Waltz Ch 5
Working on not sucking at fight scenes. Hope it worked. We're almost doooone. Also, not beta'd. So there may be a few WTF errors.
Zuko's previously comfortable, breathable outfit suddenly felt like it was choking him. He was overheated, sweating, chafing, everything. He yanked at his mandarin collar, wondering why it was too tight. Jet slapped his hands away, straightening the collar back into the correct position.
"Stop fidgeting, Zuko. We don't wanna look suspicious. Besides, you're wrinkling your shirt. We can't have that," Jet joked, trying to ease Zuko's mood. It helped a little. He still felt constricted, though.
"I'm fine," he said half-heartedly, knowing full well that everyone could plainly see that he was not fine, but knew no one would oppose him. It worked.
The reluctant group stood in a long line in front of the Earth King's palace. The guards at the front gates were checking for their tickets, which apparently only the folks of the Upper Ring were issued. It made sense, in a way. The politicians, influential people, and other VIPs resided in the Upper Ring. Since this party was more than likely a show of power, the new rule of Ba Sing Se, it made sense to capture the big playing pieces as opposed to the pawns. They would have to follow the rules no matter who was ruling anyway.
"Looks like it's gonna be a big party," Aang pointed out unhelpfully. Yeah, like they hadn't already noticed. It was already making Zuko nervous. Momo churred from under his turban, wanting to see for himself.
"No kidding," Toph agreed, able to feel the hundreds of feet shuffling and reverberating under her footless sandals.
"Okay, once we get inside, stay close. Don't lose sight of each other," Sokka ordered as they neared the entrance.
"Right-o, Water Tribe," Jet chimed before handing the guard his and Zuko's ticket. The man stared at it for a moment before letting them pass with a nod.
Once they were all inside, they wordlessly split in different directions. Sokka and Zuko went to the food table; Toph and Aang went to dance together; Jet decided to socialize, ask questions, be friendly. Being charming and endearing was something that came naturally to Jet. Zuko sighed, wishing he could just glue himself to Jet's hip all night and keep him protected, but knew that would be too suspicious. It didn't stop him from checking him out over his shoulder every two seconds. This was more because Jet looked absolutely edible in his formal Earth Kingdom wares, and Zuko found it difficult to keep his eyes off him.
"Wow! For food served by your crazy freakin' sister, this stuff ain't bad," Sokka appreciated as he took a large bite out of some roasted drumstick of some animal or another. Zuko shook his head and rolled his eyes, getting a drink from a tray of one of the passing servers, more of a reason to keep his hands occupied than because he really wanted one. It was too sugary and sickly tasting anyway.
When Zuko looked back towards Jet, his stomach froze like he'd just drank a gallon of ice water. Pink froofy outfit, twisted braided hair, overly cheerful voice — Ty Lee. And she was cozying up to Jet all flirtatiously, batting eyelashes and giggling at everything Jet said. Jet, however, seemed unperturbed by her presence, grinning all charmingly and obviously putting the charisma on thick.
Zuko mashed his lips together and did nothing.
Alarmed but still pissed off, Zuko turned towards the hoarse voice that said his name, glare and disposition still intact. When he laid eyes on his addressor, however, his face fell blank with surprise.
Jet didn't like the idea of splitting up with Zuko, but he had little choice in the matter. As a leader, he understood team dynamics, and knew this was what was best for the team. Still, it didn't make him feel any better about it. With a sigh as the group separated, Jet approached a group of stately looking gentlemen and tried to join in their conversation. Some worldly political matter about purebred animals and some crap he didn't care about. Eventually the group of men went along their way, leaving Jet once again alone.
He could go dance, but somehow felt like that was now something him and Zuko shared. He didn't want to spoil that special magic by dancing with someone else, even if it was just casual. It felt suspiciously like cheating.
And oh, Jet could definitely feel Zuko's eyes on him. Constantly, almost obviously. Jet knew the rest of the party probably wouldn't pay any mind to it, but the burning amber eyes pierced him, whether he could physically see them or not. For a moment he felt them leave, and in that moment he was approached by a young lady with a loud voice and loud clothes to match.
"Hi! I'm Ty Lee! What's your name?" she asked suggestively, blinking up at him with her huge eyes. They weren't gold, though. She wasn't a Firebender. But for some reason he still got a distinct feeling that he didn't want to take this encounter for granted.
"I'm Jet," he answered with his trademark half-smile, grinding his teeth together before he remembered that he didn't have a weed to chew on. It wasn't gentlemanly, as Zuko had told him before he'd plucked the bit of straw from his mouth that he'd picked up on their way to the party. "It's very nice to meet you, Ty."
Then, for some reason, the annoying girl in too much pink started to giggle uncontrollably. Jet wasn't sure what in the spirits was so funny, but huffed a laugh to join in whatever was so hilarious.
"So, Jet," she purred, grabbing his hand, "dance with me!" She tried pulling him onto the dance floor with her, but Jet's immediate reaction was to pull his hand back to himself, causing Ty Lee to pout at him.
"Uhh, no thanks. I just ate a lot, so I probably shouldn't be doing that much movin' around. I might throw up or something," he lied, scratching the back of his head. Ty Lee looked positively deflated, which almost made Jet feel bad until he remembered that this girl was obnoxious.
"Oh. Okay, then. Nice to meet you, I guess." She shuffled away after that, going to find another young man to accost, Jet was sure.
"Glad that's over," Jet muttered to himself, turning around to check on Zuko. Zuko, however, was caught up in a staring contest with another girl, completely paying attention to her. Fury roared through Jet's being and he clenched his fists, trying not to go over there and choke a bitch. Didn't she know that Zuko was his?
Jet huffed and spun around, deciding to look for someone else to chat with to distract him from his raging jealousy.
"Long time no see," Mai said sardonically, sounding bored with existence and life in general. Zuko took a step back away from her. He knew they'd be here. He just knew it. It was a trap. He whipped his head around to try and find Jet because damnit now he was afraid for his safety, but he was nowhere to be found. He'd disappeared into the crowd somewhere where Zuko couldn't keep him safe. This didn't feel right at all.
"I guess," Zuko replied, equally aloof towards her. He could tell his indifference towards her stung, as she looked almost wounded for a moment before covering it up with her careful façade.
"Wow, what a way to treat a girl, huh?" she asked, rolling her eyes.
"I don't see a girl," Zuko replied, deadly. "All I see is a traitor and a fake."
Mai narrowed her eyes at him.
"And all I see is a pathetic boy with no honor or dignity."
Zuko ground his teeth and itched to light her on fire, but no, not now. Not yet, at least.
Suddenly, the band stopped playing music. Zuko looked around, confused, until he heard an all too familiar voice.
"Thank you, thank you, everyone, for coming to my party!"
Zuko saw none other than his little sister Azula on stage, front and center, dressed in immaculate Earth Kingdom colors. She addressed the whole party with a smile, arms outstretched. Some of the partygoers looked to each other in confusion, not sure what was going on.
"Though, this party of mine is more of a grand announcement than anything — an announcement that Ba Sing Se will now be under the rule of the Fire Nation!"
Zuko heard gasps, mutters. He'd expected as much.
"Thanks to everyone who helped me overthrow the king and the rest of the government. You know who you are," Azula continued. "And now for my final attraction." Azula started cackling almost maniacally as she used her arms to make two small arcs in front of her, blue lightning trailing from her fingertips, before releasing a powerful bolt of lightning into the ceiling. Then people started shrieking and scrambling as rock fell over their heads.
Hundreds of people fled outside, running back to their homes or wherever they felt they were safe. Azula just smiled and descended onto the regular floor of the party. By the time she reached it, the room had cleared of all but her, Mai, Ty Lee, Zuko, Jet, Aang, Sokka, and Toph.
"Plan went perfectly, ladies," Azula congratulated as her cronies joined her by her side. "Now we have the Avatar and my stupid brother."
Zuko scanned the mostly empty room for obstacles or useful items, but found little upon first glance. Like Mai and Ty Lee had done, Zuko's team closed in around him, fighting stances taken. Even though the odds were in their favor by way of numbers, Zuko knew their fighting skills were not.
A few moments later, Dai Li soldiers busted through the walls, literally, before closing the walls behind them with their Earthbending. Right before the wall sealed itself again, though, Zuko saw what looked to be a hall on the opposite wall. He bet that's where Iroh and Katara were being kept.
Okay, now odds by way of numbers were no longer in their favor. This was so not fair.
"Dai Li, get the Avatar. Girls, take down these pathetic babies. Zuko's mine," Azula instructed. Both Mai and Ty Lee made noises of affirmation before they split apart.
Almost instantly Sokka was pinned to the wall by Mai's daggers, rendered useless for the fight. Ty Lee went after Jet, Aang was now preoccupied with the Dai Li, and Toph was trying to throw Mai off balance and not get stabbed with knives at the same time.
Zuko wished he could lend more attention to his teammates, specifically Jet, but found he didn't have that luxury as Azula took a Firebending stance and punched a flame at him. He dodged easily, sweeping his arm in front of him and firing a blade of flames back at her. She diffused it with a smirk, as if to say, 'Is that all you've got?'
Finally, he charged her.
With all the Earthbending going on the in the background, Zuko and Azula had many planes and large chunks of rock protruding from the ground and walls to anchor themselves on. Blast for blast the siblings were almost evenly matched, with the occasional blister or light burn exchanged when they didn't quite dodge the flame.
Zuko started having problems when Azula switched from fire to lightning, an element Zuko hadn't mastered or even figured out how to create.
Instead of dodging for fear of burning, it was now fear of electrocution. It was harder to run from and did more damage than just straight fire on contact. Him and Iroh had talked about nerve damage and paralysis before when studying Lightningbending, but now the dangers were all the more real. Zuko was pretty confident in his ability to parry, but he didn't know the reflexes of his teammates as well as he knew his own, and he feared for them more than himself.
He tried to focus on redirecting the lightning instead of just getting away from it, but his instinct was to defend himself. Finally, though, she shot a bolt of blue, crackling, cold-hearted fire at him and he managed to catch it and redirect it back at the protrusion of rock she was balancing on, causing it to crumble beneath its strike. Azula lost her footing, almost looked like she was about to fall, but of course she managed to save herself by digging her nails into another Earthbent cliff. Figured.
But still, he'd made her stumble, so he could beat her. It was possible. Recharged with his newfound confidence, Zuko attacked in a flurry of flames.
"Oh, poo! Of course the cute one is the one I have to battle," Ty Lee pouted as she approached Jet. He sighed. He knew there was something janky about this girl. But honestly, what could she possibly do? She was… ditzy.
With a hop, Ty Lee jumped into a succession of cartwheels towards Jet, who merely arched his eyebrow incredulously. Seriously? Cartwheels? Jet simply walked backwards to avoid her, when suddenly she spun out of it and aimed a punch at his shoulder. He blocked her, brow furrowing. What was she doing?
She continued to aim punches at him in random spots, and he could pretty well keep up with her speed. He took note of how she punched with her first knuckle and not so much with her whole fist, which confused him. He'd never seen this fighting style before, but she was pretty damn quick, so Jet was glad for all the times him and Zuko sparred with each other, even though it often ended in almost violent sex. That, however, was not on with this pink chick.
Caught slightly off-guard, since he was mainly just dodging her fists, she managed to jab the tip of her foot into his forearm, causing the lower part of his right arm to go almost completely dead. He winced, clutching his arm as the pins and needles wreaked havoc on him, just annoying enough to distract him as he tried to get his fingers to move. She just smirked at him and punched again, to which he ungracefully jumped out of the way.
Okay, so maybe he underestimated this girl a little.
Maybe she was aiming for some sort of pressure point. Jet used to have a Freedom Fighter whom he called Dragon who could press against your pressure points and release the tension from your muscles. He'd do it for Jet all the time, since the constant battling took a toll on his muscles pretty often. As he simply fled from her attacks, using the Earthbent rock as an obstacle course much like he used to do in his forest, he tried finding the opposing pressure point on his arm that would bring some feeling back to it.
On accident, Jet slammed his upper arm into a sudden peak of rock, jarring his funny bone. It was the most unpleasant feeling in the world, but he could start to get some feeling back in his fingers. When he was able to make a fist, he turned around and started returning blows.
'If only I had my swords,' he thought angrily, trying and failing to knock the girl off balance. They'd all left their weapons at Kai's house for fear that the guards would almost certainly confiscate them. Zuko had his bending and Sokka could conceal his boomerang on his back under his tunic, but the dual swords had to stay.
Through their mutual scurrying and dodging of the Earthbenders' attacks, Jet and Ty Lee ended up around where they started, and Jet could see Sokka pinned to the wall with about six sharp knives. He could tell the boy had given up wriggling out and was now hanging there like a dead animal, looking disappointed in himself. Jet could sympathize, since he was essentially being beaten by a girl, but he had his eyes on those knives. Much smaller than his swords, of course, but still sharp and deadly.
As quickly as he could, Jet dove to the ground and spun his leg underneath him to blow up some rock dust into Ty Lee's eyes. If it worked, he'd have a very short amount of time to grab the knives and go. Once Ty Lee jerked back and yelped, trying to scrub the sand out of her eyes, Jet practically pounced on Sokka and tried to pry the knives out of the wall. They were pretty well stuck in there, though. With much tugging and jangling, he got one out. This one freed Sokka's right arm, allowing him to reach into his collar and the back of his tunic, producing his trusty boomerang. With a flourish, he flung the V-shaped weapon and succeeded in knocking out one of the Dai Li.
"Good job, Water Tribe," Jet complimented as he pulled a second knife from the wall, freeing both of Sokka's arms. "Now get yourself off the wall and fight!" he encouraged, patting him on the shoulder.
"Don't get killed!" Sokka cried after him as Jet once again charged Ty Lee, wielding dual daggers.
"Same to ya," he muttered to himself as a deadly gleam in his eye sparked. Ty Lee looked a little nervous now that he had knives. Sure, she could dodge his fists and legs, but knives were a little trickier. And Jet was much more skilled with blades than fists.
With his smirk as sharp as his blades, Jet slashed.
Zuko was getting tired fast. He'd never battled or sparred this long before, especially with the toll his Bending was taking on him. The fire he created seemed to burn his energy out faster. Azula, however, was still going strong. Zuko knew he couldn't keep going at this rate forever. He would pass out eventually, and then everything he'd worked for to get here would be for nothing. He'd be thrown in government prison with his uncle, they would likely execute Jet, Aang would be captured, and the world would come to an end. This wasn't how he wanted to go down.
Aang was having the time of his life with the Earthbenders. Since he could Earthbend himself, it was mostly easy for him to overpower them. There were about 20 at the beginning, now dwindled down to a little over ten. Toph and Mai were still duking it out, and though Mai had a large bruise on her cheek and Toph had several minor cuts, neither were going down. Sokka was trying to help Aang with the Dai Li, and Jet was gaining an advantage over Ty Lee slowly but surely.
However, he could tell all his teammates were tiring.
Jet wasn't nearly as agile as he was twenty minutes ago, and Aang looked like he would like to fall asleep in the air. Sokka was bent over panting between each throw of his boomerang, and Toph mostly dodged instead of fighting.
They were losing.
All Zuko could focus on was losing Jet. Each time the thought pulsed in his mind, he gave a roar as he threw his next attack at Azula. But the fire in him would quickly die as his energy gave out more and more. Zuko couldn't imagine losing Jet. He'd grown up most his life without that kind of attachment and now he didn't know how he would live without him.
Zuko loved him.
The thought surprised him. He'd never really cared about loving anyone. He loved his mom and uncle, sure. He loved peppermint tea and frosted pastries.
But he also loved Jet.
He loved his laugh, his humor, the way he'd always know exactly what to do to make Zuko feel better. Even if Zuko resisted, Jet knew when he needed a hug. He loved how Jet would make an ass of himself to make Zuko smile. The way Jet would touch him set him on fire in a way that had nothing to do with his Bending, expertly bringing him to completion every time. He even loved when Jet would stubbornly demand that Zuko let him support him or lean on him or whatever. He was fiercely protective and affectionate, and Zuko didn't know where he would be right now without Jet. How could he get through the rest of his life without seeing that smirk with the bit of straw sticking out of the corner? Without that swagger and natural leadership? Without that embrace and warm chest to lean on?
Zuko couldn't bear it.
Luckily, he wouldn't have to.
With a burst of fire, the doors to the palace blew open, startling everyone battling. None other than Kai, Smellerbee, and Longshot strode through the doors, battle-ready and raring to go.
"We're here for ya, Jet!" Bee called out as she brandished hers and Jet's weapons. Jet grinned and used the knives he'd been fighting with as throwing weapons, one of them cutting Ty Lee's forehead and the other severing half of her braid. She shrieked and jumped back, more distressed over her hair than the blood dripping into her eyes. Jet smirked and accepted his hooks, feeling their familiar weight and recharging him. While he was doing well with the daggers, he'd yet to really damage Ty Lee fatally. She had a bunch of shallow cuts, but she was too quick for any real damage to be done.
Two against one. He could win this.
As one, him and Bee descended on Ty Lee with deadly gleams.
Longshot assisted with the destruction of the Dai Li, expertly pinning them to walls with arrows and breaking up flying rock hands. It didn't take long for the Dai Li to go down with his help.
Mai had run out of knives by now and was using her smarts instead of her strength. While she could dodge and run pretty effectively, Toph knew she couldn't do it forever.
"Run out of knives, pretty? Too bad!" she jeered as she finally got a formation of rock to trap her. Like spikes the rock pillars shot from the ground and crisscrossed around her so she couldn't move her arms or legs. Toph wiped the sweat from her forehead and flipped Mai off before going to join Aang, Sokka, and Longshot.
Jet and Smellerbee took little time in defeating Ty Lee, finally getting her on the ground and bleeding far more than she had been before. Smellerbee had her gnarled knife poised to finish it when Ty Lee begged them not to kill her. Jet, sighing, nodded to Smellerbee, who lowered her weapon. Then he winked at her. Getting the message, Bee flipped her knife so the pommel was poised to strike and brained Ty Lee with it, effectively knocking her out. With a high-five, Bee joined the victorious group. Jet, however, stayed to watch Zuko.
When Kai had burst in, he was holding Zuko's swords, approaching the fight without any kind of worry. Azula had stopped attacking to stare at him oddly before laughing.
"Calling for backup, brother?" she cackled, putting her hands on her hips. "How pathetic."
Zuko gratefully accepted his swords, thanking Kai profusely. Along with the swords he gave Zuko a small vial of some kind of potion. At Zuko's questioning look, Kai whispered, "Tribal recipe. It will give you an energy boost. Take half of it now and go find your uncle. I'll take care of this."
Zuko uncorked the vial and downed half of it, storing the rest on his boot for later.
"You're sure?" he asked tentatively, looking towards his team as Toph Earthbent a threshold into the secret hallway Zuko knew he'd seen. He felt the potion work its magic as the almost numbing energy made his heart flutter and his muscles recharge.
"Yes, now go!" Kai demanded, pushing him towards the group as they disappeared through the wall. Zuko didn't have time to argue as he ran towards them, following them behind the wall. When he went through Toph Earthbent it closed, sealing Kai and Azula in the palace ballroom.
"So," Azula drawled, examining her nails. "I suppose you thought you would take over my brother's battle for him and save the day, huh?"
Kai unwrapped his turban and allowed his fiery hair to cascade down to where it wanted to live before tucking his turban wrap into the hem of his pants, as was the traditional way to wear a sash. He shrugged and removed his shirt, as Injyn men never fought while constricting their upper body.
"Something like that. His uncle is the one who needs him most right now. I'm just finishing a less important battle for him." With that, Kai took a firebending defensive stance, as he expected Azula to make the first move.
"And who says you'll finish it, huh?" she said cockily, hands on hips like the priss she was. "You're just an Injyn. You're not privy to the new and improved Bending techniques."
Kai shrugged again. "I've managed thus far. Now quit your bragging and get on with it."
"If you say soooo," she chimed before conjuring lightning. Kai smirked. When she shot it at him, he caught it within his hands easily, passing the current back and forth between his palms. Azula's eyes widened.
"New and improved, huh? Who do you think invented Lightning bending, Mainlander?" Kai snarled before taking his horse stance and clenching his fists at his sides, the lightning jumping and crackling around his fists and forearms like gauntlets. Like swords the lightning curled and twisted into blade-like shapes from his fists, looking much more menacing than the way Azula had been taught to wield lightning, which was more like a channel for it to go through than an element she could Bend.
Kai, though, used it like any other Firebender could Bend fire. Like a windmill, Kai started spinning, using the lightning like whips as the tongues of blue electrical energy lashed out at Azula with deadly accuracy. She had trouble dodging it, succeeding in barely missing it, but the lightning still struck the ground, causing it to break and crack apart. It was hard not to trip and dodge at the same time.
When he stopped spinning, Azula was regaining her footing, breathing hard and looking more than a little crazy. She screamed at him, once again calling forth lightning, frantically trying to damage him with it, but lightning seemed to like Kai. Even if it hit him, he just absorbed it and redirected it back at her. She was quickly losing her cool and finesse, which was exactly what Kai had wanted. She would start to get careless and then he could exploit her weak spot.
Absorbing another blast of lightning, Kai used this supply to go for a ground-like attack. He slapped his lightning-encased hands on the ground, running the electrical current underground and out underneath Azula's feet. She lost her balance from the shock and fell to the ground. Kai, having fun teasing her more than he was trying to defeat her quickly, gave her the chance to get up and attack him again. He was a good sport, after all.
Zuko didn't know how much he trusted Kai with his sister, since he knew his sister's powers, but couldn't think about that now. He had to free his uncle and then he knew Iroh would make everything all better. Everything would be okay.
The hidden passageway behind the wall was a labyrinth of halls and dead ends. Before they all split up and got lost, Sokka asked Toph if she could feel where they were kept.
"This way!" she called, sprinting off down one of the halls. Instead of winding through the maze of halls, she just knocked the walls down with her Bending. Zuko was never more glad to have her help than he was right now as him and Jet ran side by side with the others, following their only hope to finding Iroh and Katara.
"Uncle!" Zuko started yelling, hoping they were close enough to hear each other. Not yet. The others, however, got the idea and started yelling for Uncle and Katara. Finally, once they knocked down three more walls, they got a reply.
He'd recognize that deep voice anywhere. A few more obstacles and they were in the dungeon cell along with both Iroh and Katara. They were chained up on opposite sides of the small cell, no windows or bars or anything. Just encased in a rock dome that neither could escape from.
Zuko almost broke down in tears when he saw Iroh, but held it together in favor of the team. Him, Jet, Bee, and Long went to Iroh as the others flocked to Katara. With one swing of his broadsword, Zuko broke the chain holding his uncle captive before falling to his knees and enveloping him in a hug.
"I knew you would find your way," Uncle said wisely, tears openly streaming down his face as he fiercely hugged his nephew back.
"I was so scared for you," Zuko croaked out, his voice breaking a little with emotion. He sniffed, pulling back. "I was worried I wouldn't find you."
Jet patted Iroh on the back and helped him and Zuko to stand. Iroh had a little trouble with his limbs, since they'd been quirked at odd, uncomfortable angles for so long, but he eventually got himself together. Iroh then hugged Jet as well, surprising him a little. Sure him and Iroh were on good terms, but he wasn't usually included in this kind of stuff.
"Thank you for taking care of my nephew," he told Jet, grasping his shoulders briskly and smiling at him. Jet smiled back.
"No problem, Uncle. I'll always watch out for Zuko," he replied, looking over Uncle's shoulder to Zuko, who was wiping his face. He looked up when he noticed Jet looking at him and smiled faintly, nodding.
Katara bounced back much faster than Iroh, ready to join back in the battle. Before they headed back into the ballroom, she threw herself onto Zuko in a hug. At first he thought he was being attacked and he braced himself, but when he realized what was happening, he stuttered. He wasn't sure what to do. Before he got a chance to hug back, she had already pulled back and smiled tearfully at him.
"I don't trust you, but thank you for helping rescue me. Maybe you're not such a bad guy after all," she pondered before following back down the hallway.
Zuko, dumbfounded, took a moment to gather himself before following the rest of the group into the ballroom.
When they got back into the ballroom with Kai and Azula, the place looked like a wreck. The ground was all cracked, the walls were torn up more so than they were before, and Kai looked completely calm. Azula, however, looked close to insanity. Her hair had fallen out of the Earth Kingdom bun and swung wildly about her, her eyes crazed, and her lightning was badly aimed and executed.
She was losing. She couldn't win this.
"You cannot win this fight, Azula," Iroh spoke out, halting the battle.
Azula, breathing hard and fast, snarled at them. "You can't defeat me! I'm the princess! I will be Fire Lady and you can't stop me!"
Zuko and Jet stuck together as Iroh instructed the others to escape and find safety. Reluctantly the rest of the group exited and went about doing just that, but Iroh, Jet, Zuko, Azula, and Kai stayed.
Iroh walked around the battle zone, trying to reason with Azula, who was having none of it.
"You failed, Uncle! But I won't!" she cried, stomping her foot. One more time she conjured lightning, but right as Kai and Iroh were ready to withstand it, she shot it to the side.
Collectively, Zuko, Iroh, and Kai's eyes widened as it bolted straight for the Freedom Fighter, who had no time to dodge or react before it struck.
It was like slow motion to Zuko, watching the blue streak plummet towards the only person he'd learned to love as more than family. The only thing in life he was pretty sure he couldn't go on without.
Without thinking, Zuko threw himself into the path of the lightning, extending his hand so he could catch it. When it struck him, it was like his whole body was on fire. He hunched over in pain as he tried to control it inside him, keep it contained in his stomach and not letting it travel into his heart. It stung and it burned as electrocution did, feeling like he was exploding from the inside. He almost crumbled to the ground before two strong, warm arms hooked under his shoulders and held him up. Jet. He was screaming, but with the lightning and the blood rushing in his ears, Zuko couldn't understand what he was saying.
But his strength gave Zuko the power to redirect the lightning to his fingertips and shoot it back at his sister's stupid, smug face.
Having thought she'd defeated her brother, Azula hadn't expected the blast to come back at her. It struck her dead in the chest, knocking her out cold. A few seconds passed as they all looked at her body, which didn't appear to be breathing. After it registered, Jet directed all his attention onto Zuko. He knelt and gently laid Zuko out on the ground, stroking his face and trying not to break down himself.
"Zuko, are you all right, baby? Are you gonna be okay?" he fretted, not sure how to help but wanting desperately to make it all better. Zuko chuckled faintly.
"I feel kinda tingly but I'll be all right," he rasped out, his body spasming a couple times with the electricity. Jet buried his head in Zuko's shoulder and clenched his eyes shut.
"That was supposed to hit me, Zuko, you idiot, not you! How could you do something so stupid?" Jet said fondly, knowing full well why Zuko had done it.
"If it had hit you," Zuko explained, a spasm making his body jerk again, "then you would have died, Jet."
Jet shook his head and nuzzled his neck. "But you could have died too, you dummy."
"I had to. I had to save you," Zuko whispered, raising his shaky arms to loosely hug Jet close to him. Alive, non-electrocuted Jet.
"Why? Why did you have to do that, Zuko?" Jet demanded, like Zuko didn't understand that he could have died and Jet wouldn't be able to go on without him.
"Because I love you," Zuko whispered after a few moments, startling Jet into stillness. He pulled up from nuzzling Zuko's neck to look straight at him, eyes wide and surprised, unbelieving.
"You what?" Jet asked dumbly, not believing his ears the first time.
Zuko smiled weakly, repeating with confidence, "I love you, Jet. I love—"
"I love you too!" Jet replied, cutting Zuko off before curling his arms under Zuko's back to sit him up so Jet could hug him more effectively. He allowed Zuko to recline on his bent legs so he didn't have to hold himself up, allowing Jet to take care of him a little. Once he was situated, Jet leaned down and kissed him in front of Iroh and the spirits and everyone, and fuck, he didn't care, because Zuko loved him. It was a short, meaningful kiss, ending far too soon but Jet knew Zuko didn't have a lot of strength right now. When he pulled back his eyes were glistening, along with Zuko's.
Their moment was broken as Iroh and Kai swooped in, trying to take off Zuko's shirt and examine his wound and give him medicine for the electrocution, but both boys' minds were on each other.
And nothing else mattered.
I don't know if there will be one or two more chapters left, but the story is coming to an end imminently. I know I bent the rules of canon a little to give Kai his badass lightning control, but I'll explain the way he Bends in the next chapter.
Yes, Zuko absorbed the lightning and it still hurt him. Since it's the first time he's done it, I'd like to think that it would be a little jarring for his first attempt, hence why it hurt him so much. I know he'll get better at it as he works with it more.
Sorry if my fighting scenes sucked! Please review anyway.