A/N: Hello all! I'm not usually one to jump headlong into stories without thoroughly planning them out first, but these characters just grabbed me like few have before. I love this pairing. It's my favorite in the LoK series. I hope you like the story!
Disclaimer: Bryan and Mike are the amazing creators and owners of these characters and this world and I am honored to be able to share a small part of it.
Chapter One: Apology
If you asked a stranger on the street about Asami Sato, odds are they would describe her as the beautiful heiress of Future Industries. They would say she was a lady of high society. They would talk about how her firebender lover had left her for her friend, the Avatar.
General Iroh did his best to be subtle as he asked around about the daughter of Hiroshi Sato, but he found that the answers he received were less than complete. No one mentioned her infuriating loyalty to technology or the way she had blatantly coaxed the president and his engineers into allowing her to upgrade the ships in Iroh's fleet. No one talked about the fact that she was smarter than most of Republic City's leading officials. No one knew she was the one who took on her father to help quell the Equalist uprising.
All anyone cared about was her beauty and her broken heart.
General Iroh needed more than that. He needed something he could use against her to force her to stop working on his airships. He didn't understand the infernal technology that she was installing and preferred the old method of using bending to run his fleet.
A month had passed since Amon's defeat, but the general was still stuck in Republic City. He had been forced to pass up several promising assignments because President Raiko insisted that the fleet receive the upgrades Asami Sato proposed. Airship commanders were flying in from all over the world to try to get a spot in the Future Industries garage, but General Iroh had, at least, been able to claim the entirety of the Future Industries workforce until his own fleet was finished.
It would be at least another month.
The feeling of uselessness bothered him the most. Iroh was a man of action, and sitting around letting someone else take control of his fleet—even if it was only for mechanical purposes—ate him alive.
He had been mulling the situation over for so long that he could feel it festering, and as a firebender, he knew that it would be better to relieve his frustrations early than to wait for them to build too high.
The general found a spot in the park need the lake, secluded from watchful eyes, and dropped into a well-practiced firebending stance. It was an ancient set of moves that his grandfather, Fire Lord Zuko, had taught him as a child.
"The dragons were the original firebenders," the Fire Lord told Iroh, a boy of twelve at the time who was just coming into his own as a bender. Everyone said he was a late bloomer, but his grandfather seemed to have a soft spot for him nonetheless. "I learned this move set from the last surviving dragons."
"Was that when you were chasing the Avatar?" Iroh had asked eagerly. He loved to hear stories of his grandfather's adventures during the Hundred Year War.
The old man chuckled to himself, nostalgia making his gold eyes go glassy. "No, Prince Iroh. When I was chasing the Avatar, I was stubborn and childish with my bending. I allowed it to stem from the anger that consumed me—anger at my father, my sister, everyone, even my Uncle Iroh. Once I joined the Avatar, I realized that I didn't have to be so angry anymore, and together, Aang and I searched for a new way to firebend. It just so happened to be the original way."
"So...what is the best source for firebending? What did the dragons teach you?"
"It's impossible to explain. They showed me visions of colors and light that I don't think even exist to our eyes. Uncle Iroh always told me that firebending comes from the breath, and he was right. But that's just the physical act of creating fire. It's really so much more. It's life."
"I don't understand."
"I never was as good at explaining things as my Uncle," the Fire Lord said. He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Firebending comes from the breath, but more importantly, it comes from the heart." He poked Iroh lightly in the chest. "If you lose heart, you lose your fire."
"Mom says fire is the element of passion."
Zuko smiled. "Your mother is very wise. Use your passion to drive you and you will always possess an inextinguishable inner fire."
Iroh breathed deeply as he glided through the familiar motions. Left foot, right foot, turn... He didn't have to use fire, for the Dancing Dragon managed to calm him through its repetition. It cleared his mind and strengthened his heart.
He didn't need to be angry with Asami Sato. Anger wasn't worth anything, at the end of the day, and it would get him nowhere. He finished the set and started again. Left foot, right foot, turn...
She wasn't the enemy. She wasn't an Equalist (in spite of what some of the tabloids insisted). She had helped the Avatar take down Amon, even though she had to go against her own father to do so. Iroh knew a few things about going against fathers to do what was right—it was all throughout his family history. He could respect that.
He started his third time through the set. Left foot, right foot, turn...
What he really needed to do, Iroh decided, was to face his own fears and doubts about the technology and about the mysterious woman that was working on his fleet. If he talked to her, maybe he could understand her plans and prepare himself for what to expect when his ships were returned to him. He sighed. Even if that wouldn't be for another month.
Iroh finished the Dancing Dragon a forth and final time before he stopped, stood up straight, and took a deep breath.
He was ready to confront the head of Future Industries.
Asami worked late that night, as she did most nights when she wasn't out with Korra, Mako, and Bolin. The president kept reminding her of General Iroh's numerous complaints about her work, and she wanted to finish as soon as possible just to rid herself of the guy.
She'd had few actual interactions with him in the month since Amon's defeat, but she knew he wasn't happy with her offer.
Asami scoffed at the thought. She had been trying to repay him for helping disband the Equalists and his ships were in desperate need of repairs and upgrades. Asami couldn't figure out why General Iroh was so opposed to her technology.
Briefly, she wondered if he didn't trust her, if he thought that she might still be working for the Equalists and seeking to sabotage his fleet, but that was crazy. There was still bender/non-bender prejudice in Republic City since the rebellion, but Asami had very publically sided with Korra in the fight. Sure, she wanted equality, but Amon had been striving for it in all the wrong ways.
More likely than not, General Iroh was just a stuck up prince who was used to getting his way and he had been surprised and upset when Asami out-maneuvered him by taking her offer directly to President Raiko, who was commander in chief of the United Forces. She hadn't meant to go behind Iroh's back, but Asami had also seen a business opportunity in this. If she did well, then she could clear Future Industries' name and propel her company back to the top of the market.
"Prick," she grumbled aloud, knowing no one was around to hear her. Asami was the type of person to let her anger stew. It was a flaw and she knew that. She had made her situation with Mako worse before they broke up by holding her anger and suspicions inside and becoming angrier and angrier, rather than confronting Mako directly about the issue. When she finally did talk to him—that day on Air Temple Island before the Equalists attacked the airbenders—all she had been able to do was yell at him without listening to his side of the story. It had been unfair, and she knew that, but that didn't stop her from bottling up her feelings.
"Arrogant—stupid—fire prince," she went on, emphasizing each word with a twist of her wrench. She was working on the flagship of the fleet and hung suspended in a harness above the roof. The ventilation system in this old airship was awful and Asami needed better airflow if she was going to install a heating system.
"Am I interrupting?"
Asami jumped slightly. She thought she had been alone in the garage, but the voice had come from far below her. Looking down, Asami could make out black hair and a red United Forces uniform.
She rolled her eyes. He couldn't have heard her muttering, she was too high up, but she almost wished he had.
"Actually, you are, General," she told him coolly. She wasn't going to be nice if he wasn't going to appreciate her work.
"I am sorry for that, Miss Sato," he called up to her. "But I wondered if I could have a word."
Asami groaned. "I'll be down in a minute."
"I can wait."
"Stupid princes. Stupid sense of entitlement," Asami grumbled some more, removing the steel panel she had been working on. She placed it carefully to the side and took the measurements of the hole she had made so she could work on a special vent to match.
She waited a few moments more, pretending to work in order to make the general wait. He annoyingly enough, seemed very patient.
Finally, when there was no pretending left to be done, Asami pressed a button on her harness and the cords extended slowly, lowering her to the floor. She landed lightly in front of the general and unbuckled the harness before crossing her arms over her chest. He was a handsome man, she noted (not for the first time), but she made herself think that he was the arrogant kind of good looking—like he knew and used his looks to win over women. If that was his game, it wouldn't work on her.
"Can I help you?" she asked raising an eyebrow. Maybe it wasn't the proper tone to take with royalty, but he was on her turf now.
"Actually, I wanted to come to apologize."
The general rubbed the back of his neck, giving away his discomfort though he was otherwise composed. "It was...wrong of me to treat you like you've offended me. And it was wrong of me to take it to the president rather than coming to speak with you first."
"You got that right," Asami affirmed, pulling off her goggles. "Raiko almost shut down my company because he thought I had displeased his general."
Iroh winced. "I'm sorry. I can talk to him again if you'd like, Miss Sato."
Asami used grease-stained gloves to brush away that hair that was falling from her ponytail. "That's all right. I smoothed things over with him already." It had taken a lot of convincing, but Raiko had eventually seen that Asami was only doing good things for his army.
"Maybe I could make it up to you then." Iroh paused and a conflicted look crossed his face. "Maybe...I could...take you to dinner?"
"Dinner?" Asami asked incredulously. She pushed the obnoxious hairs away again and walked around the general to her work desk. As she jotted down the dimensions of the new vent, she went on, "You would really want to have dinner with me? I thought I was the bane of your existence."
She was only partially joking.
"That's a bit harsh," Iroh said. He turned to face her at the desk but did not move any closer. "I want to be able to do my job, and I can't do that while you're holding my ships here."
Asami opened her mouth to protest, but he held up a hand and cut her off. How like a prince, she thought as he did so.
"But I recognize that you are doing a great service to my fleet as well." He paused for a moment, but Asami paid him no mind, focusing on her notes instead. It was easier to be stiff with him when she didn't have to meet his warm gold eyes. Finally, he went on, "I'm afraid I don't understand a lot of the new technology you've installed. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I've relied solely on bending for almost everything all my life, and that includes the running of my ship. I thought you could explain some of the basics...over dinner."
Asami looked up from her notebook and saw that his cheeks were tinged with pink. She felt a small surge of something like sympathy. There had been a time when she knew nothing of her father's equipment and he had had to teach her everything, even the simplest mechanisms.
"Okay. Dinner it is," she agreed, but all the while she started to build up her wall. This was dangerous ground. It was so similar to the way she and Mako had started their doomed relationship. She wasn't going to let herself get hurt again. Asami Sato was no helpless little girl.
General Iroh gave her a small, appreciative smile and Asami wondered how much it had taken for him to walk in here and apologize to her like that. Maybe they could get along after all.
"Tomorrow night then?" he asked.
"Great. I'll meet you at eight at say...Song's?"
Asami's eyebrows shot up, but she gave no other indication of her thoughts. Instead, she nodded again and forced a smile back at him. "Song's at eight. I'll be there."
Leave it to a prince to pick a place too ritzy even for her.
A/N: I hope you liked chapter one! This came surprisingly easy to me. Asami is probably my favorite character in the LoK series and I feel like writing her is so natural. Let me know what you think!
And because, like I said at the beginning, I started this story without a whole lot of planning, I will freely take suggestions from reviewers and see if I can work them into the story. (:
Also, can someone tell me why "Iroh," "Iroh II," AND "General Iroh" are all character sorting options on this site? I wasn't sure who to choose...
Thanks for reading and please review!