Author's Note, 7/26/2015: I think this is my third time editing this oneshot, which does not come as a surprise to me, as it was one of the first I ever wrote. Some reviewers had complained about the lack of a solid ending, so I re-worked it a little bit and I hope it comes off as satisfactory, now. Thanks again, and enjoy!
Please give a kind shoutout to Lilaccu over on DeviantArt for the cover page dedication! You can find the link for the full image on my profile.
© to Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Koneitzko, and Nickelodeon Studios
Heavy wooden doors slammed behind him. Zuko paused, ready to shout back at his father, but turned on his heel, grunting at the guards watching him. He clenched the letter in his hand and stomped through the palace, now on the hunt for his sister.
Normally, Azula would have accompanied him when meeting with their father, but lately all Zuko had become to the Fire Lord was a personal messenger boy. It was almost midnight as his thundering footsteps were absorbed in the crimson carpet, the wind rippling the tapestries hanging in the wide, open windows. He could smell the smoke from the nearby volcanoes drifting in.
He opened Azula's door and frowned. She wasn't there. He could leave the letter on her nightstand, but… She would probably think it was unimportant, ignore it, and then he would be left with the angry aftermath of their father and a failure to deliver a simple letter. He sighed.
"Hey, do you know where Azula is?" he asked one of the guards standing by her door.
"The bathhouse, sir," the guard replied.
Since he had been home, Zuko had not had a chance to visit the bathhouse. Considering they were the most luxurious hot springs in all the Fire Nation, he would have to try them out after he delivered the letter. He followed a long, spiraling staircase down the stairs to the back of the palace and took off his shoes outside the entryway.
Zuko walked across the polished granite flooring, the vaulted ceilings high above him and carvings of dragons billowing steam standing watch on the walls. His amber eyes hunted through the dancing shadows and flames of the torche. The document in his hand began to go limp, and he knew if he didn't find Azula soon, the ink would run.
He sighed. "I bet she's not even here."
A splash echoed throughout the chamber. Zuko looked over to the farthest bath near the window, where the Fire Nation's volcanic ring could be seen glowing orange beneath a starry summer sky, but an unlit torch cloaked the area in darkness. He heard a loud moan and stopped in his tracks. Someone was talking in a whisper.
"Of course this was a great idea. Who else would've thought of it?"
Zuko's brow furrowed. "Who is she talking to?"
A giggle bubbled from them, but he couldn't tell if it was his sister or not. Azula never giggled; she snickered, chuckled, and laughed, but never giggled. He tip-toed to the nearest torch and hid behind it. If he could sneak from one torch to the next, he could give her the letter, but that could wait. He had to see what she was up to.
Azula moaned again. Had she gotten a boyfriend since he had been away? Zuko paused, not sure if he wanted to catch her making out, but… If it was her boyfriend, then he could interrupt them, and get back at her for all the times she had interrupted him and Mai. He crouched below the unlit pillar, ready to jump out and surprise Azula and her boyfriend, but…
Boyfriend and girlfriend was not what Zuko saw.
A girl was halfway out of the bath, lying naked on her back, Azula's hands all over her. Zuko's eyes widened in shock as he watched them kiss hard in the moonlight, the girl beneath Azula breaching her back and moaning in passion, Azula leaning over and whispering in her ear.
"Hush, Ty Lee."
"What if somebody sees us?"
"They're not going to. I told them I wasn't to be disturbed."
Azula kissed her again, pressing their hips together, melting into the embrace. Zuko's jaw dropped. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. How had he not known? Had Azula changed all that much since he had left? And she was with Ty Lee, of all people? He couldn't turn away from the scene. It was like a cabbage cart crash, but with naked women dripping in bathwater, flexing and pressing against one another. He was paralyzed.
Ty Lee's hand pressed to Azula's tightened front, venturing further and further down, but the Princess grabbed her hand.
"Wait," she said.
Azula didn't answer, backing off and sliding down into the water, pulling Ty Lee with her. Ty Lee wrapped her legs around Azula's waist and her arms around her neck. Azula brushed away the bangs that fell into her eyes and kissed her on the forehead, her back against the granite bath, and Ty Lee rested against her chest. Azula sighed in contentment and then looked up.
"Hello, dear brother."
He had been caught! Zuko felt like a turtleduck before a pygmy puma, jumping at the sly smirk on his sister's lips; lips that had been kissing Ty Lee. He stood up, mouth gaping for an explanation, but was distracted as Ty Lee nuzzled and nipped at Azula's neck.
"What's that you have there?" Azula asked, ignoring Ty Lee, and pointed at the crunched letter in his hand.
"Um…" Zuko stepped forward, lured, and handed her the message. He couldn't stop staring.
Azula opened the letter, skimmed it, and tossed it aside. "Give Father my regards. Tell him I'm taking care of business right now. Schedule an appointment for tomorrow."
It wasn't a favor, but an order. Still dumbfounded, Zuko nodded.
"All right, you can leave now," Azula said, waving her hand at him.
"But you… Since when…" he fumbled for words, a weak finger pointed at both of them. "I mean, how long have…"
Azula rolled her eyes. "Ty Lee and I have been together since we were twelve, dumb-dumb."
If possible, Zuko's eyebrows shot even further into his forehead. "Wait a minute! That means, you two… While you were… Did you…"
"Of course we did it in your bed, Zuzu," Azula snickered. "But it wasn't my idea. Ty Lee happened to be in the mood. Isn't that right, sugar cakes?"
Ty Lee grinned and kissed her on the lips again. "Yes, Princess."
Something dropped in Zuko's stomach, and he wasn't sure if it was because of the heat of the bath or the news that had just been revealed. He cleared his throat of any bile that may have come up. "I… I gotta go… Wash my sheets or something…"
Azula blew a kiss at him. "Goodbye!"
Stuck in a daze, Zuko shuffled back the way he came, the letter clenched his fists now dripping with ink. The bathhouse door clicked shut behind him.
"What are you doing up this late?" came a voice, shaking him out of his reverie. It was Mai, standing in a silken black robe, her arms crossed.
"I…" he fumbled for words, and then glanced over his shoulder. "Um, are you going to take a bath?"
Mai raised a brow, perplexed by her boyfriend's odd behavior. Well, odder than usual. "Yes? I couldn't sleep."
"I wouldn't go in there if I was you."
"And why not?"
"Because… Uh… How can I say this?"
"Say what, Zuko?"
"Did you know that, um… Azula and Ty Lee… That they were… together?"
"Of course I knew. I think everyone in the palace knows," Mai laughed, and then noticed his pale, sickened face. She stopped laughing and rested a hand on his cheek. "Oh Agni, you didn't, did you? And are they… in there?"
Mai cringed. "Okay, then let's… Skip the bath. Come on, we can go to bed."
"Well, you wouldn't want to go there either."
"Because they…" he began, and then leaned over and whispered in her ear. Her eyes went wide with shock. "Yeah. Let's go to the balcony and talk about how much we hate the world."
Mai nodded fervently. "Yes, yes, let's do that."