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A Nice, Calming Coup of Tea

Chapter Text

Another day dawned over Ba Sing Se, much the same as any other. Shop-tenders prepared for the inevitable rush of customers, craftsmen organized their instruments as necessary, guards did anything they could to make their endless patrols anything but monotonous, and full government takeovers proceeded on schedule.

Unfortunately for the princess in charge of this coup, she’s only 14 years old and having to take complete control over several dozen men loyal to another, highly dangerous and deadly man who still commands their respect from prison. While other teenaged girls would chat with friends, or sit at a pond or in a park, or go shopping or some other fun activity, a Princess in the middle of The Impossible has no such vices. However, her resident Imperial Interrogator and Torturer (Ty Lee) managed to acquire information regarding (gossip) a tea shop not far from the palace that claims to serve better, more relaxing tea than anywhere else (“It’s the best tea ever!”). So what was a princess to do but indulge? After all, it’s not like anyone would notice her. Even if they noticed her, she made sure to wear the clothes of a courtier. Nothing bad could possibly come from this.

***

Same shit, different pile. More snot-nosed, spoiled brats to clean up after, probably even less gratitude than yesterday, not that anyone actually expressed any, and even more stuck-up bitches giggling at me for NO DAMN REASON! And now some powdered, painted courtesan has ground up a perfectly good bread roll and scattered the crumbs on the floor under the table as if she wants pigeon-rats to make themselves at home here. Stupid whore, making me get on my knees like some common servant with a brush. Oh, another customer. She—is it a she? The hair looks like Azula’s, so I guess so. Doesn’t matter, it’s not like women tip any better than their muscle-headed admirers specifically copper-pinching to “show how much of a man they are” as if any peasant was worth more than the dirt I just threw away. “Hello, welcome to the Jasmine Dragon. My name is—”gold eyes, perfect eyebrows, light makeup, enough to make her look even more gorgeous but not so much that she looks fake, Azula?

***

Where is the staff? Oh, that must be the servant, on his hands and knees where he belongs. Where to sit and wait for them to finish whatever meaningless task they’ve been assigned? Here we are, against the wall, but close enough to the rear exit in case I need to sneak out, and a menu to swipe on my way to my seat. Head down to watch the door without looking like I’m watching, glancing at the options so I don’t look like a buffoon when the peasant comes to serve me, “Hello, welcome to the Jasmine Dragon. My name is—” my head pops up. Gold eyes, scruffy hair that looks like it’s been growing from nothing over the past few months, a scar in the shape of a comet as it blazes across the sky, healed enough to look striking and intimidating rather than ugly, Zuko?

***

The other customers think nothing of a lone girl sitting and looking at a menu, and they don’t even notice their waiter introducing himself, but they do take note when the extremely polite and proper, most certainly trained, waiter grabs a customer and half-drags her out the back door. Since she went quietly, was keeping up with him, and was cooperating fully with this course of action, they assumed the teenaged boy and teenaged girl were having a rendezvous scandalously early in the morning, and in front of everyone, too! What would her parents think if they knew their daughter was having a tryst with a common waiter? Just look at what she’s wearing, obviously her father is part of the king’s court. Did anyone get a good look at her face, does anyone know who this girl is, that she would so brazenly delve below her station?

Of course, these gossipers know absolutely nothing of either of their stories, both the true ones and the false ones. And these stories led the banished Crown Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation dragging his little sister, Princess Azula, behind the tea shop owned by General Iroh, the Dragon of the West, and demanding to know what she’s doing here. Of course, Azula’s just as outrage-baffled as her brother, so she’s doing exactly the same.

“Uncle and I are just trying to live a peaceful life and now you have to come and ruin it all—”

“A peaceful life?! What is wrong with you?! Don’t you know anything about what this place is like?”

“Of course I do! As long as we keep our heads down and don’t draw attention to ourselves, no one bothers us and we’re free to live out Uncle’s dream.”

“‘Uncle’s dream’? What about you? He’s having you work as a servant!”

As Zuko glares at her, he notices something. Something only one who has spent a lot of time looking into her eyes would be able to tell.

“Azula, are you okay?”

“Of course, I am, dumdum. I’m just plotting to overthrow the local national government is all. It’s nothing for someone of my stature.”

“You came in for calming tea, didn’t you?” He asks because he knows his sister, knows to ignore the words she’s saying and listen to her tone, the deceptive smirk on her face, and the evidence of stress.

Affronted, she asks “So what if I did?”

“I’ll bring out some ginseng. Wait here,” he says, going back in to place the order, grab a tray, and take ginseng for two out to where he knows she stayed.

“What if I had left?”

“You came here for tea and anonymity. Not to make a scene and walk away thirsty.”

“You’re the one who made the scene,” she grumbled, taking one of the cups.

That first morning tea was spent silent, both siblings eyeing each other and trying to figure out what’s really going on, not noticing themselves and each other relaxing for the first time in over three years.