Death of a Thousand Cuts 01 - Wanderlust

Zuko was lost, even though he knew exactly where he was.

Restlessness drove him into motion, sending him stalking the halls of the Earth Palace. He supposed that his sister would rename it soon, what with the Fire Nation having conquered Ba Sing Se and the palace itself. Azula would probably call it something that would honor their father and that would just make everyone back in the Fire Nation love her even more, if anything could add to the prestige of capturing the Earth Kingdom's last stronghold and killing the Avatar.

And that was why Zuko was lost. It had been his mission to capture the Avatar. It was supposed to be him winning honor and redemption by helping to capture Ba Sing Se. He was supposed to be the one finally getting a smile from Father. Instead, all he had were dead dreams and an uncle who wouldn't talk to him. Zuko didn't even know if it was possible for him to return to the Fire Nation, now. Azula said he could, once they were done cracking down on Ba Sing Se, but if Father disapproved, she wouldn't hesitate to deny all her promises and send him off to wander the world forever.

The thought of such a betrayal made Zuko snarl and pump a blast of fire through his fists. The flames were weak and dissipated as soon as they touched the air, but a passing servant still squawked with fear and hurried away.

Great. Now no one in the palace would want to be near him.

He was alone.




Mai almost smiled once she identified exactly what she was feeling. It was lust, for the first time in her depressingly boring fifteen years of life. Watching Zuko stomp through the hallways from the one of the palace's many shadowy corners, Mai's pulse was quickened, her attention was rock solid despite having no one to fight, her mood was not bad for a change, and she kept having strangely compelling thoughts about how nice it would be to rest in a pair of manly arms and press her skin to his (starting with hands and then progressing to faces, if she was feeling especially wild. Maybe she'd even take off her outer layers of robes and show off her arms).

Lust. Before now, Mai had been convinced that it was a myth perpetrated by teenagers who wanted a biological excuse for doing exactly what their parents told them not to do.

Now it was the call for strategy.

It briefly occurred to Mai to ignore her own desires, as she often did, in order to avoid the complications that would come along for the ride. Azula would have an opinion on Mai going after her brother, of course, as would Mai's own family, although the worst they could do was simply disapprove while Azula was prone to murder when upset. If things with Zuko didn't end quickly, she would inevitably come to the attention of all the political players back in the Capital, and that would lead to more complications. Perhaps even the Fire Lord would actually bother to learn her name and that no, she wasn't the pink one who did cartwheels. The worst case scenario was that those old gasbags Li and Lo would try to give her The Talk, which would break Mai's mind in more ways than one.

She had no reason, other than this strange urge, to pay any attention to Zuko, and every reason not to. Acting on her lust would be risking complications.

Mai grinned.

Risk was the opposite of boring.

A mind that could keep track of 800 moving objects at once and compute their direction of travel in less than a second began applying its faculties to the task of getting a boy to like her. And not just any boy- Zuko.

This would take more than just a smile and some perfume.

Fortunately, when Mai's interest was up, she could be very patient.

Her thoughts whirling with plans, Mai wandered away and left Zuko to his sexy sulking.