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definitely not suspicious at all in the least

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i.

By the time it becomes A Thing, none of them can agree who started it to begin with.

Katara flat out denies it, Sokka and Aang both say they dared the other to do it, and Suki reminds them (to Sokka’s enthusiastic agreement) that she already has the most awesomest outfit and doesn’t need anything else, thank you.

Zuko simply gives them all the flattest stare he can muster.

(Which is when Toph butts in to claim that it was her because she’s an actual agent of chaos so of course she does. They’re all inclined to doubt her somewhat just on principle, and also because the Blue Spirit is – well, blue.

Toph crosses her arms. “What, you think I can’t buy a stupid mask just because I’m blind?”

…in all fairness, the Blue Spirit is now far more widely sold than any other theatre mask, much to Zuko’s chagrin.

So it’s not impossible per se, but Sokka coughs something about Appa and posters followed by a yelp when he doesn’t dodge the incoming pebble fast enough.

Suki’s pat on his shoulder is not entirely sympathetic.)

 

 


 

 

ii.

But anyway. However it began, the six of them have somehow become too easily-recognisable in so many places that it’s sometimes horribly difficult and/or downright impossible (like really actually impossible) to do things even in an unofficial capacity, without having to go completely incognito.

…for a given meaning of the term, that is.

“No, see, I’m definitely not the Avatar!” exclaims a figure clad in unmistakably Air Nomad robes beneath the mask, who just as definitely doesn’t have two fruit pies balanced on each arm. “Just your friendly neighbourhood Blue Spirit, who’ll be going right now, bye!”

At least he didn’t fly off in the glider, Zuko will think later, face firmly buried in his palms.

He steadfastly refuses to meet the eyes of the guard who’d brought him the report with those words written down verbatim. Who also hadn’t tried very hard to stop the Avatar – sorry, the Blue Spirit – from the judicious application of pastry to a visiting minister who overestimated himself in every aspect except his ability to irretrievably piss off who so much as breathed in his presence, Blue Spirit or otherwise.

(“Is it possible for me to banish myself for another three years, do you think?” Zuko wonders aloud.

“I’m afraid not, my lord,” comes the carefully-serious answer, and as long as Zuko doesn’t look up he won’t see anyone laughing at his predicament which means that he won’t have to kick them out for insubordination or whatever.

“That’s what I thought,” Zuko sighs gloomily, and heroically resists the temptation to set the report on fire. Maybe this was why Uncle drank so much tea to cope.)

 

 


 

 

iii.

Of course, none of that really explains how or why Zuko ends up sneaking his way around the perimeter of a stronghold one dark but fortunately-not-stormy night. Everything about this is laughably familiar except for minor differences in layout (impenetrable fortresses – seen one, seen them all) and the fact that he’s not here to break the Avatar out. Though that might’ve been preferable, seeing as he’s actually here because rumour says that this stronghold is holding prisoners of war in explicit contravention of the peace treaties, and no matter how much Zuko’s instincts might concur, the Fire Lord can’t just storm in during broad daylight without any shred of evidence to back it up.

Admittedly, the word of an anonymous vigilante is pretty damned flimsy as far as evidence goes, but it’s better than nothing, and he’s already spent far too long probing every other (relatively) more legal avenue to no avail.

Surely Uncle would have some proverb about desperate measures and desperate times if he’d known about this – which he probably does, who is Zuko even kidding.

It’s enough to make anyone nostalgic for the days when he’d had no fixed responsibilities besides being an indiscriminate pain in everyone’s ass, up to and including his own.

And had a better mask too, dammit. Because this one must’ve been made by someone with no proper consideration for the practical necessities of theatre, Zuko concludes as he tugs irritably at the stupidly scratchy straps for the umpteenth time. It had been reasonably priced and he’d bought it in a hurry, yes, but neither of that should excuse offensively poor build quality.

All said, he’s in quite the foul mood by the time he rounds a corner and runs into the Blue Spirit.

…another Blue Spirit, that is.

Zuko does not groan aloud, because he is a pro at stealth work. But it’s a close call, and it turns out to be moot anyway.

“Aha!” crows the Blue Spirit who is definitely not Sokka trespassing on places he has no business being in, though at least he’s not wearing Water Tribe blue. “I knew you were in on this too!”

“Excuse you,” says Zuko instead of trying to deny anything at all, because becoming Fire Lord has made him better at diplomacy but not lying, though even he had to admit that they were occasionally (very occasionally) the same thing.

Also, he is the original Blue Spirit in the most literal sense, so there.

“Will you two boys be quiet!” comes the pointed whisper from the outer wall above them, before either of them can continue. “We’re actually working up here!”

“Suki!?” not-Sokka whispers back, visibly starry-eyed even through the mask.

“‘We’?” Zuko repeats, far more cautiously.

“She meant the royal we, I’m sure,” comes a different whisper, and they both look up to see a third Blue Spirit who somehow manages to convey deep boredom even through the mask.

Not-Sokka gulps nervously.

(“Why, Suki?” he wails later. “I can’t believe you brought Mai out Blue Spiriting instead of me!”

“I needed knives of the throwing kind,” Suki says calmly as she continues writing the report that will somehow arrive on Zuko’s desk via third party tomorrow, never mind the fact that it’s also being written in his office right now. “And I thought she might like a shot at the Blue Spirit leaderboard that I know you and Aang are keeping track of somewhere.”

I’m going to make tea!” Zuko declares far louder than is strictly necessary, which is still not quite enough to cover Suki mouthing maybe next time with a wink at Sokka.

At this rate they’re going to have to create a special incident report form just for Blue Spirit activities and it still won’t be enough.

…he is going to need so much tea.)