|Fire Lord and his family take 2
Author: bhut PM
Now that Ozai is off to capture Ba Sing Se, Ursa, Zuko and Azula are settling down at Ember Island and adjusting to the changes in their lives. Will they make it or go crazy? Read on to find out!Rated: Fiction K - English - Family/Hurt/Comfort - Ursa & Zuko - Words: 2,437 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 1 - Published: 12-24-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4740572
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Now that you're gone
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Mike and Bryan. Well, almost all...
"Well, children, here we are – isn't it grand?" Ursa, the princess of the Fire Nation, and potentially the most prominent noblewoman of the self-same land turned to her children, Azula and Zuko with a look that just screamed 'excited parent'.
Azula and Zuko, though also being royalty – prince and princess of the Fire Nation, in fact - exchanged looks that said 'embarrassed kids' and nothing more. These looks also conveyed identical message of being also embarrassed of being related to each other, but currently the siblings were happy of having someone (i.e. each other) who would share their load of embarrassment regarding their mother.
"Kids?" Ursa pressed on, finally noticing the quiet attitude of her children. "Why are you so quiet?"
"Because if we don't keep quiet grandfather will get angry?" Zuko finally replied.
Now it was Ursa's turn to blush with embarrassment. "Your grandfather is back in the capital, and believe me, at this distance, even he won't get angry if you don't keep quiet."
It was at that moment that a large dragonfly-locust chose to land onto Azula's hair. Azula, who until now lived largely in the female quarters of the Fire Nation's royal palace, had never encountered insects of such generous size before, and freaked out: she proceeded to run around in circles, waving her hands like a frightened bear-turkey and shout "Get it off, get it off", until Zuko, laughing at his sister's misfortune in a true brotherly fashion, picked it out of Azula's hair. The insect objected to such rough handling by bending its' abdomen and releasing a line of inedible yellow liquid right into Zuko's still-open mouth. Now it was Azula's turn to laugh as Zuko sputtered and flailed his hands around, throwing away the offending bug.
"Children, please!" Ursa exclaimed, as she watched this display of sibling bonding with a deeply hidden twinkle of laughter in her eye. "Behave yourselves! We've just come here!"
A polite cough interrupted the children's antics, allowing the dragonfly-locust to fly away in peace, and the family to turn around, to see a lightly-built carriage and a woman standing before it. The woman's clothing was not particularly grand, but it was well-cleaned and well cared about, as was her hair. Everything about her spoke of a relatively high-ranking servant, like a steward or a major-domo, but her skin was far too swarthy for a Fire native, and her eyes were blue.
"Ah, you must be Katla, our new cellarer," Ursa recovered first. "Ozai mentioned you, I believe."
"That I am," the serving woman nodded politely. "My old master Zhao had given me to your household, to run it as you see fit."
"I see," Ursa nodded, once more embarrassed about her children's recent behaviour. "Well, Katla, glad to have you on my staff...is that our ride?"
"Indeed it is, mistress," the cellarer nodded once again. "If you would be so kind-?"
"Right," Ursa nodded. "Zuko, Azula, if you two are quite finished?"
"Yes, mother," Zuko and Azula nodded in reply, grimacing slightly for different reasons as they approached the carriage. "We're ready."
And they were off. The carriage too was in a fine enough condition, and although there were some bumps on the road, the ride in general was smooth enough even for the children to stop complaining and start looking through the windows instead. Ursa, for her part, struck a light, civil conversation with her new chief of servants, to receive equally light, civil answers in return – a smooth and peaceful enough ride, in other words.
Unfortunately, the feeling of discomfort and muted dislike, of embarrassment and discomfiture returned, though, once Ursa and her children got to their island house and sat to dinner. To make matters worse, the first course was a fish soup out of the tilapia-salmon, and even various greens and potatoes couldn't obscure the fishy taste.
"Fish soup? Why fish soup?" Azula complained after first few spoonfuls, trying to sound rude, but sounding whiny instead.
"Master Zhao always said that fish was perfect for hot summer months, it both filled the stomach and unhindered the bending," Katla replied promptly.
"Zhao," Azula mused with a particularly angelic look on her face, which meant, in Zuko's experience, that Azula was about to turn particularly nasty, "Zuko, wasn't he the one-"
"-who danced with you once or twice when we were invited to cousin Lu Ten's parties? I believe it was so, yes," Zuko nodded, determined to at least once beat Azula at her own game.
"Zhao has danced with you? Why wasn't I told?" Ursa's voice sounded rather sharper than its usual timbre.
"Uncle Iroh knew, and so did admiral Jeong-Jeong, uncle's closest friend and Zhao's superior officer," Zuko explained, belatedly realizing that he had made a blunder, after all. "I guess that you didn't need to know?"
"Apparently not," Ursa nodded, her lips still thinly pressed and her face still pale from anger. "Azula, go and eat your soup."
"May I be excused instead?" Azula replied with a saccharine smile, herself somewhat angered about the mention of her dances with Zhao – him being so much older than her, these dances had been embarrassing, especially since she was a princess!
"Only if you don't want the main course," Ursa said coolly.
"I don't mind, all that eating will just make me fat and impede my bending."
"Yeah, and you're a prodigy. Without your bending, you got nothing!" Zuko gloated.
Azula, who was already feeling out of place, grabbed the salt shaker – a very fine piece, a war trophy of a gift from Iroh – and would have thrown it at Zuko.
"Enough!" Ursa had had it. "Children, please behave! Azula, you're finishing your dinner and that's final. Zuko, stop teasing your sister and concentrate on your own meal instead!"
Zuko looked guilty, Azula – rebellious, but both siblings were well-mannered enough to eat without further trouble both their soup and the main course – boiled meatballs, roasted yams and vegetable salad – albeit all in absolute silence.
"I regret to inform you, but we have nothing suitable for desert," Katla began to speak once more, as the children were finishing their greens under Ursa's stern gaze.
"Oh, don't worry," Ursa said airily, "I am sure we'll be able to find something for supper instead. Children, why don't you inspect your rooms while Katla and I will examine the rest of their property?"
Knowing a dismissal when they heard one, and actually happy to be dismissed for once, Zuko and Azula left the dining room and raced upstairs, to see what their rooms were like and to get away from one another.
Zuko's room was a small one, furnished with a bed, a table and a chair, as well as a small cupboard. It also had a window, and being a young boy, Zuko went promptly to it, to look at the view outside. That particular view consisted of a small garden and vegetable garden outside the summer house, a much wilder expanse of greenery outside the house grounds, and views of similar buildings to their dwelling in the further distance. In short, it was a rather appealing view to a young boy...and then Azula spoilt it, as usual, by bursting into Zuko's room. "My room!" the younger sibling wailed as she burst inside. "It's pink!"
"My room! It's pink!"
"Yeah? And mine's...pale yellow, apparently. So what?"
"My room! It's pink!"
Zuko just stared at her, clearly not understanding Azula's angst or the reason for it. "My room is pink!" Azula shouted before. "Why in Fire Nation I would have a pink room?"
"For the same reason you have that crazy girl, Ty Lee, for a friend – you just like pink, but won't admit it," Zuko suggested the first thing that came to his mind.
Smoke began to fluctuate around Azula's hands and out of her ears. "My room is pink," she snarled, preparing to go for Zuko's throat. "I ate a soup of fish and greens, and my room is pink!"
"You want to go outside?" Zuko nervously tried a different approach. "There's nothing pink there."
"Fine!" With a snort that could make an ostrich-horse proud, Azula whirled on her heels and stomped outside, leaving Zuko alone, to his greater relief – his little sister could be scary, sometimes.
As for Azula, once she exited the house and began to walk around and away from it, her rage at the pinkness of her room slowly began to abate at last. Instead, the realization of how different her life will be from now on began to sink in. There was a park in the royal complex of the Fire Nation, but it was a well-tended, well-cultured one, complete with benches for sitting and relaxing and matching tables to play pai-sho and chess. Here, the place was completely different, especially outside the fence around the vegetable gardens and the flower bed – the plants grew tangled and wild, with lianas crawling around trees and big bluish-black bumblebeetles flying around them. As Azula pointlessly stared at them flying to and fro through the fence, she realized something – everything has fallen apart and the pieces, as they are being put together, have begun to form a completely different picture – one that Azula wasn't sure that she liked.
"Hey, Azula, what are you doing?" Zuko by now too had left his room and made his way to the flower beds. Though he was still wary of his sister, he was also boyish enough to get over it without too much ado.
"Looking at the insects," Azula replied flatly.
For a while the two siblings watched the insects together, neither saying anything. As it was usual in such situations, Azula broke the silence first.
"Don't you get it, Zu-Zu," she growled, turning away from the flowers and the bumblebeetles, "we're stuck here until father wins the war that our idiotic uncle had lost."
"He lost it because cousin Lu Ten died!"
"And losing the war makes it all fine how?"
"What is it with you and war?" Zuko wouldn't back down. "You're a girl, you shouldn't be involved in war?!"
"Oh? Well neither do you, and you're a boy!"
Now the two siblings were ready to fight each other, no matter what, but fate intervened once again – as Azula shifted her stance to begin fire bending, her foot knocked over a rock, which formerly hid a female earwig-scorpion and its brood. The insect was not amused by this change, and raised its stinger for a counter-attack...
Several minutes later, Ursa, deep in a discussion over domestic matters with Katla, was much surprised, to say the least, when her son dragged in her daughter on his back. To make matters even more confusing, Azula was bawling and yelling: "It hurts, it hurts!" over and over again.
"She got stung by something," Zuko said guiltily. "Some sort of a brown bug with a pincer-like stinger."
"Oh dear," Katla looked chastised and contrite at the same time. "My lady, I am so sorry. These earwig-scorpions constantly crawl in from outside, but we've got ointment for that – their stings are just painful, not truly dangerous."
"Perhaps," Ursa said, looking at bawling Azula with concern, "but you better get that ointment anyways," and that was just what Katla done.
And indeed, the sting wasn't painful, but it formed a bruise and a swelling on Azula's foot all the same, and so the princess had to go to bed earlier than usual on that day, and the sight of her new, pink walls just added insult to her injury. Fortunately, Katla – perhaps acting on a suggestion from Ursa – had slipped a soporific into Azula's drink, and so a fire alarm had been avoided, at least for a while.
"You know, when Azula wakes up, she'll be worse than ever before," Zuko said slyly to Ursa.
Ursa half turned around and gave her son a loving, yet firm look. "Zuko," she said stronger than ever before, "right now it's my household, and I am the head of this family with your father being away at war, and your grandfather and uncle being occupied...with the matters of state."
"Are you angry at them because of Zhao dancing with Azula?" Zuko had to ask.
Ursa sighed, and sat down – now she and Zuko looked face to face. "I am a bit angry with them, yes, even though they probably had the best or most reasonable of reasons not to tell me. Still, I am your mother, and I do not have to like it whenever someone makes fun out of either you or your sister," she paused. "Furthermore, now that your father is away you two are the only family that I may possibly have and I will take care of you two no matter what... I only with that your sister would understand that as well."
"Well, painting her room a different colour might be a start," Zuko felt better than he had felt all day. "She's not too keen on pink colour, apparently."
"I'll think about that," Ursa nodded sagely. "Anything else?"
Zuko shook his head. The day was growing late and the sun was sinking behind the trees outside the fenced-off area. The sky was already growing darker from what it was earlier in the day. In the flower bed, the first fireflies of the evening were stirring from their slumber.
"No," Zuko shook his head, and – unknown even to himself – he slightly smiled. Azula may have been telling the truth, and they were stuck here until their father won the war or the New Year celebrations came, but so far this life was much simpler and easier to understand than anything Zuko had to deal before, and that suited the young heir to the Fire Nation just fine. "You know, I think I'm going to like it here," he muttered, mainly to himself, but Ursa heard him too, and also smiled:
Their lives were going to improve, after all.