Author's note:

Wow I'm uploading faster then I thought. I got a chapter done already. Hmm...well folks I was well full on board with this ship but then after going through the whole writing process, this is turning out to be more of a challenge then I thought it would. Zuko and Ty Lee is a very complicated relationship. Is it a physical one? is it a close friendship? Whatever it might be one thing I always hate whenever Zuko is paired up with somebody is a total disrespect of the canon Maiko pairing. Hey I don't really care if you don't like it thats fine. But to somehow totally disregard it and saying it sucks is just plain awful taste and disrespectful. So I plan to not do that. Mai has feelings too you know people..(I know...its scary...)

Again read, review, and enjoy.


I'm sorry if theres not enough Ty Luko going on but C'mon...a REAL relationship shouldn't come on that fast. This ain't Disney people.

Avatar: the Last Airbender

A dream that I once knew

Chapter 2: Earth Kingdom woes

Morning came way too soon for Zuko, who had barely gotten any rest from last night's incursion. The sun's bright rays shone down with ferocity, indicating summers coming.

He vowed that was the last time he stayed up so late. He needed his strength to be at its peak.

Walking around the palace he spotted a lone Dai Li agent. The Dai Li, supposedly Ba Sing Se's inner protectors. Zuko found the elite earth benders hard to trust after how easily they sided with Azula in her coup d'etat and betrayed their kingdom. But then again Zuko pressed the thought deep into the recessions of his mind. Who was he to judge? It was like the pot who called the kettle black.

"You…Have you seen my sister?" Zuko was brief and to the point. He did not want to spend any more time with them then he had to.

The Dai Li, with his hat that covered his eyes, responded with a flat tone. "The Princess is scouring the grounds my lord. I do not know her exact locations at this moment."

Zuko cursed under his breath. Azula always came and did as she pleased. Whenever she had business with him it was like trying to avoid a meteor shower, but the times when he actually needed to talk to her were the pivotal moments where she seemed to just disappear.

"I see." Zuko nodded and walked off.

Azula had promised him that they would return home as soon as possible but it had been a full week since they had conquered the fabled capital. He was beginning to get anxious.

He had toured the Earth Kingdom palace many times already, in hopes of being able to occupy his time but he felt caged and restrained within the massive walls. It was foreign and unfamiliar, much like how the last 3 years of his life had felt like. But back then he had uncle.

"Uncle..." He remembered the pained look on the old man's face as he had triumphed over the Avatar and his waterbending friend. How could he not see reason? How could he have chosen the Avatar over regaining his lost honor? It did not matter now. The Dragon of the West had chosen treason and dishonor before his country, and that was something even his uncle, could not be protected from. Back home he would stand trial. Yet Zuko already knew of the penalty. Treason was only met with banishment...or death.

Zuko shook his head at the thought. "Stupid old fool..."

Once again the Prince walked alone, with only his footsteps to be heard.

"Uh-huh..." Mai stated, nonchalantly.

"And then Xin and his juggling troupe collided with the pole, so I had to think fast and..." Ty Lee rambled on as she walked beside her friend.

It was one thing for Ty Lee to be talking, but it became a whole different matter when it came to the circus. She just would not stop blabbering. Mai actually liked talking to Ty Lee, it meant she never actually had to talk much, but today was just ridiculous.

"Ty Lee I'm not really interested in what happened next." She sighed.

"Oh but this is the best part!" The young acrobat exclaimed. "I then..."

This was torture.

And all Mai could do was wait and listen.

"Hey Mai..." Ty Lee then broke off suddenly.

"What?..." Finally something not about the circus, Mai thought.

"Are you...mad at Zuko?" Ty Lee looked at her friend ardently.

Maybe talking about the circus was not so bad after all, The shuriken user gloomed over.

"No. Why would you say that?" Her flat voice gave no indication on how she felt.

"Cause you seem so cold and like distant from him. Have you even tried talking to him after all this years? Back in Omashu you were so thrilled about it." Well Ty Lee wouldn't really call it thrilled, but for Mai's standards, that was the most emotion she had ever seen her friend gave in a long time.

"..." Mai had no actual answer to that when she herself didn't know what she was feeling. It was not like she was avoiding Zuko on purpose. She just really had no idea on how to approach him after all these years. Who's to say he even remembered her? Because it seemed like she didn't remember him either. The Zuko they had recently met here in Ba Sing Se was a changed person. This Zuko was not the Zuko she knew.

"Mai?" Ty Lee asked with concern.

"Its nothing Ty Lee." Mai picked up her stride, hoping to avoid Ty Lee's question.

Ty Lee glanced at Mai's slender figure from behind, silent for a bit in thought before finding out her friend was leaving her.

"Mai wait up!" She ran to catch up with the raven haired girl.

Iroh had never felt so cold in his life. The chill that came over his bones was beyond what his old age could bear. This was what he had gained by defending the Avatar. A cold grim metal cell that was closely watched by the Dai Li. He snickered a bit. That was not a decision he regretted at all.

Besides the cold metal floor failed to compare to the pain that he felt about his Nephew's decision. So much much disappointment. The old warrior was disheartened. He had failed himself. But more then that he had failed the one person who he felt needed him most. Iroh could barely stand his shame.

Only the creaking of the metal door broke him from his misery.

"Hello Uncle."

He had never liked the controlling tone of that voice. Azula always had a way of bringing fear out of everyone, a family trait no doubt.

He turned around to face his niece, who stood proud and ever watchful, as she looked down on him with his chains.

"What business does the imperial princess have with an old man like me?" He played along.

"Oh don't be so coy Uncle. Can't a niece visit her favorite person in the world?" She said so innocently.

"Oh I didn't know I was sharing a cell with him. I'd love to meet the fellow." Iroh was not one to break easily from Azula's mind games.

"Hahaha. Thats what I love about you Uncle. You always have something unique to say." She leaned her back against the cell door that closed behind her.

"Perhaps you have something to say now? Say...about my brother?" She inquired.

Iroh fell silent. Perhaps this time it would have been wise to not challenge Azula in her games. Zuko was a sensitive subject that he failed to guard against her.

Azula smiled triumphantly. Like a snarling wolf-shark, she sense her uncle's weakness and honed in on it.

"Thats what I thought. would seem you don't know Zuko as well as you think you do Uncle. If you had then you would have the better sense and joined him and redeemed yourself. Look at you." She paused. "You're a disgrace. Look at you. Have you forgotten who you are? Forgotten why you were called the Dragon of the West?"

Iroh's eyes glared as he met Azula's pale gold ones. "It is an honor to serve the Avatar. That... is something I have not forgotten."

"Ah, and what does the traitor know of honor? How could you even comprehend the word when you yourself turned your back on your country and your people?" Azula's words spat poisonous truth.

At last it would seem finally, Iroh would hear the real reason why Azula came down here to mock him.

"Why do it? Why lose everything?..." Azula was genuinely curious.

Iroh in his weakened state, could only stare down at his sociopath of a niece.

"Ah...I see..." Azula finally understood. "Love...The bane of honor...and the death of duty."

Iroh's eyes flared up. "And what would you...princess Azula...know of love?" He paused before continuing. "What is honor compared to a woman's love? What is duty compared to the feel of a newborn son in your arms?...Nothing but words."

Azula's face showed no emotion. "Traitorous dog. My Father showed you great mercy by banishing you. A kindness far more then you deserved."

"I hope you get acquainted with your cell then Uncle. I have a feeling you'll be looking at enclosed four walls for a very long time." She turned her back towards him and the metal doors closed, leaving Iroh in the dark.

Iroh stared at his last bastion of light shining through the eye slit of the metal door.

"I have not forgotten..."

After Mai said she was not feeling well Ty Lee knew she wanted to be left alone. She said her farewell and went on her separate way. After a few hours passed she quickly found that without the company of others she found herself quickly getting bored. Azula's said she had something important to do today so I guess looking for her is out of the question...I've already explored the palace...Ty Lee thought as her options began to dwindle down.

Suddenly a fierce yell caught her attention. Its coming from the courtyard. Ty Lee, curious as ever and finding little else to do, decided to investigate the source of the sound.

She found a spot overlooking the courtyard. To her surprise it was the grunting and yelling of a single individual moving and whirling around, as orange hot flames burst and expanded around him. Zuko was practicing his firebending forms.

She smiled as she leaned against the balcony, her hands under her chin.

Ty Lee had always envied those who had the gift to command the wild element. It made them so special. Sometimes it felt that the benders who used the art were mocking her and her different ways. But something about the way Zuko moved that was so different and so pure from the others, that it captivated her as her grey eyes continued to watch the prince.

"Wow..." She whispered audible enough for only her to hear.

She was no expert in reading a person's mind or their feelings like Azula, but Ty Lee found that she had a natural knack of reading a person's body language. From Zuko's wild shadowless kicks to his explosive sets of motions. As he continued to guide a single fireball across the air, it was all too clear to her. She had never seen anyone moved with such passion and ferocity. It felt as if he himself was like the flame he wielded. Rough, strong, wild, and ever burning. This was definitely a different side of Zuko she had never seen. Never had see seen an aura burn so bright.

Ty Lee didn't know whether it frightened her.

Or fascinated her.

Once more...Just once more. Zuko panted. He was exhausted. He had been at this for hours on end now. His shirt was soaked with sweat, his vision blurry. His body pleaded with him to stop, but his mind and will refused to listen. He never got to where he was by lying down and resting. If he was to be stuck here in the Earth Kingdom for a while he might as well be doing something productive. Besides physical excursions always kept him occupied, and whenever he was occupied he never had to think, not one single thing about what has happened, what will happen or anything else for that matter. It was just him and pushing himself to his capacity.

Going into the horse stance, Zuko concentrated as he began to breath in deep. Firebending was never dependent on the individual's physical prowess. It was through the breath and inner control could the firebender unleash the fury that raged within. A ball of flame expanded into his hands, and as quickly as it roared to life, Zuko was even quicker in tossing it up in the air. The fireball whizzed up high and fell down within seconds, with zuko ready to catch it with his feet. A quick pass to the other feet and a tornado kick sent the ball shooting forward with a force of a cannon ball as it hit its target on the mark. The straw dummy never had a chance. It burnt to a crisp.

He heard clapping.

Looking up he saw the face of a smiling Ty Lee as she clapped long and hard.

"That was great Zuko! You really know how to wow a girl!" She giggled.

Breathing hard Zuko could barely answer back. "...I...didn't know...I audience." He wiped the sweat of his brow.

"Well I'm hardly an audience but thank you." She grinned. "Well...are you just going to rest up there? Aren't you going to show me more?"

Zuko didn't know whether to laugh or to be confused. "I don't normally practice my bending to show-off to people."

"Do you only do it for pretty girls?" Ty Lee teased.

Zuko made a small coughing sound as if he couldn't believe what Ty Lee said. "Wha-what?"

"I mean you did it for me...and my guy friends back home always said I was cute."

"..." Zuko's mouth gaped open a little. "I wasn't doing it for you! I was practicing!"

"Well then one person watching you shouldn't distract you at all." She pointed out with a mischievous grin.

Zuko shook his head in disbelief and in surrender. There was no dealing with this girl.

"Fine..." Was all he said before he returned to what he was doing before. Not paying attention to a pretty young acrobat's eyes who seemed to only see him and him alone.

Azula was in no mood for trivial matters at the moment. It might have been a wrong choice to go and see her fat uncle. He was still clearly one of the few people who could not be snared by her games.

But what she saw before her eyes gave her a slight, perverse amusement.

There she saw Ty Lee watching her brother and his pathetic attempt at firebending. And the way she stared...She probably wouldn't even know if Azula crept up from behind her.

"My oh my..." The wheels in Azula's head began to turn. She was not quite sure yet but if she was right...there may be something amusing happening before her very eyes. And Azula was always one for a good laugh.

"You're becoming quite a naughty boy Zuzu..."

This might prove interesting after all.