(A/N: This story, once a whim, has turned into one of my most prized works. I feel that I've improved my writing abilities throughout the course of the piece by developing more complex plots and characters. It has been a beautiful journey, and its end is heartbreaking for me. I would like to thank three particular readers:
For their continued support and constant reviews that kept me updated on how I was doing, and pushed me to strive to attain my best possible performance. Thank you so much for all of your help, along with any other readers who took the time to plaster a few words on the review board. I'd also like to thank my Beta reader for her efficiency, critiques, and encouragement. Without further delay…)
Aang knocked on Firelord's door, really only out of politeness' sake. He'd been walking in and out of that door for days now, at every hour. If common courtesy would have allowed it, he'd avoid making his way through the lengthy corridors and simply use the window. But last time he'd popped in unannounced via the office window, he had walked in on the Firelord and his consort engaging in activities meant solely for the bedroom. Not that it was any of his business where the two expressed their love! In fact, Aang was happy that they were blessed with security in their love life and sexuality! He just wished he could have stopped himself from staring at the two beautiful creatures entangled in a glistening mess of limbs and love. It would have saved him from a crushing boulder of embarrassment as he tried to stammer and stutter his way out of the room. At nineteen years old, he really ought to be mature enough to handle such an occurrence.
"Come on in, Aang."
The Avatar smiled upon hearing the weariness in the man's voice. It was a testament to the Firelord's dedication. He had not left his office for four days, and the Avatar had been serving as his middleman in negotiations with the Earth Kingdom. Keeping the peace, one delivered scroll at a time. He swung open the door, throwing his hand up in a lazy wave. "Good news, Zuko. The Earth King is willing to elongate the deadline from tomorrow, to the end of the week.
"A whole four days to evict the last of the colonies, huh? Who does he think I am? The reincarnation of Roku?" The Firelord groaned, his knuckles digging into the edge of his desk. Aang didn't bother pointing out that he was the reincarnation of Roku, and even he didn't believe it was possible. "The Fire Nation's population is already out of proportion with our resources. I can't recall any more colonies without sacrificing the wellbeing of my people!" Even slumped over his desk in a fit of frustration, the vampire was as beautiful and graceful as ever. Now twenty-four, Firelord Zuko was the spitting image of his sixteen-year-old self with a few minor alterations. His skin was the color of steam in the middle of a frost, pale white with the lightest tinge of grey and lilac. The irises of his eyes were an astounding, whirling mixture of ocean tints with blues, greens, and purples alike.
Zuko never bothered dressing in his royal garments unless he was to attend a meeting, preferring a simple red robe with a dark crimson sash that he played with out of habit. Behind him, supportive and amused, was Lord Setsuya. "It's alright, Zuko," the older vampire murmured, rubbing the man's shoulders and giving him a kiss on the neck. "We'll just have to adhere to the backup plan of purchasing Kyoshi Island. The Earth King has expressed interest in our offer. The treasury has the money, and the soil there is rich. It will save a lot of money not having to ship supplies halfway across the world."
"I really have to run it by the council. This is not going to be easy." Zuko began scribbling out another message, no doubt another for Aang to deliver.
"It's never easy, is it?" The Avatar laughed, crossing his arms behind his head as he approached the desk. "But you seem to be doing a good job. Your next seven-year term was approved wasn't it? You know you're doing something right when your people start saying that they want a Firelord like you for 'generations upon generations to come'. It's your eighth year in office and only about ten percent of the world still thinks you're an evil, radical maniac bent on destroying the very meaning of the word 'tradition'."
"Smartest thing I ever did in this office, initiating that renewable term," Zuko murmured to himself. "I just hope they get sick of me eventually. I'm already running myself ragged."
"But you love this job and you know it," Setsuya cooed, unwrapping the bun his lover's hair was held in. "It'll all settle down once we're able to evict these last few colonies out of Earth Kingdom territory. Then we'll be able to call the period of Restoration officially ended."
"And on that day, we'll all drink ourselves silly," Aang muttered, massaging his left shoulder with a sigh.
Zuko finally looked up from the message he was writing, a sympathetic expression on his face. "I'm so sorry, Aang. I know I've been keeping you busy. With Katara expecting in three months, it's really not fair for me to ask this of you."
"Please, I'm happy to help!" Aang waved away the matter with a flick of the wrist. "Nobody else has a flying bison to cross from country to country! Besides, Katara's mood swings have been almost unbearable lately. Two weeks ago she froze Sokka in a block of ice because he made a crack about her weight gain."
"Lord Setsuyaaaaaaaa!" A third vampire bounded through the open window with his sing-song tune, startling Aang into dropping his glider. Zuko and Setsuya exchanged a look of exasperation. An unexpected visit from Setsuya's assistant could only mean something dangerous, or something ridiculous.
"Takuya, how many times do I have to tell you not to use the window?" Setsuya shook his head, raising an eyebrow at the mischievous vampire.
"I can attest to that!" Aang added, though with a hint of a smile. After all, what could one expect when two vampire lovers shared an office, fed together at least once a week, and hardly left said office?
Takuya's smile brightened as he waved to the Avatar. "Hey, Aang. What's new?"
"Can't you show the least bit of respect?" Setsuya begged, as Zuko tried to stifle a laugh. "You're embarrassing me!"
"Well sorry!" Takuya stuck his nose in the air and wrapped his arms around his waist. "And you know I can't use the doorway! Zuko's guards always try to jump me."
With that getup, any bi-curious man would try, Setsuya silently mused, eying Takuya's traditional and rather revealing garments. "Alright, alright. What's the latest news?"
Takuya's expression turned solemn as he flipped his fiery hair back, allowing it to shimmer in the advancing sunlight. "Some mortal thinks eternal life might be fun, and is assaulting one of our own in an attempt to coax him into taking his life." Setsuya's eyes narrowed, giving Zuko a parting kiss on the cheek before leaping out of the window himself after Takuya.
Zuko bit his lower lip, shuddering as he did so. Mortals could be so foolish. "Do you get those sorts of problems often?" Aang asked quietly, staring after the vanished vampires. Even as the Avatar, he couldn't imagine dealing with people concerning such matters.
"No, not anymore." Zuko sealed up the scroll he'd been writing in. "It's a little easier now, having vampires and mortals live side-by-side. Being a vampire myself, how could I exclude them and force them underground again? If the four nations can live amongst each other, why can't vampires do so within the Fire Nation as well? It's been seven years, and the vampire people have kept to their word. Their numbers remain at eighty-eight." Zuko still grimaced at this number, for it was less than the original population. Aang remembered the incident very well: the three-hour civil war that was instigated when the vampires were first introduced into the general populace. The deep respect Setsuya and Zuko had earned by both sides was the only factor that ended the battle. "Not a single mortal's life has been taken, nor a vampire's since the initiation of the law. I'm not sure whether it's a mutual fear or respect of the negotiations we've made. The hardest thing we have to do is deny permission for vampires to take the blood of a mortal they've fallen in love with."
"I can imagine," Aang whispered, unable to even fathom loving beyond such barriers. "Living forever knowing that the one you love is going to die…"
Zuko folded his hands, resting his head with anguish in his eyes. "Sometimes, I wonder if we're doing the right thing. Any decision, all decisions. It always seems like somebody, no matter what, loses."
Aang bowed his head, rounding the man's chair and putting his hands on the his shoulders. "Zuko, you've done so much for your nation, the vampires, the world! Don't start beating yourself up for what you can't fix. There's a multitude of reasons why you couldn't let vampires take human partners. We wouldn't want the population doubling, would we? It would get out of control! You can't create a utopia! There are limitations!" He quieted, allowing his words to sink in.
The vampire let out a deep sigh, nodding slowly. "Yes. Yes, you're right. Thank you, Aang. I needed to hear that." He handed the scroll to the Avatar with a warm smile. "Please, could you…?"
"Of course." He snagged the parchment and stuffed it into his waist band. "Don't worry, Zuko. We'll figure this out."
Zuko gave the young man a genuine smile. "Thank you, Aang. You're a good friend." The Avatar winked, taking off on his glider through the window, which was becoming a rather popular entryway. Aang wouldn't be back for a few hours… The only thing to do now would be to call his council, and find a locksmith who could install a safety latch on that damn window. He rose, only to find two arms wrapping around his waist and a pair of lips against his neck. "That was fast," he murmured, leaning his head back onto his lover's shoulder.
"All I had to do was explain the supernatural aspect of becoming a vampire." Zuko nodded. 'Explain' usually coincided with 'intimidate' when it came to Setsuya dealing with such serious matters.
"He was frightened because he didn't have a strong enough bond with anyone," Zuko murmured, spinning around in his soul mate's arms and resting against his figure.
"You know that anyone who is willing to take on an eternal existence couldn't possibly love another enough. Not if they're prepared to outlive them." Setsuya's hands folded at the small of his back and they embraced silently for a few moments. "We're so lucky," the vampire whispered, nuzzling his lover's throat. "My heart is yours, always and forever."
"I'll keep it safe. Would you do the same for mine?" Zuko traced the flesh over his soul mate's unbeating heart.
"Safe and sound." He tenderly kissed the younger man's lips. "Darling, let's go back to our chambers. We've been here for ninety-seven hours straight; there's really nothing else we can do today. We need to wait for the Earth King and his advisors to come to an agreement on the property value of Kyoshi Island."
Zuko opened his mouth to protest on instinct, but his lips formed otherwise: "Yes, I want to rest. But I need to hunt first. I've stretched myself as far as I'm willing." he kissed each of his lover's cheeks.
"We'll go together," Setsuya purred, running his hands along the other's back. "I'm hungry for a little boarcupine."
"The blood is sweet, but you have to wonder if fighting through the spikes is worth it."
"I'll teach you the best way to slice one open. You have to tickle its stomach a little, so it expands before you slit the throat."
Zuko snorted, leaning his head back to meet the man's eyes. "I can't imagine an outsider's impression on this conversation."
"It's no different than discussing how to cook a turkey-duck, or a roast," Setsuya explained, smiling as their hips pressed together. "Mortals will be mortals."
"And vampires will be vampires." Zuko bared his incisors, giving his lover a carnivorous kiss. Setsuya melted at his touch as the younger man claimed dominance, thrusting his tongue into the other's mouth furiously. Setsuya's hands traced his hips and squeezed, earning a low moan that vibrated against his lips. Setsuya felt arms tighten around him as the tongue delved deeper into his mouth and traced the secret crevices of the cavern, fondling the incisors with care. Zuko's kisses were demanding and fierce, but Setsuya wouldn't have it any other way.
They parted, Zuko's attachment to his mortal nature prodding him to take a deep recovery breath. "You know, I think Avatar Aang is right. I've been working too hard." There was a hint of mischief in the young man's smile.
"Indeed, you have been. But I know a cure for working too hard." Setsuya's eyes glazed over in desire as he held his lover close. "It involves making passionate love in the privacy of our quarters."
"Mmmm, privacy. How long I've waited for the privilege." Zuko moaned as the vampire bit into his neck, taunting the flesh with a smirk. He gasped as Setsuya swept an arm under his legs and held him bridal-style. He ducked out of the window and onto the ledge with a whisper:
"Tonight, I will hunt for you my beloved. I will nourish you myself, mouthful by mouthful. You needn't lift a finger."
Zuko rested his head against his mate's chest, drifting off into his resting state as he mused, On second thought, the window can do without a new latch.
Alternate Ending Information
Caught your attention, did I? If you would like to receive the bonus chapter of Bloodlust, please leave a review saying so, posting your e-mail address or requesting it in DocX form. (Make sure you connect via DocX exchange). It will be sent in Rich Text Format as an e-mail attachment from OnexLostxSoul at hotmail. This format is compatible with most any word processing programs. Want it in a different format? Just say so.
WARNING: The chapter does contain explicit sexual material and a duogamous relationship. If you want the edited form without the mature content, I can send it to you all the same.