So you drugged your nephew and then botched an attempt to capture the Avatar, eh? Iroh, you're going to have to be a lot more quick-witted than you were in the Southern Air Temple episode if your going to avoid the wrath of a very groggy, very PISSED OFF Prince Zuko...
The men and I steal back onto the ship and place everything exactly as it was before this whole farce started. Wounds are cleaned and covered, fresh clothes are put on, and all equipment is stored away. Prince Zuko still has not awoken from his sleep. I sit on the deck, watching the sunrise, enjoying the quiet on the ship as we sail northwards. All is still and peaceful.
The calm before the storm.
I wince when I hear a noise below deck. He is awake. I sigh audibly. After a night of mishap and battle, this is not how I wanted to spend my morning. Hearing the noises growing louder, I brace myself for the inevitable.
BAM! The door to the deck slams open and Zuko storms out. "Uncle!" he bellows, closing the distance between him and I in a few long strides. Ah, so it begins.
"Good morning, Prince Zuko."
"Yes. Morning. Why is it morning, suddenly?" he shouts.
I shrug nonchalantly. "There is nothing sudden about it."
He stares at me angrily. I can feel his fury ready to spark at the slightest provocation. "Yes, there is. One moment, I'm eating my dinner, the next, it's sunrise! What happened?" he barks.
"I should think it would be obvious, Prince Zuko," I reply in a calm voice, trying to soothe him, "Rare an event as it is, all that happened is that you had a good night's sleep. Exactly what you needed. Surely you would recognize that...?"
"When did I fall asleep?" he questions shortly, rubbing his head. The drug must still be wearing off.
"Right after dinner. I always find myself a little sleepy after a good meal," I answer, patting my belly and adding a yawn for effect. Seeing me yawn, Prince Zuko also begins to do so himself, but stifles it.
"I don't remember..."
"Of course you don't," I quickly interrupt, adding a scolding note to my voice, "You were exhausted. I was barely able to get you to your room." I look him in the eye and fake a frown. "Prince Zuko, I told you the importance of getting regular sleep. Collapsing from exhaustion? What if you had been fighting the Avatar when that happened?" I wait a moment to let Prince Zuko consider this. His eyes shift downwards. Good. "Falling asleep in the middle of battle can be deadly–you were lucky you happened to be on your ship! Next time, when I tell you the importance of resting, you will listen to your wise, old uncle, won't you...?"
He huffs slightly and turns away. Excellent! I have made my escape and impressed upon Zuko the importance of sleep. Two birds with one stone! Very crafty, Iroh, very–
"What?" I ask, off guard.
"The sun. Its position." Zuko whirls towards me and snaps, "Why are we heading north?"
Ah. Curses...I had forgot. We had changed directions of the ship in order to follow the Avatar. Before, we had been following the rumors he was heading east, but after our encounter with the Avatar last night, the men and I saw him flying north and changed course. Prince Zuko didn't know this, of course.
Zuko turns to the helmsman and yells, "What are you doing, fool? The Avatar is heading east! You thrown us completely off course! Turn this ship around, NOW." The helmsman stutters, but makes no move. Prince Zuko's temper begins to flare as he clenches his fist and roars, "What are you waiting for? Do it!"
"Prince Zuko..." I start, placing a hand on his shoulder. I withdraw it almost immediately when I find it tensed and very hot. Things were about to get ugly, quickly.
"We should be heading north, not east–"
"I don't WANT to head north, I want to go EAST! The Avatar is in that direction!" he shouts loudly, then winces and puts a hand to his head.
"Prince Zuko, if it hurts to shout, maybe you shouldn't do so..." I suggest, but halt myself as he gives me a murderous glare. Clearing my throat, I continue, "The information we received about the Avatar heading further east is incorrect. If we want to follow him, we should travel north."
"Incorrect? Since when? Information on the docks said he was headed east...when–why did you decide to turn north? What happened while I was sleeping?" Prince Zuko's voice has a suspicious edge to it. I gather my wits about me and think of an answer as quickly as I can.
"We...ran across another ship. The people aboard told us they saw a flying buffalo heading north that matched the description of the Avatar's animal guide identically," I manage.
"A ship? Out in these waters? What kind of ship?" he demands. I can see his mind working furiously to figure things out...I will have to be very careful. The men on deck slow their movements and listen intently.
"It was...a fishing boat. Yes! We came across a fisherman–"
"Is that why I smell fish?"
"Yes. I've been smelling it ever since I woke up..."
Oh...the fish from last night. Perhaps, in my haste, I did not so such a thorough job of cleaning Zuko's face as I thought. "Why, yes Prince Zuko. That is exactly why!" I reply quickly, trying to smile convincingly.
Prince Zuko frowns. "Wait...it's only sunrise now, and I fell asleep after dinner, which was after sunset. What was a fisherman doing out in these waters at night?"
"Night-fishing?" I shrug. Prince Zuko's frown deepens. As I try to think of something quickly, I notice Prince Zuko looking over my shoulder.
"Is that smoke?" he inquires, pointing to a thin trail of smoke wisping upwards from the island I had fought the Avatar. I clench my teeth. That must have been from when I the field I burned while battling the him a scant few hours before. The dry grass must have sent up more smoke than I thought. "What's going on?" he shouts, his angry golden eyes locking on me. I stumble for an answer when...
"Sir, the smoke is from the fishing boat we came across a little while before dawn," one of the soldiers cuts in, "It's engine was blown and was stranded. That's why it was out in these waters so late at night. We helped fix the engine and send the fisherman on his way, in exchange for some information concerning the Avatar." I turn and stare at the soldier. I could kiss him for his ingenious answer!
Prince Zuko sighs, exasperated. "Why didn't you just tell me this from the beginning?" he asks me irritably.
"Prince Zuko, you should know better than to bother your uncle so early in the morning," I reply, yawning. Zuko almost yawns again but stops himself.
He whirls and orders the helmsman to keep on course, who looks visibly relieved. It seems Prince Zuko has accepted what we told him as the truth. Of course, none of the men and I will tell him about the Avatar incident, so long as we can help it. And I will certainly not breathe a word about drugging Prince Zuko. It seems I have skirted disaster, just barely.
Thinking back, I realize now that failing to capture the Avatar may have been a good thing. The Fire Nation is a dangerous enough place for Zuko as it is, what with his father and men like Zhou running it. With the arrival of the Avatar and the approach of the comet, returning my nephew to his homeland during this time of turmoil might have been a costly mistake. Yes...there is no need to be hasty...the best thing for Prince Zuko right now is to fight and watch from a distance. So perhaps my failure was a blessing in disguise...
But staying up through the night, and battling through it at that, I am exhausted. I need a good, long rest. Zuko turns and watches me as I head towards the door that leads below deck.
"Where are you going?" Prince Zuko intones, eyes following.
"I am going to sleep," I respond lazily, pausing at the door.
"Repairing the fisherman's ship couldn't have taken that much time and effort," he snorts, "You sleep too much, Uncle."
"And you sleep too little, nephew," I smile as I go below deck. Yes, some good sleep is exactly what I need right now.
But first, I think I shall have some nice, calming tea.
Yay, VICTORY for Iroh! But we all knew he would come out okay, because he's such a trooper. Thank you for you kindly reviews, they have been an inspiration for me to write more! See you soon!