A three part story about LuTen and Zuko, detailing the bond between cousins. In the Fire Nation royal family, friendship is hard to find.

Cousins

"Happy birthday!" Zuko said, pounding his small fists against the door of his cousin's door. "Wake up, I have a present for you!" At eight years old, he was old enough to give his own gift to his favorite (and only) cousin.

A full moment later, a bleary-eyed Lu-Ten, his long brown hair messy from sleep opened the door. He was so tall and strong. Zuko always hoped he would be the same when he grew up. "It's barely past dawn," he mumbled. He was still in his sleeping clothes, on such an important day.

"Who cares what time it is? It's your birthday!" Zuko cheered, holding out his present. "Come on, open it! I wanted to make sure you liked it."

Lu-Ten gingerly obeyed, yawning the entire time. "A new knife belt. Thanks, I love it. Now, you know what I would love even more?" he asked.

Zuko smiled. "A wrestling match?" he asked. He loved rough-housing with his older cousin, even if Lu-Ten played dirty and tickled Zuko behind his knees.

"Well…actually, I was going to say a nice long nap…" Lu-Ten said, as he put the belt down and sprinkled some water on his face. "But I think I see that is impossible. Well, it's a shame you bought me such a nice gift. I have some terrible news for you," he said sadly.

"Oh no, you don't have to go back to battle yet, right?" Zuko asked sadly. Lu-Ten had just came back, he couldn't leave on his birthday.

"Oh no, it's far worse. Apparently, someone was foolish enough to wake me. Now what should be done to such an intruder?' Lu-Ten asked wolfishly, returning the grin as he caught Zuko around the middle and threw him on the bed. "He must be punished."

"No!!!" Zuko giggled as Lu-Ten pinned him down with his greater weight. "You snuck up on me, no fair!"

"Oh, we have a stubborn prisoner. I suppose we'll just have to torture him. Unless of course, you surrender?" Lu-Ten said, spreading out Zuko's arms, leaving him completely helpless.

"Never!" Zuko exclaimed, as he tried to squirm away. "Fire princes never surrender!"

"How true. So I suppose it's the torture for you. Well, my brave boy, I'll tell Aunt Ursa that you went down like a true Son of Agni. I'm sure she and Uncle will be very proud. Any last words?" Lu-Ten grinned. Zuko opened his mouth but his cousin had different plans. "Actually, last words tend to very boring. I prefer the torture anyway. Hope you don't mind me missing the formalities?" he said, as he began tickling under Zuko's arms. "Didn't think so."

Zuko convulsed in giggles, as he squirmed under the fierce attack. "Now, will you talk, prisoner?" Lu-Ten demanded. Zuko managed to shake his head, as he chortled. "Come on, just give up and I'll give you a merciful end. If not…we'll have to go for the knees."

"Not….the…knees," Zuko pleaded, still trying to keep from exploding from laughter.

"Oh yes, the knees. I happen to know princes are very ticklish there. And you did wake me up from a very pleasant sleep. So, actually, I should just tie you up and dump you into the pond." Zuko gasped for air, as his knees were subjected to a ruthless attack by the future Fire Lord. " But that would require me getting dressed and having a full meal and walking all that way. So I'll just tickle-torture you for my amusement."

"All right….I surrender," Zuko mumbled, as his sides began to ache. No one tickle tortured better than Lu-Ten.

Lu-Ten snickered. "You surrender to who?" he asked, his lazy grin firmly in place.

"I surrender to the best cousin in the whole world," Zuko gasped, as the attack finished. He was exhausted.

Lu-Ten smiled and flicked a lock of Zuko's hair off his face. "Well, the prisoner speaks well for himself. I suppose I'll let you live. But you were spared by the greatest Fire Nation warrior ever born, remember that," he said, sitting down on the bed next to Zuko.

"Yeah, and you are going to rule the world someday, aren't you?" Zuko said, sitting up.

"Guess I am. Hopefully not for a long time. Father and Grandfather are the pictures of health," LuTen said, his voice growing softer. "But yeah, someday, I will be Agni Incarnated, the great Fire Lord Lu-Ten. Sounds good, right?"

"Sounds very good. And what will I be?" Zuko asked. He understood that he was royalty, but the ins and out of protocol confused him.

"My viceroy, of course. Prince Zuko, my Daimyo, my right hand man. You'll always be at my side, you know that."

"Not Azula? Father likes her better," Zuko sighed, as he snuggled closer to his cousin.

"Hey, Father and I like you better. We men have to stick together, right? Besides, girls are yucky, right? We're warriors, we don't play with dolls," Lu-Ten smiled, flicking Zuko's nose.

"Is that why you are always climbing out of their windows at night?" Zuko asked.

Lu-Ten reddened and nodded. "Yup. Now, my loyal daimyo, I propose a kitchen raid. We must liberate some delicious sun-cakes to celebrate my birthday. Are you prepared to risk your life on such a mission?" he asked.

Zuko smiled eagerly. "Of course!"

To be continued…