It had taken Zuko forever to get out of the ropes without his firebending skills. The last thing he had seen as they flew away was Katara holding onto his mask and looking back at him.
Zuko washed the oil off and changed back into his uniform. He then piloted the small boat back toward his ship. He docked the small boat and then went up onto the deck where he found his uncle looking toward the last rays of the setting sun.
Zuko walked up to stand next to him. Neither of them said a word for a long time. Finally, Zuko heard his uncle speak. "I take it the girl did not return with you?"
"No uncle." Zuko said simply. He wondered if his uncle had known who she really was. His uncle was a deceptively shrewd man sometimes. He decided not to ask, as it wouldn't matter anyway.
"Water tribe girls are much like the sea, I think." Iroh said looking out at the waves. "They can be incredibly deep, swallow a man whole, and they always seem to surprise you with the unexpected."
Zuko smiled. "And yet we can never seem to be able to resist the thrill of exploration."
Iroh chuckled then. "No, I guess we can't at that."
Zuko reached into his pocket and pulled out the ivory bracelet. Sienna had told him that when water tribe girls accepted the man they wanted to marry they would give him something he was to wear and carry into battle from that day forward. Zuko doubted Katara realized what the gesture truly meant, but he thought it might be fun to one day tell her if they could ever be done with the war. He decided he was going to hold her to it.
Zuko chuckled to himself before slipping the bracelet onto his arm and covering it with his sleeve. Iroh watched him curiously.
"What is that you have there nephew?" Iroh asked.
"Just birthday present uncle." Zuko said quietly. "Which reminds me. I never did thank you for the wonderful gift that you gave me."
"Maybe we could go back there one day, eh?" Iroh said grinning and clapping his hands together roguishly.
"No uncle. That wasn't the gift I was referring to." Zuko said as he put his hand out onto his uncle's shoulder.
Iroh nodded and smiled. "I will always stay by you side nephew."
Zuko nodded and went back to looking at the sea. Sokka had been right. The flying bison was VERY conspicuous. He expected they would probably have to fly all night long trying to get out of fire nation territory safely. Zuko could just barely see a speck on the distant horizon.
"Tell the captain we need to steer north, uncle." Zuko said looking after the bison. That thing could fly faster than his ship could sail.
"At once, nephew." Iroh said turning to go.
"No hurry uncle. We'll get them eventually." Zuko said. He imagined he could still see the shape of the girl on the beast's back. The pursuit had begun.