stated as she sat leisurely on her sofa, lazily petting Appa who slept soundly on the floor.

"Oh it feels like it." he said with a weak smile while making his way towards his room. But Toph hurriedly hopped off the couch and grabbed his hand before he could make it to the bed that was calling his name. "What is it Toph? I'm exhausted."

"I've got a little surprise for you."

"A surprise? What sort of surprise?" He mumbled, rubbing the sleep away from his eyes.

"If my instincts are correct, and they always are… your surprise will be here in three… two… one-" Instantly, the door opened and in walked a face Aang hadn't seen in many, many years.

"Aang, buddy, it's about damn time!" He said with that wide, goofy grin on his face that instantly filled Aang with sheer joy He was wearing a formal Navy uniform; a black coat with golden rings on the sleeves, black trousers, and shoes so shiny they looked like glass.

"Sokka…?!" he whispered in awe.

"In the flesh." Sokka walked up to him with a sort of limp in his step, his sister trailing close behind him. He pulled Aang into a tight hug but just when he pulled away, Aang felt a strong, bruising punch hit his arm. "And that's for leaving." Sokka said with a chuckle as he took off his white cap and ran a hand over the tuft of spiked hair at the top of his mostly shaved head. He was much taller now, muscular, and his presence commanded power. The years in the military definitely changed him physically - but Aang knew Sokka was still the lovable, goofball he always knew him to be.

"Okay, I guess I kind of deserved that one too." Aang said with a laugh while rubbing his arm. "I thought you were on active duty in the Navy?"

"I was." He said as he stumbled towards the pantry and scoured for something to eat. "But I kind of did some serious damage to my leg – had a bad run in with some prototype propellers. I'm on discharge for a while. Great timing, huh?"

"Wow well, looks like the gang's all here at last, huh?" Aang said with a wide grin as he opened Momo's cage and lightly scratched the sleeping monkey behind the ear. The fact that there was a monkey in the room warranted a curious look from Sokka but he shrugged it off, knowing long before of Aang's love for animals and habit of always bringing new ones home.

"Isn't it nice?" Katara whispered softly as she took a seat on the couch, soon joined by Toph. Her blue eyes looked over every familiar face. It seemed like an eternity since they were all here, gathered together. There was a feeling of déjà vu here, like they were reliving an old memory. Finally, the barriers that had kept them apart for so long had fallen away.

"It sure is." Toph agreed after a moment. "Actually, this works out for us, Aang. Sokka's volunteered to help us with our little mission."

"Wait, you told him about it, Toph?" Aang asked.

"Everything she could tell me. I am based out in Japan, so this isn't the first time I've heard of these guys." Sokka replied with a mouthful of chips. "Man, I missed this stuff! You can't get snacks like this on board!"

"You told him but you won't tell me? I'm his sister!" Katara protested.

"Sorry, no can do, Sugar Queen. Confidential information like this is only for the ears of people protecting the country."

"Well, technically she is protecting the citizens of the country being a doctor and all." Aang defended with a light shrug, earning him a thankful look from Katara.

"Too bad, so sad." Toph rebutted. "Now, would you mind giving us a few minutes so we can talk?"

"You're kicking me out now?!" Katara exclaimed, practically steaming, but Aang, always the peacemaker, was able to diffuse the tension that was always fairly present between the two.

"How about you make us some dinner, Katara? I haven't had your Thai green curry in such a long time." She looked at Aang and given the pleading expression on his face, she couldn't resist the request. With a sigh, she pushed herself off the sofa and started her way towards the door.

"Oh oh, Katara! While you're at it, could you make some dessert too?"

"Don't push it, Sokka." She replied in her strict sisterly way before heading to the kitchen. There was a moment of brief silence between the three, only filled by the sound of Sokka noisily crunching away at his bag of chips.

"Alright then, let's get down to business. I've already debriefed Sokka and we've done a bit of research on known suspects." Toph started with a sudden air of seriousness.

"There really wasn't much to go off of." Sokka added.

"They cover their tracks well. But we've narrowed the list down to three people who've had a sufficient amount of contact with each other in the past six months." She stood up and walked towards the study table in the corner of the room, picked up a black folder, and handed it to Sokka. He pulled out three pictures, obviously taken from security cameras judging from the slight blur.

"This is Qin Hou." He held up a picture of a slender elderly man with a dark stubble and gray hair tied into a ponytail. "Records say he was born and raised in China, moved to Japan with his wife and now the states just two years ago and started a prospering steel factory." He pulled out another photograph of a petite middle-aged woman with a stern face, pointed noise, and seemingly permanent sour expression. "Ukano Aikawa, a local governor in the Japan from a noble family, moved here about a year ago but we couldn't find anything about his current position." He pulled out another picture from the file, this time of an elder man with a stern expression, sideburns, and a short crop of dark hair. "Zhou Ogami, a Japan military general and tactical expert. He has close dealings with the family. "

"How are they all connected?" Aang asked as he looked over the three rather unkindly faces before him.

"Brief calls back and forth that we haven't been able to tap into, depositing large amounts of money into each other's bank accounts, and occasional meet ups." Toph answered.

"And after some expert research, I've predicted their next pow-wow will be tomorrow night on a little yacht party in New York Harbor." Sokka proclaimed with sufficient pride in his tone.

"Wow, Sokka." Aang muttered as he looked over the detailed notes written in his messy handwriting. "You did all this in a day? You're still a genius!"

"I'm not head of naval tactics for no reason."

"Easy there, Snoozles, your head's going to burst with all the hot air in it."

"I see you're still sticking to the nicknames." he mumbled.

"Of course."

"Hey guys, so where do I come in here?" Aang chimed in.

"Well, the party is tomorrow night. I would have needed at least two days to weasel you into the guest list but can't be done." Toph replied.

"And that's why I had another suggestion. You don't have to be a guest to get in."

"Then how do I get in? I'm not much of a party crasher."

"No, you're not. But I think you'd make a decent waiter." Sokka replied with a knowing smirk.

He couldn't stop pacing within the confines of the living room. All day Aang had been drilled for this mission. It was simple really. Go into a party disguised as a waiter, try to find out a bit about the guests, and walk out unharmed and with info, no problem. But it was all easier said than done. Toph had talked nonstop about how he would have to act, what he would have to look out for, and who he should keep his eye on. It was maddeningly stressful and while he wasn't screaming or losing his mind, Aang couldn't shake that fear of screwing something up. His pets were even worried for him judging by the way they followed him as he walked back and forth. Fortunately, he was pulled out of his anxiety by a timid knock on the door.

"Hey, Katara." Aang greeted with a smile.

"Hey, Aang. Wow, you look all nice and dressed up. Have any plans?" she asked as she stepped inside and looked over his tailored white tuxedo with black accents on the collar with gloves and a bow tie to pull the whole waiter look together.

"Guess you can say that. I'm going out to a small party."

"Well, it must be a fancy one."

"Probably is. It's on a yacht. Too fancy for me, but hey, maybe I'll have a good time." At this, Katara quirked a brow and gave him a curious look. Toph had refused to share any information regarding the whole mission statement. She even kept secret the reason behind his return. At this point though, Aang had assumed that she had put to rest all the constant prying for information.

"A yacht party? Since when have you been able to afford to go to one of those? Actually, since when have you liked partying?" Aang gave a light shrug as Momo climbed up his leg, onto his shoulder and hopped to Katara's to mindlessly play with her braided hair.

"I'm going as a waiter, actually. It couldn't hurt to have some extra money. And I'm sure there's going to be some great deserts!" Katara couldn't help but roll her eyes.

"Of course you'd go somewhere for the deserts."

"Well, it should be fun other than the snacks. Who knows, maybe I'll make some friends." There was a pause between the two and a weight suddenly came crashing down over the silence It was the heaviness of unspoken words which had yet to be spoken after all these years. Katara opened her mouth to speak and address the elephant in the room, but her brother walked in just in time to strip away the opportunity.

"You definitely have the waiter look down my monk friend." Sokka commented, circling Aang and inspecting his get up.

"Let's just hope I don't mess anything up."

"You won't." Katara consoled. Aang gave her a grateful smile before taking a deep breath and standing up straighter.

"Well then, wish me luck."

"Come back in one piece." Sokka advised.

"Aye aye, sir." He returned with a salute.

"You'll need this, cadet." Sokka handed Aang a small, black bluetooth earpiece. "We'll keep in touch."

The party was lively as anyone would expect it to be given the large amount of guests but Aang certainly wasn't expecting this degree of luxury He was aboard a 112 meter, multi-tiered superyacht. It had a cascading pool across the main deck, multiple helipads, and a stage on the second deck where a band was playing classical Asian music with a live singer. He wanted to snoop around, see what he could find out but Toph specifically instructed him to just listen closely and not draw attention to himself. He checked in with the head of the waitstaff and was instructed to hand out appetizers and drinks. As he came up from below deck, he was astonished by the extravagance of everyone present. They were clad in the most expensive suits and dresses money could buy, as though this were an event only for the top 1%. It wouldn't so far a stretch to say so, given their haughty way of walking and sophisticated manner of speaking. There was a thick smell of pricey perfumes and colognes as well as decadent food floating in the air, mixing with the sea breeze. The music playing overhead only added to the ambiance. This wasn't a party so much as it was a very dignified gala. There were Japanese lanterns strung across the deck and small tables were scattered around on every level for people to eat, drink, and socialize. One would think this was a normal, albeit very fancy, gathering were it not for the many heavily armed guards on the premises.

To say Aang felt slightly out of place here among the distinguished crowd would be a strong understatement. He couldn't remember the last time he had attended a large party and he certainly never had the opportunity to be a guest at such a high class one. Somehow, he managed to adapt and casually asked guests if they would care for the appetizers and wine he was serving, and occasionally helped himself to. But he didn't forget his initial duty which was to look out for the three familiar faces and keep an eye on them; perhaps try to eavesdrop a bit if he could.

Within forty minutes or so, he had located two of the suspects. Qin had been at the bar since Aang got there and hadn't moved an inch. Ukano and his wife remained at a table of esteemed guests on the second floor of the ship where Aang was not allowed to get close to unless called. All Aang could pick up from their conversation when he passed by was talk of current events and gossiping, nothing interesting.

"Anything on Zhao yet, Aang?" Toph asked over the headset.

"No, not yet." he mumbled softly while organizing the wine glasses into a pyramid to waste some time. Eventually the sparkling lights and dazzling decorations all became rather boring considering Aang had no one to enjoy the party with. He knew he should have at least brought Momo along.

"What have the other two been doing?"

"The same thing they've been doing all night. One is drinking, the other is out of reach but talking about politics and gossiping."

"Typical. God, I really hate these snooty, rich people."

"Didn't you grow up around snooty, rich people?"

"Exactly why I hate them." Aang let out a chuckle as he continued wandering around, his eyes scoping all the many faces while people plucked things off the tray he was holding.

"That's irony if I've ever known it," Aang pointed out.

"Yeah, yeah, just keep looking will ya Twinkle Toes?"

"Geez Toph, I'm twenty six years old. Will you keep going on with the nicknames till I'm an old man? That's going to be very - Uf!" In the process of speaking on his headset, searching the crowd, and handing out hors d'ourves, he yet again bumped into someone. But this time, it was a young man, not much older than him, with black shaggy hair and a large red scar covering almost the entirety of the left side of his face. It stood out among every other feature but Aang couldn't help but also notice that this stranger's golden-brown eyes. They looked vaguely familiar.

"Watch it!" he warned between gritted teeth and before Aang could even let out an apology, the scarred man pushed past him and disappeared amongst the crowd.

"Aang? Aang?! Are you okay?" Toph called out over the headset.

"Yeah… yeah I'm okay." He managed to speak out, looking behind him to see if he could catch the strange man again. "Just wasn't watching where I was going."

"Smooth, airhead."

"Alright Toph, I'm hanging up. I don't want to drop the food I'm serving."

"Someone's taking this job seriously."

"Being a waiter is serious business, you know," he replied, jokingly.

"Just be careful." And then there was silence. Aang took a deep sigh and continued through the mass of people. The only downside about being a waiter that he noticed so far was that people didn't really pay him much mind. There were a few thanks here and there but mostly, he was lucky to even get glanced at. Then again, it was a good way to remain hidden in the shadows and gather info.

"Hey, waiter! You there!" The unexpected call grabbed Aang's attention. Turning his head to face the voice, he felt a chill race down his spine. It was Zhao, standing among a group of older men. The last suspect he'd been looking for had found him first. That couldn't be good news. Slowly, Aang made his way over, gulping down the trepidation building in his gut. 'Did he figure out already?' he thought to himself in a panic. It couldn't be though… Aang had been at this job for just an hour. They couldn't possibly be that good and if they were… he would be in for a lot of trouble.

He stood before the intimidating man, pushing away fear before it consumed him. The photo didn't do his menacing aura justice. He was dressed in an expensive suit but his red tie was loosened and his shirt disheveled. He had a devilish grin on his face and reeked of alcohol. The man was probably teetering on the brink of complete drunkenness. Somehow, Aang managed to force words out of his mouth, "How can I help you… sir?" Zhao took a glass of red wine from a table behind him, pulled a pen from his pocket and hurriedly scribbled onto a napkin. Setting them both on Aang's tray, he wrapped his arm around his shoulder and pointed amongst a small group of women, gathered around the bow of the ship. "Give this to that one in the white dress. Tell her it's from Zhao." He gave Aang a light shove in the right direction and the monk couldn't help but take a sigh of relief. It was nothing more than a drunken man trying to win a woman's affections. He looked back to see Zhao and his group with pompous smirks, anxiously looking back at him. Aang had to suppress a laugh at their boyish behavior.

He continued along the deck to the very tip where three women stood together in a triangle, deep in conversation. The one in the white dress was facing away from him but he could see the two others. One of them was wearing a plain black gown with full sleeves, had long extremely black straight hair with bangs covering most of her eyes and looked rather bored. The other had her brown hair neatly braided and wore a pink a-line dress with a darker pink bow tied around the waist. Aang could distinguish little about the woman in white besides the fact that her gown was fitted around her magnificently fit form and rose at one side of her thigh and that her hair was tied in an extravagant bun.

Once he reached them, Aang softly cleared his throat. "Pardon me, ma'am?" The woman turned to him with a quizzical look. He suddenly stiffened in front of her golden-eyed stare, only made fiercer by the glow of the lanterns hanging above them. There was something so very familiar about those eyes. He could have sworn he had seen them before not once, but twice.

"I… uh…" He pursed his lips, trying to find words in front of her intensifying look. "Zhao asked me to deliver this drink for you. Along with this note." The woman suddenly became less tense and glanced over Aang's shoulder at the men looking towards them.

"Will he ever give it a break?" she scoffed with a roll of her eyes. Taking the drink, she looked back at Zhao and tipped the glass to him before picking up the napkin and reading the scrawled letters "The man really doesn't have a way with words either." The girl in pink let out a giggle.

"He's really pining after you, isn't he Azula?" She said to her but with her eyes focusing on Aang. He felt kind of uncomfortable under her gaze, as though she were somewhat objectifying him, but he returned the smile.

"Apparently. Some men can never take a hint. What an idiot." The way she said the word rang another bell of familiarity in Aang's ears. She took a sip from the glass, giving him the opportunity to glance at her wrist. The black flame tattoo in the red circle left no doubt about it.

"Hey… I know you." he said with a grin, relieved that there was at least one person he was acquainted with here. Well, somewhat acquainted. She looked over him but no recognition washed over her.

"Oh, really? Do refresh my memory."

"Two days ago, coffee shop, I kind of bumped into you."

"Ah, right. What a small world. Be grateful you didn't bump into me this time." Looking over her gown again, which probably cost more than his entire wardrobe; Aang couldn't help but cringe at the possibility. Red wine would most definitely defile it.

"Oh man, that would have been terrible. I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to kill me after that."

"She probably would." said the girl in black with complete seriousness. Aang blinked in surprise.

"She's not serious, is she?" he asked Azula. But rather than an answer, she simply sipped away at her wine.

"Would you let Zhao know that I appreciate the drink but I'm still not interested in the slightest?" There was that hint of bitterness again that he had caught at the coffee shop that day. It made him feel a sort of apprehension, like he should tread very carefully with her.

"No problem, ma'am." he replied with a nod and turned around to relay the message. There was an instinct that warned him that he shouldn't stick around any longer.

"Waiter," she called out to him, stopping him in his tracks. He bit his lip before looking back at her "What's your name?" His brows furrowed in suspicion, wondering why she would want to know when it wouldn't be of any use to her. But more than suspicion, Aang was actually happy that someone had taken an interest in him – even if it was such a minuscule one. The fact that she certainly seemed the frightening type was overcome by the small bit of amiableness she had displayed which was appreciated after a night of being largely ignored and looked down on. And he was never one to leave a show of kindness, no matter how small, unpaid.

"I'm Aang." he answered with a small smile before continuing along.

Aang had hoped something eventful would occur. Being a waiter was a lot more boring than he had thought it would be, even if he had a top-secret mission to keep him busy. But that also lost his interest considering the people he was supposed to be observing remained in their cliques and did little more than drink and talk. He floated around nonetheless. The only thing really captivating his interest to this point was the woman he had spoken to not too long ago.

Besides the fact that she was, in all honesty, rather stunning, Aang found her mysteriously intriguing. He hadn't failed to notice the way crowds parted from her path as though she were dividing an ocean. There seemed to be an aura of importance and power around her. People noticeably older than the young woman bowed to her before she had even acknowledged them. That was certainly unusual, almost as much as the fact that Azula's eyes would trace back to him every once in a while. Aang never knew that someone's gaze could make him feel so terribly uncomfortable. But he managed to avoid these awkward instances in which their glances would meet by casually asking someone if they'd like a drink or merely diverting his attention elsewhere. He didn't want to catch her or anyone else's attention. But for someone as unique as him, that was fairly impossible.

It was well past midnight by this time. The party had lost its previous vigor and Aang once more found himself stacking glasses into towers until the woman who had been paying attention to him all night suddenly appeared by his side.

"So, Aang is it?" He jumped causing the tower to come tumbling down. His reflexes were quick and his hands rapidly caught the few glasses that flew off the table. Miraculously, the expensive dinnerware survived the fall thanks to him. Azula observed him with a certain curiosity. "Impressive," she said with a quirked brow. Aang laughed nervously.

"Sorry about that. I didn't want to have to pay for those," he joked but she didn't seem quite so amused.

"Tell me, Aang… why exactly have you been hovering around my guests?" There was a calculating look in her eyes that made Aang feel like he was shrinking before her gaze. He'd never been so intimidated by someone before and he had good reason to be. His only hope was that she hadn't caught on to him entirely.

"I'm… a waiter? Kind of my job." He answered casually. She stared at him a moment longer before shrugging it off.

"Are you new to the city?" Aang was on edge. As far as he could see, Azula must have been a daughter of a rich man or a power politician or something of the sort judging by what he had observed of her so far. The fact that she was taking an interest in him was… flattering and frightening. He had to pick his words carefully. But the wise monk figured that the best way to go about this was to just be himself

"Not really. I mean, I've been traveling a bit. I just got back."


"I was in the Peace Corps. I traveled around a lot and helped people, that sort of thing." She stared off at the sea for a moment before giving a light scoff and swiftly turning around, grabbing a drink from the table as she went.

"You're obviously no threat", she muttered before taking a sip of the red wine in her hand and walking off. The moment of peace granted Aang a chance to let out a deep sigh of relief. He watched her as she left, the crowd dispersing around her once more. 'That was close.' He thought with a triumphant smile. Turning back, he tried to place the glasses into an orderly set again before a large man shoved past him. He ended up dropping the glass in his hand.

"Aw damn." He mumbled as he knelt down to pick up the pieces. He looked up at the man who had pushed him and came face to face with a very unfriendly face. He was a bald man with a deep frown, a full beard, and dark squinted eyes that peered at him as though he were dirt. The strangest thing about him was certainly the third eye tattooed at the center of his head. "Sorry, sir." Aang answered respectfully. The man in question just went on.

Aang stood back up and curiously watched the man and that's when he noticed it – the gun in the man's hand. Aang followed his line of vision. His eyes were focused on the woman in white - Azula. Aang's body reacted on instinct. Pushing past the much larger attacker, he ran towards the assumed target.

"AZULA! WATCH OUT!" She turned around. His voice reached her ears the same time the sound of a bullet did. There was a loud thud, a crash of glass, and some screams of horror. The pain of a bullet never came to her but the pain of hitting the ground did. When her eyes opened, the servant boy was hovering over her, blood already showing through his white jacket. "Saved your dress." He whispered with a jocose grin. Pained gray eyes met with startled golden ones for what seemed like forever but lasted no more than a second before the boy pushed himself off of her just as the attacker was charging at them.

Azula watched with amazement as Aang smoothly swung a circular kick under the man's legs causing him to hit the deck. Before he could get up, Aang had thrown another, much harsher kick, at the man's skull, knocking him back down. Assuming it had knocked him out, Aang turned back to look at her, breathing heavily. She could have been mistaken but she spotted his lips moving as though he were talking to someone. She didn't really have time to process if that was really happening or not before the bearded man stood back up and grabbed Aang's injured arm and twisted it behind his back with a sickening crunch. Blood leaked profusely out of his wound as his screams filled the ship. Azula had shot up, ready to save him but Ty Lee had beaten her to the chase - many fast jabs on his spine, and the much larger man fell limply to the ground. The guards showed up a moment too late.

"Where the hell were you?!" Azula scolded them. The men trembled under her burning gaze. "Forget it. Father will deal with you later. Take this man away for questioning! And someone help that -" She stopped when she turned back to realize Aang wasn't there anymore. The boy who had saved her life had disappeared.

A/N 05/31/2020: Still love this chapter! Can't wait to continue it and give y'all more content. Also, if you're curious, and because I personally like some sense of imagery when scene-setting, I did base the look of the yacht off the Aqua-Sinot Superyacht. They got mad money.