Disclaimer: I don't own Percy Jackson or the ATLA universe because I'm a broke-ass college student. Sue me you won't get anything.
"Azula," Iroh called out.
Azula paused, turning to face him again, "I'm sorry Azula. That you didn't get the love you needed as a child. I only ever saw the child that Ozai used and manipulated. I am very happy that one of my decisions allowed for you and Percy to come together. Do you think you can ever forgive me?" Iroh asked in a soft voice.
Azula's eyes softened as she gazed upon her uncle who suddenly looked much older than his age. She nodded her head, she could forgive him, "Talk to Zuko," she spoke softly before exiting the room, leaving a very conflicted man behind her.
( - )
"Guys I'm so excited to spend the weekend on Ember Island," Ty Lee said aloud as she peered out at the calm ocean around her, "It's gonna be great to hang out at the beach and do nothing."
"Doing nothing is a waste of time," Zuko snapped as he stood from the bench beside Mai, "We're being sent away on a forced vacation. I feel like a child."
"Lighten up Zuko," Azula said breezily as she lounged across Percy's lap, "So dad wants to meet with his advisors alone without us around, don't take it personally," she said as she flipped her hair over her shoulder.
Percy spat as he pulled some of Azula's hair strands out of his mouth as he regarded her with a lackluster expression before speaking to Zuko, "Relax man, this trip is gonna be good I know it. Definitely better than leaving you in the Fire Nation because last time I left you alone for a couple of days, you got in an Agni Kai," Percy drawled.
Zuko blushed before sighing as he sat back down on the bench and draped his arm around Mai.
"Doesn't your family have a house on Ember Island?" Ty Lee directed Azula.
"We used to come every summer when we were kids," Azula replied.
"That must have been fun."
"It was, although something tells me this will be the best trip yet," Azula responded as she gazed upward at her boyfriend with a smile.
( - )
Percy stood at the prow of the ship as he guided it slowly into the dock of the massive house on the shore. He sighed as they got closer and saw two very old ladies waiting for them on the pier.
"You've got to be kidding me," Azula muttered beside him as she saw Lo and Li waiting for them.
"What Ozai failed to mention that the two crones would be waiting for us?" Percy remarked.
Azula didn't reply but by the muttered swear words coming out of her mouth Percy took it as a no.
He brought the ship to a halt before lowering the gangplank as he, Azula, Zuko, Mai, and Ty Lee disembarked.
"Welcome to Ember Island kids," Lo and Li parroted in sync.
( - )
The teens followed Lo and Li inside the main floor which was covered in a variety of pink and purple furniture with plants and teacups interspaced throughout.
"It smells like an old lady in here," Zuko commented slowly as he wrinkled his nose.
"Gee I wonder why," Mai deadpanned.
Ty Lee wandered further into the room, pausing as a painting caught her eye, "Who are these two beautiful women?" she asked Lo and Li as she pointed at the depiction of two young, athletic women standing back to back.
"Can't you tell?" Lo asked with a smile.
"It's Lo and Li," the two spoke together as they arch their backs and pressed against each other.
Percy and Zuko both gagged loudly as the sight of two 90-year-old women with their rears pressed against each other did not appease them in the slightest.
"So the top part of the house is ours?" Azula asked.
"Yes," Li confirmed with a wrinkled smile in their direction.
"We know you're upset that you were forced to come here this weekend," Lo began.
"But Ember Island is a magical place, keep an open mind," Li finished.
"It can help you understand yourself and each other," they chorused together.
"The beach has a way of smoothing even the most jagged edges," Lo commented as she rubbed a smooth stone between her hands.
"Now, let's hit the beach!" the twins exclaimed as they dropped their robes to reveal their bathing suits that covered much too little of their bodies.
Percy immediately began a dead sprint to the toilet covering his mouth while Mai rushed to cover Zuko's eyes before the miles of old and wrinkly skin reached his brain.
( - )
Percy followed closely behind Azula as they trekked onto the beach. Ty Lee was behind him gazing around while Zuko and Mai were at the back under the shade of the umbrella Zuko held. Try hard, Percy thought to himself with a small smile at Zuko being so openly affectionate with Mai.
He watched as many heads on the beach turned in their direction, eyeing them up. Azula didn't seem to notice but she was used to the attention and eyes on her, Zuko and Mai shot cold glares outward at anyone who caught their attention while Ty Lee was all smiles, making many guys blush Percy noted.
Azula had just picked out an open spot near the waterfront and with enough space for them, all before a guy had already approached their group, more specifically, Ty Lee.
"Hey, you need some help unpacking?" he asked her with a smile.
"Sure," Ty Lee replied with a small shrug before handing her bag to the guy who immediately dropped to his knees and began unpacking it. Laying a towel out on the sand for her to lay on.
"What, you're not gonna make that effort for me?" Azula questioned with a smile upward at him as she laid towels out for them.
"You know you only have to ask love and I'd do whatever you desire," Percy said with a smile as he dropped to the ground before leaning over and kissing Azula on her forehead before dropping to his back as he stretched before putting his arms behind his head and relaxed. Well at least until another two guys made their way over to Ty Lee.
Azula watched with amusement as Percy grumbled something under his breath about thirsty frat boys before placing a hand on his shoulder as he sat up. He turned to look at her questioningly. She rolled her eyes, "Relax Percy, Ty Lee does not need your macho big brother side right now. She's more than capable of handling herself."
Percy grunted as he laid back down and Azula smiled as she curled into his side and began tracing patterns on his skin with her nails. Percy moved his left arm to curl around her as she tucked her head into his shoulder as they enjoyed the warmth and sunshine. Percy wished the war would end already. Laying out on a beach with Azula every day sounded like heaven to him. After about 20 minutes a shadow crossed over him and Azula and Percy looked up to see Zuko and Mai standing above them.
"You guys wanna play a game of volleyball?"
"I'm down," Percy replied easily as he stretched before standing up, "Zula?" he questioned his girlfriend.
"Ugh I'm comfortable getting Ty Lee," she replied lazily as she rolled over and Percy forced his eyes away from her appealing tan lines.
"Ty Lee you're playing with us," Percy hollered, watching in amusement as the guys around her sagged when she hand walked over to the group.
"If those guys are bothering you just let me know, I'll make sure they never leave this beach," Percy said as Ty Lee stood beside him while they waited for the current ongoing game to end.
He grunted as Ty Lee slugged him in the shoulder, "Relax Perce I can take care of myself," she said with a smirk as he grumbled about terrifying younger siblings and rubbed his shoulder.
( - )
The game itself flowed easily for the group. Going on nearly a year's worth of operations tracking down and fighting the Avatar culminating with them taking over Ba Sing Se meant they worked flawlessly together. It also helped that not a single person on the beach had been able to return a spike from Percy. Superior demigod strength did have its benefits.
However, that wasn't to take anything away from Zuko, Mai, or Ty Lee. Zuko and Mai were extremely fit and agile and Ty Lee was an absolute monster on defense. Nothing got past her, her reaction and incredible flexibility allowed her to get a hand on every ball sent her way. The result was their team utterly desolating every opponent they went against.
Their latest game was the closest yet and that was thanks to a pig-tail girl who clearly had some sort of history in the sport as her spikes were always precise and her defense was impeccable. It was just after Percy had completed a set to Zuko who scored on the spike that he was distracted. By Azula. More specifically, the group of guys around her.
Percy would have never considered himself possessive or jealous by any means but seeing a group of guys surrounding and talking with his breathtakingly stunning beautiful girlfriend in a bikini lit a fire inside him. It wasn't like with Ty Lee earlier, Azula was his. It was only a couple of points later that Percy seized an opportunity when Zuko set the ball up for him.
Percy leaped in the air and brought his arm crashing down against the volleyball. It rocketed towards Percy's intended target, sailed way right, completely out of bounds. It just coincendentally went directly into the head of the guy talking towards Azula at the moment as well. He collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut as the ball collided with his head and he dropped to the sandy beach below with a loud groan, clutching his head.
Ty Lee and Mai shared a look before hiding smiles as Zuko rolled his eyes at Percy's antics as he jogged over to where the guy remained groaning on the sand. Percy caught Azula's gaze as he made up with the guy, she had a small smile and her eyes danced with amusement and something else.
Percy stood over the guy crumpled onto the sand with a hand outstretched to help him up. The guy slowly grabbed his hand and Percy pulled him to his feet easily.
"Sorry about that, the ball got away from me," Percy lied easily as the guy regained his bearings.
The man opened his mouth to retort before catching the grin Percy was shooting his way, it was like he was looking into the face of a giant sand shark ready to devour him whole. He caught Percy's green eyes and his body screamed at him to duck like a bolt of lightning was about to drop from the sky and smite him.
"Yeah no worries man, happens to all of us," he replied with a shaky smile before quickly exiting Percy's vicinity. Percy swept his gaze to the other guys around Azula who quickly scrambled away as Percy bent down to pick up the volleyball with one hand.
He turned as he saw Azula regarding him with her hands on her hips before stepping up to him, "I don't need to remind you just how capable I am, do I?" she said in a sing-song voice as he shook his head.
"Good," she said before stepping closer and pulling Percy's face down to hers, "But I will admit that was hot. Feel free to assert the fact I'm your girlfriend anytime," she said before pulling him down for a kiss.
( - )
"Gotta say, it is nice to have a vacation," Percy said as he leaned back on the terrace and popped a grape in his mouth.
"It's so nice there's not anywhere we have to be or anything we have to do like when we're back at the palace," Mai agreed.
"Agreed, but I still don't like dad kicking us out of the palace. He's plotting something, and I want to know what," Zuko argued as he sipped on his drink.
"Oh just relax Zuko, you're on a tropical island with your best friend and girlfriend. Besides you spilling ice cream on Mai earlier today's been a dream for you," Percy chuckled as he dodged the food thrown at him by Zuko.
"Oh, by the way, we're going to a party tonight," Azula commented casually.
"We are?" Percy asked Azula in surprise.
"Yes, well before you hit a volleyball into his face, Chan and Ruon-Jian were telling me all about their party tonight and I secured us all invites," Azula said with a smile.
"Dude was hitting on you, he's lucky I didn't drown him on the beach," Percy commented as he reached for another grape.
"I'm a beautiful woman Percy, lots of men hit on me."
"Oh I'm aware, I just prefer when I'm the one hitting," Percy drawled back.
Mai and Ty Lee both choked on their food while Zuko immediately sniped him with a piece of sushi, "Bro c'mon that's my sister," he protested.
"Get a room you two," Mai said once she had finished coughing.
"We can use yours if you'd like," Azula said with a smirk as another round of groans rose from Zuko, Mai, and Ty Lee while Percy and Azula shared a knowing glance.
( - )
"Well damn. How about we skip the party?" Percy said as he slowly traced Azula's attire from head to toe.
"You like it?"
"Like it? Azula you're stunning," Percy proclaimed as he walked up, slipping an arm around her waist as he circled her from behind.
Azula shifted as her body started to break out in goosebumps from Percy's breath on her neck and turned, looking upward at her boyfriend.
He was dressed similarly to Zuko with a red sleeveless top and pants. Unlike Zuko, Percy had forgone the sash to close the top, leaving the center of his chest and abs open, a choice Azula was more than okay with.
"You don't look so bad yourself," she teased.
"Oh really?" Percy said with a raised eyebrow, "Because I can tie the top together like Zuko."
"Don't you dare," Azula threatened as her hands traced patterns across his abs.
Percy laughed, a happy booming sound that made her smile as he wrapped his arms around her back pulling her in for a hug as they waited for Ty Lee to join them in the living room.
"Alright I'm ready to go," Ty Lee proclaimed as she swept into the room with a smile. Like Azula, she had a red crop top and bottoms on although she had forgone any accentuating jewelry like herself.
"How long is the party?" Zuko questioned.
"Dusk to dawn, we should get going so we're on time," Azula replied as she looked outside and saw the sun had already begun creeping down.
"Zula, dusk to dawn is just an expression," Percy groaned as he buried his face in her neck.
"No it's not," she retorted as she looked at the others in support only to see Zuko and Mai making themselves comfortable on the couch together and Ty Lee doing a handstand for no apparent reason.
"Zula I love you, but if we actually show up at dusk there I promise you there will be nobody there and we'll look super weird."
She grumbled and tried to push her way out of Percy's loving embrace as he gently brushed his lips against her neck which was just unfair, how was she supposed to argue against him when he did that.
"We can just chill for an hour, I'll even let you beat me in Pai Sho again," Percy said.
Azula squawked in outrage, "You don't let me do anything, I beat your ass every time fair and square!"
( - )
When the group did make their way over to the party it was in full swing. Chan greeted them at the door before ushering them in as he gave Percy a wide berth. Teenagers littered throughout talking and there was a large table filled with food. Typical of Percy, he immediately dashed to the food table.
Azula smiled in amusement as the rest of them made their way into the house. She noted Ruon-Jian leaning against a table and gazing in their direction, specifically at Mai. It was something Zuko picked up on as well if the flare of his nostrils was anything to go by.
"Oh I see some guys from the beach, I'll be back," Ty Lee said with a smile as she left the group.
"Don't break too many hearts," Azula called playfully at the retreating form of her friend as she spotted a couple of empty spots in a corner of the room, "Why don't you guys snag that table over there, I'll wait for Percy," she directed Zuko and Mai as she looked over at the table to see Percy had loaded a plate high with all sorts of food.
She leaned against a pillar in the middle of the room, taking in the teens around her. She did recognize a few faces from large political events held in the palace but nobody, in particular, she could put a name to. She found it odd that this was the idea of fun for most people her age. Hanging around in a house when they could be sparing to the death or practicing how to manipulate the older officials in the Fire Nation. They lacked ambition and taste.
She was distracted from her thoughts as Percy made his way over to her, his large plate of food already cut in half. It was an absolute wonder he had any abs the way his stomach was a black hole.
"Hey there, I saw you at the beach today right?" Percy asked her with a smile stretched across his face.
"Obviously you were with me?" she replied dryly wondering if Percy had hit his head.
"Yeah I thought so, I didn't recognize you, you must have just got to the island in the last couple of days?"
Azula narrowed her eyes as she eyed her boyfriend up and down. She wasn't quite sure why he was being an idiot but there must have been some reason for his unusual behavior.
Percy resisted a groan as Azula narrowed her eyes at him, she was clearly missing the fact he was pretending to flirt with her, "Did you see the sunset today? The view was nearly as stunning as you," he said easily as he winked at her. He held back laughter as he could see the gears turning in her head before a look of realization crossed her face and a smile before composing herself.
"Hmmm, I bet you say that to all the pretty girls on the island," Azula said flippantly as she flicked her hair over her shoulder.
"None of them are as pretty as you thought."
"That is true," Azula nodded in agreement.
Percy smiled, if there was one thing he could always rely on it was Azula's confidence in herself, "So what brings you to Ember Island?"
"Oh, nothing much, just a short vacation from the mainland. What about you?"
"I'm just visiting with a couple of friends for a few days."
"Your parents have a place here?"
Percy shrugged, "My dad does but I'm staying at my friend's house. You've probably heard of him, his name is Piandao?"
"Yep. What about you, I'm assuming your parents are of nobility?"
"My dad's pretty high up, he spends a lot of time in the Fire Lord's palace."
"I didn't catch your name?" Percy said with a striking grin.
"Azula," Percy said as he hummed thoughtfully, "That's a beautiful name, befitting for you."
"Are you calling me beautiful?"
"Beautiful, gorgeous, alluring, they all fit you."
"Wow," Azula drawled, "You're a charmer aren't ya?"
Percy shrugged nonchalantly, "I dabble."
Azula smiled as she twirled a strand of hair, "And what's your name?"
"Perseus, but call me Percy."
"What about Perce?"
"That's for my friends only."
Azula pouted, "We're not gonna be friends?"
Percy smirked, "Oh we're gonna be a lot more than just friends."
Then he was kissing her and Azula lost all track of the conversation as her mind went blank as her hands came to wrap around his torso and Percy pressed her into the beam as he kissed her slowly, his tongue mapping out every inch of her mouth. She whined as he withdrew, towering above her with twinkling eyes.
"People are staring," he commented.
"As they should, we're hot. Now come back down here," she demanded.
Percy chuckled at the desire in Azula's voice, "But then the komodo chicken I got you will get cold."
Azula frowned as her stomach growled and the komodo chicken on Percy's plate wafted into her scent, "First the chicken, then you," she spoke aloud as she swiped the plate from Percy's hands as they made their way over to the table Zuko and Mai sat at.
"Took you long enough," Mai muttered as they slid into the seats across Zuko and Mai.
"What's your problem?" Azula questioned as she stabbed at a piece of komodo chicken.
"I'm bored," Mai murmured.
"Me too," Zuko agreed.
"We've only been here like 15 minutes guys," Percy pointed out as he swiped a piece of chicken, dodging Azula's chopsticks.
"Can you get me some food?" Mai asked.
Zuko shot a glance at Percy who returned the look with his hands up in the universal 'I don't know man your girlfriend is in a mood' to which Zuko rolled his eyes as he got up to go get her food.
Percy glanced at Azula who still had a few pieces left, "Going to the bathroom" he murmured to her as he stood and looked for a bathroom sign.
( - )
Zuko withheld a sigh as he loaded some pieces of smoked sea slug onto the plate already adorned with a variety of different foods Mai liked. It was so frustrating when Mai was like this, she just completely shut down and kept him at an arm's length behind walls of stone.
He finished loading the plate with food and had only taken a couple of steps away from the table before his plate was knocked out of his hand by a random partygoer.
"Hey, watch it!" Zuko snarled as he got in the guy's face, "That food was for my grumpy girlfriend and you just got it all over me!" he said, gesturing to the food sticking to his clothes before pointing in Mai's direction.
The guy looked in Zuko's pointed direction before his eyes widened and Zuko looked over to see the guy who winked at Mai when they walked in sitting in his chair talking to her.
Zuko growled before heading back over to the table, "You're in my seat," he growled before yanking the guy out of his chair and spinning him away from the table.
"What are you doing!" the guy complained aloud as he redid his hair.
"Stop talking to my girlfriend."
"Relax, it's just a party. Besides, she can talk with whoever she wants," Ruon-Jian said with a smirk as he walked up to Zuko.
Zuko wasn't really sure why he shoved him. Maybe it was because he had food all over his clothes. Maybe it was because he wasn't enjoying this party. Maybe it was because Mai was shutting him out, again. Or maybe it was because he was trying to assert himself like Percy had earlier on the beach. Whatever the reason, he hadn't meant to shove the guy that hard.
Ruon-Jian went stumbling back into the opposing wall and crashed into a large vase, shattering it. Zuko stepped forward to apologize as he was very aware of the eyes in their direction before a firm hand whirled him around.
"Zuko, what's wrong with you?!"
"What's wrong with me?" Zuko asked his girlfriend skeptically.
"Your temper is out of control. You blow up over every little thing. You're so impatient, and hot-headed, and angry," Mai lectured
"Well at least I feel something," Zuko retorted, "You have no passion for anything. You're just a big blah!" as soon as the words left his mouth he knew he fucked up but Mai turned her back on him immediately.
"It's over Zuko, we're done," Mai's voice rang out coldly.
( - )
Percy wasn't sure what he had expected to come back from the bathroom from, but it certainly hadn't been this. Mai was sitting alone on her side of the table. Ty Lee sat across from her tapping her foot rapidly. Azula was the only one who looked composed, sitting down and polishing the remains of her komodo chicken. Zuko was nowhere to be seen. There was a large broken vase against a wall and nearly everyone in the room was shooting glances in their direction. Chan and Ruon-Jian were standing by the vase talking animatedly.
"What the hell happened?" he leaned down to whisper in Azula's ear.
"Mai and Zuko broke up. Speaking of which, you should probably go find him, he just got kicked out."
"Azula," he said in a low tone.
"What? I was eating komodo chicken, I wasn't gonna step in the middle of their couple's spat," Azula protested.
Percy frowned before turning and striding out the door to find his best friend.
( - )
Percy was silent as he sat across from Zuko, leaning back against the porch beam. Zuko was staring at a child's handprint on a circular stone disk. The silence stretched on for a few moments before Zuko spoke up.
"I don't get it man."
"Mai. Sometimes she shows me a side of herself that nobody else sees, a happy, carefree, expressive person. Then there are other times when she just shuts me out along with the rest of the world. No matter what I say or do if she chooses to shut me out I can't get through to her. I'm not like you."
"Like me?" Percy questioned in surprise.
"You and Azula just… fit. You're always able to get to her no matter her mood or feelings and you guys are just so happy and vibrant together. Mai and I don't have what it feels like."
"Zuko you're not supposed to have it like me."
"Gee thanks man, really helpful," Zuko mumbled.
Percy laughed, "Not like that, you gonna let me finish?" He waited but Zuko didn't say anything more and he continued, "You're not supposed to have something like me and Azula. You and Mai are two completely different people. You can't judge your relationship based on mine and Azula's. You have to create your own path, just because something works for me, doesn't mean it'll work for you. I promise you, Mai cares for you more than probably anyone. I've seen Mai smile more times in the past few months with you back than the entirety of your time in exile. You do make her happy, and from what I can tell she makes you happy too."
Zuko was silent for a long moment, "Yeah but I just blew that all to Agni at the party."
"It's not that simple."
"I think it's a lot simpler than you're making it out to be."
Zuko grunted but otherwise didn't respond. Another stretch of silence fell between the two before Percy stood and stretched, "C'mon let's go down to the beach."
"There's something I wanna do first."
( - )
Percy didn't say anything as Azula slid next to him, slipping an arm around his waist as she leaned into him atop the rock positioned around the fire.
Ty Lee and Mai also sat down around other rocks Percy and Zuko had positioned while Zuko remained standing his back to the ocean while gazing down into the fire which lapped hungrily at the portrait in its grasp.
"What are you doing?" Ty Lee asked.
"What does it look like?"
"But—it's a painting of your family."
"You think I care?" Zuko bit back.
"I think you do," Ty Lee said softly.
"You don't know me, so why don't you just mind your own business?"
"I think I do know you."
"No, you don't! You're in your own Ty Lee world where everything is perfect!"
"Zuko, leave her alone!" Mai cut in.
"Oh I'm so pretty, everybody likes me, I can walk on my hands!" Zuko imitated in a high-pitched voice as he did a handstand before falling back into the sand, "Circus freak."
There was a moment of silence as Mai and Azula looked on while Ty Lee began to tear up before the ocean erupted. Zuko was sucked off the beach and into the cold water where he thrashed madly about but was unable to escape. Suddenly he was ejected out of the water and back onto the sand. Zuko barely had a moment to cough up the saltwater in his lungs before water wrapped around him like a cocoon holding him in an upright position.
"Apologize," Percy hissed out, standing inches away from a struggling Zuko. Zuko glared at his friend as he continued to struggle against his watery cocoon, "Apologize!" Percy shouted and the thunder that boomed above in the sky that rang out at his words was heard over the island.
Zuko averted his eyes from the furious gaze of his friend, "I'm sorry Ty Lee," he said quietly.
"Percy let him go," Ty Lee spoke up.
Percy whipped his head around to look at Ty Lee before turning his gaze back towards Zuko who had stopped struggling inside his watery prison.
"He already apologized, and since he doesn't seem to get it I want him to understand just why I joined the circus," Ty Lee implored him.
Percy released Zuko with a huff as he stalked back over to Azula who laced her fingers through his before slowly tracing patterns on his hand as Ty Lee began.
"Do you have any idea what it was like at home for me growing up with six sisters who look exactly like me? It was like I didn't even have my own name! No matter where you've gone, everybody knows your name. Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation. Unlike you, I was a nobody. I joined the circus because I was scared of spending the rest of my life as part of a matched set. My talents and skill set me apart now, people know the name Ty Lee. Circus freak is a compliment."
"Guess that explains why you need 10 boyfriends too," Mai said dryly.
"You're one to talk about boyfriends," Ty Lee shot back.
Azula coughed into her palm at that remark before quieting as Mai spoke again.
"You have attention issues. You didn't get enough as a kid so now that you can you revel in the power you have," Mai spoke.
"What's your excuse Mai? You were an only child for 17 years but even with that your aura is this dingy, pasty, gray—"
"I don't believe in auras," Mai cut her off.
"You don't believe in anything," Zuko remarked as he pushed some of his soaked hair out of his face.
"Oh, I'm sorry I can't be as high-strung and crazy as the rest of you."
"I'm sorry too. I wish you'd be high-strung and crazy for just once in your life instead of keeping all your feelings and emotions bottled up. She just called your aura dingy, are you just gonna take that?"
"What do you want from me?" Mai asked as she laid back on her rock, "You want a teary confession on how hard my childhood was? It wasn't. I was a rich only child who got anything she ever wanted as long as I behaved and sat still and didn't speak unless spoken to. My mother always said I had to keep out of trouble, we had my dad's political career to think about."
"Well that's it then," Azula chimed in for the first time, "You had a controlling mother with high expectations and you were shut down anytime you strayed from them. That's why you're afraid to care about anything and can't express yourself."
"You want me to express myself? Stop psychoanalyzing me!" Mai yelled as she stood to her feet.
"I like it when you express yourself," Zuko said as he stepped closer to Mai.
"Shut up Zuko! I'm still mad at you," Mai said as she sat down with a huff.
"My life hasn't been easy either Mai!"
"Whatever. That doesn't excuse the way you've been acting."
"Excuse the way I've been acting? My father decided to teach me a permanent lesson, on my face. For so long I thought that if my dad accepted me, I'd be happy. Well I'm home now. My dad talks to me, Agni he even thinks I'm a hero. Everything should be perfect right? I should be happy, but I'm not. I'm angrier than ever and I don't know why!"
"There's a simple question you need to answer then, who are you angry at?" Azula asked aloud.
"No one, I'm just angry."
"Yeah, who are you angry at Zuko?" Mai asked.
"Everyone! I—I don't know!"
"Is it dad?"
"Is it me?"
"Then who are you angry at Zuko?" Percy asked.
"I'm angry at myself!" Zuko roared as he channeled his anger into firebending and the fire shot up as a pillar into the sky. An angry orange inferno roared at the dark night sky in defiance. When the flames did die down, it was Percy who once again asked Zuko.
"Because I'm confused. Because I can't even tell the difference between right and wrong anymore," Zuko admitted.
Mai stood from her spot, approaching Zuko who stood staring out at the choppy waves, "Well I know one thing I care about," she said as Zuko turned to face her, "And that's you."
Zuko smiled as he pulled her in for a hug, tucking his head into her neck as he pulled her close to him.
"Well I'm ready to go back to the party, what about you guys?"
"What, you don't have anything to share with Azula? You're just so perfect?" Zuko asked.
"Perfect?" Azula repeated as she stared into the fire. The word resonates inside her skull, "I used to think that I needed to be perfect. Not because I wanted to but because it was the only way I'd be recognized and loved."
The group, excluding Percy who had wrapped her hands inside his own, were silent at Azula's confession.
"My mother… thought I was a monster. So I turned to my father, hoping he could give me the love I craved. I know, silly me expecting a man like Ozai to truly be capable of love, but what did you expect? I was a desperate little girl with a void in her heart and only praised for one thing, my firebending. So I pushed myself to my limits, again and again, and again. To be the princess he wanted in return for the recognition I sought. I was naive… and hurting. I tried to ignore or antagonize my mother because I wanted to show her that I didn't need her as long as I was the perfect little princess. But the truth is… I did need her. I needed her affection, her love, and her support. I wanted what she so freely gave to Zuko but never to me. I was plagued with jealousy and humiliated Zuko as often as possible to prove my superiority over him, that I was worthy and deserving of love."
Zuko's mouth was hanging open in shock but no words came out. Everything Azula was describing… it made sense. Hadn't he gone to the lengths of the world for his father's love? He understood Azula's depth and passion to get their mothers.
"The only person I managed to please however was Ozai. Mother, she was terrified and now that I think about my actions as a child I can't really blame her," Azula trailed off before her expression changed as anger overtook her features, "But it was her fault! All I wanted was affection and I only got lectures and scoldings! What the hell was I supposed to do to deserve one fucking hug?!" Azula yelled as she stood and blue fire blasted into the sky, its immense heat making them all shield away. All except Percy.
Percy remained seated before slowly pulling Azula back down into his lap as he wrapped himself around her. Azula was tense before sagging as she relaxed into Percy's embrace.
"You don't have to say it all," Percy whispers in her ear but Azula feels the weight this has been on her heart and disagrees. She does need to let it all air out, she's buried it for too long. She wants her friends to know, she wants Zuko to know. And here, in Percy's arms, she knows she's strong enough to do that.
"When my mother disappeared without saying a word to me, I buried her and everything else as deep down as I could. The only good feeling I had in my life was from my father's pride in me. Nothing else mattered to me, I just needed to be the crown jewel of the Fire Nation and I would be okay. And for a while I was, especially when Zuko was exiled, everyone looked at me and saw perfection. I managed to convince myself for a while that I was happy… but there was this chasm, an open wound that I could never truly heal. Then… I met a rude, obnoxious, and ridiculous human being who became my bodyguard, and eventually, everything changed."
Azula turns to look deep into his eyes and for a moment, Percy is starstruck at the affection, trust, and love shining in Azula's golden orbs. He knows he's changed Azula's life since he entered it, but hearing her say it all out loud… he vows to himself to never falter. To always be there for her. And gods be damned if anyone tries to stop him.
( - )
Getting Zuko back into the party had been tricky but some flirtation from Ty Lee and Percy glaring at Chan had allowed him another chance. The group had quite enjoyed the newfound comfort and openness between them all. A couple of hours had flown by while their group was in their own little world of laughter and conversation.
It was only once Azula had leaned over and whispered in Percy's ear just how much she wanted to see him without his red vest on that he had suggested getting out of there, a sentiment that was shared by the rest of the group. He rose to go get Ty Lee who was stuck talking with a few guys over by the food table.
As Percy approached he saw Ty Lee brighten in relief as he interjected himself into the conversation, "Hey Ty Lee, we're gonna head out." he said jerking his thumb towards the door before raising an eyebrow as a guy who was clearly drunk put his hand on his chest, "She's not going anywhere, we're not done talking to her yet."
He snorted, "She's definitely not staying here with you."
"And why's that?"
"I'm willing to bet that an extinct dragon's ballsack is prettier than your ugly mug for one."
The punch that came his way was so slow that Percy almost let the drunk idiot off for trying to take a swing. Almost. He dodged the blow before putting his hand on the side of the guy's head and proceeding to bounce his skull off the table like a basketball.
One of the other guys tried to bull rush him but Percy avoided it and proceeded to grab and lift the guy completely above his head before putting him through a table. The guy groaned as food covered him and his body ached all over. Percy smiled as he rolled his neck and a loud pop rang out, "Who's next?" he asked with a smirk as another teen rushed at him.
( - )
The large crash was what first drew her attention, Azula turned in the direction of the sound wondering what was taking Percy so long to get Ty Lee before she watched as her boyfriend casually lifted a guy up in the air before putting him through one of the food tables.
She smiled before turning towards Zuko and Mai, "You know what would really make this night memorable?"
( - )
The people who weren't attempting to fight Percy and Ty Lee screamed and ran as Azula, Zuko, and Mai began to wreak havoc on the place. Zuko upturned another food table making its contents fly all over while Mai unsheathed a hidden shuriken and went to town on some of the decorated tapestries hanging on the wall. Azula smiled as she began making her way through the mayhem to Percy who decked another drunk party goer with a vicious clothesline.
There was something extremely attractive about watching her 6'3 demigod boyfriend absolutely thrashing any mortal Fire Nation teens that attempted to fight him. Nothing got her attention like power and violence being put together in the handsome package that was Percy.
She reached her boyfriend who was standing amongst quite a few groaning teens on the ground by his feet, "Seriously Perce, I can't take you anywhere," she said with a playful smile.
"Please, I saw you smashing those vases, besides you're Azula, you love violence," he said, returning her smile.
"Mhmm you know me too well," she murmured before pulling him down for a kiss.
( - )
The gaang tensed as another explosion rocked overhead from their assailant.
"This is crazy! How can we beat a guy who blows things up with his mind?!" Sokka yelled.
"We need a plan. You guys get on Appa, I'll distract him," Aang directed to his friends before Aang quickly reached the top of the cliffside before one again using airbending to leap away as another explosion was sent his way. He slid down the slope and took off into the plains of jutting stone pillars.
He ducked behind a stone pillar and attempted to quiet his breathing as the loud footsteps of the man echoed aloud as he ran among the plains. Aang peered around the pillar to the right where he could hear the man moving. The man kept moving forward in his search before he snapped around catching Aang's gaze.
Aang took off as two more explosions turned pillars of stone to rubble and Aang rolled to a stop behind another wall of stone. He took a breath before using his earthbending to send the stone pillar barreling at his attacker. The man destroyed the obstruction with another explosion before sending one in Aang's direction.
Aang managed to use his airbending to propel himself away but the shockwave from the explosion sent him flying backward through the sky. He used his earthbending to soften his contact as he went through a stone pillar. He quickly used his earthbending to hide within a nearby stone pillar as the pounding steps of the man grew closer.
Aang was silent as the man stalked slowly in the vicinity of Aang's landing before pausing. He turned and regarded the pillar Aang had hidden himself in. Aang leaped outward from the pillar encased in stone armor, he propelled himself off the man's head with airbending as he shot into the sky, an explosion rocking the air behind him.
However, his escape quickly became a fall as gravity took hold and began to pull him back down. Suddenly Appa swooped in underneath him with his friends and he landed with a thud in Appa's saddle.
"I'm okay," he reassured his friends as Appa took off, away from the mystery man.
"Well that was random," Toph remarked.
"I don't think so, I get the feeling he knows who we are," Katara replied.
( - )
"I want that one," Azula said, pointing at a resplendent rosy gold ornament hanging in the man's stand. Percy hid a smile as the grumpy vendor snatched the 4th different item Azula had wanted off his display. He packaged it and pushed it into Azula's hands.
"Put it back and give it to me nicely," Azula ordered the man in a cold tone.
It took some time before Percy managed to pull Azula away from getting into another quarrel with a vendor. The market on Ember Island was small but each stand had its own unique product for sale and Percy enjoyed strolling through seeing everything. However, Azula had never done much of her own shopping as she was the crown princess and could get anything she wanted by simply asking. The result was quite amusing to see her try and heckle over prices with a variety of vendors.
However he didn't need her to get too mad at anyone, any sight of her famous blue flames would give away who she was. It wasn't public knowledge to the Fire Nation that she was here after all. The Azula people were used to was the immaculate armor-wearing princess, not the sleepy-eyed, arguing woman in one of his shirts and a red gypsy skirt.
Percy adjusted his hat, noting Azula looking at him with amusement, "I don't know why you insisted on the hat and sunglasses. You literally went to the beach in nothing but trunks on."
"That was a beach full of teenagers, not the most observant people in the world. Besides, Captain America fooled all of Hydra with a ball cap and shades when they were looking for him," Percy replied matter of factly.
Percy chose to ignore the stare Azula gave him at his Captain America remark before she rolled her eyes, "You're lucky I love you."
Percy grinned, "Oh I know."
They continued over the stone road as they continued making their way through the marketplace. Both enjoyed the simplicity of being able to blend in amongst everyone else for the first time in a very long while. It had been Azula's idea to walk around and get out of the beach house and Percy was more than willing to go with her.
Azula reached for Percy's hand and they interlaced fingers as they finished walking through the stands and back along the sandy beach towards the house.
( - )
Percy instantly dried himself with a thought as he walks into the house. Nothing would ever be more relaxing than being in his father's domain. He found Azula sitting down at the island in the kitchen with a cup of tea in her hand. Another is sitting across from her meant for him.
He smiles as he slides into the seat across from her, "I see teak-making runs in the family," he commented as he propped his feet up on one of the other chairs around the island.
"I can boil water with my bare hand, it's not that hard for me."
"Mhmm just doesn't seem like something they would teach you in princess school," he says lightly as he sips the tea. It's pretty good, not Iroh level good but he'll be asking for another glass.
"You'd be amazed at what they teach a princess."
He looks over the top of his tea at her suggestive tone. Her golden eyes are gazing directly at him and he pretends he doesn't feel a tingle run up and down his spine, "Some of us are just naturally talented without teaching," he retorts back.
"And why is that?" Azula asks questioningly.
"Demigod," Percy replies simply as if that answers it all. It doesn't but Azula is more than satisfied with his natural talents and lets his comment slide without complaint.
( - )
"We should really try and teach you how to generate lightning," Azula says offhandedly as she lays out in the sun next to Percy.
"We don't know for sure that I can though."
"Please, if you can summon lightning in a storm and your dad is called 'the Stormbringer' then I'm sure you can summon just a singular bolt," she says as she rises to her feet and stretches, "Besides I taught Zuko, I'm sure I can teach you too if you're good."
Percy looks upward at her, "If I'm good?" he questions in disbelief.
Azula's golden eyes flicker to the surf, "If" she draws out slowly before bolting towards the ocean.
Azula is quick but Percy is a demigod and has quickly risen and caught her before she can take more than a few steps into the ocean. A warm wave cushions her fall as Azula is pulled downward by Percy.
When they surface his lips are already on hers. The waves part around them leaving them on dry sand despite being a few yards away from where the ocean recedes from the beach. She pushes him back onto the sand as she straddles him.
"This seems familiar," he says with a crooked smirk and Azula thanks Agni above for the man beneath her. He is everything she wants.
( - )
Author Note - Alright everyone another chapter done of Percy Jackson & The Sapphire Flame. I hope y'all enjoyed it and if you'd like to stay up to date on it, go ahead and give a favorite or follow. A few things that I'd like to address as usual:
- What are your thoughts on this chapter? Not the most action-filled chapter as this focused more on the development and expanded characterization of the group but hopefully still enjoyable.
- Hopefully enough fluff for some of you in this chapter. It is truly enjoyable to write Percy and Azula's interactions like volleyball at the beach, flirting at the party, and a casual morning/day.
- The next chapter will have a huge focus on just how some new information and other factors affect the group's decision on where their true loyalty truly lies.
- And as usual, I want to give a big thanks for all the support you guys give. As usual, if you have any questions just shoot me a pm. I know the wait isn't fun, balancing school, work, and long-distance just doesn't give me nearly as much free time as I'd like so thank you for bearing with me.
- Big shoutout to MonsieurL.A & TheMeister7 who are absolutely phenomenal. They both bring completely different and unique things to this story that allow the finished project to look miles better than my rough draft versions.
- Also, we hit a thousand reviews at some point?! That's so freaking amazing. I just want to reiterate how thankful I am for all the support you guys have given me and this story.