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A Nice, Calming Coup of Tea

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Groaning, Zuko was very tempted to just stay right where he was. Then he realized that he was more comfortable than he had been in years. Three of them, in fact. Opening his eyes, he saw the expected expanse of black hair, but looking around he realized: this was Azula’s room. As he lied there, the memories of the previous day came flooding back. Uncle, the Avatar, the…Katara, Azula dying at her hands, her almost dying at his, Azula still being alive long enough to stun the Avatar so Zuko could kill him, her staying alive long enough for Zuko to heal her, and the administration issues he’d have to deal with. Because he certainly wasn’t about to let her out of bed for any reason until he was satisfied she was fully healed.

With that in mind, he rolled out of bed and went to the other side so he could stand over her. Lifting aside the covers and rolling her on her back, he paused for a moment to admire her form, including her nipples pebbling in the sudden breeze, before he began his inspection.

Remembering what she told him about how much his mindset mattered, he focused on the “why” as he was carrying out the “what.” First, he thought to keep her comfortable through cleanliness, so as he passed his flames across her entire body all the grime and other filth was purified from her skin. Next was comfort through grooming, so the flames burned away all the hair on her body besides what was on her head. Her eyebrows were properly straightened by the movement of the plumes, strays getting burned away, eyelashes properly fanned out and curled the way he remembered them being on their dates, and any unsightly fuzz was burned off, leaving her skin silky smooth and perfect. Figuring that if her own sweat qualified as filth to be burned away, then surely the more gross bodily functions would also qualify. Sticking a finger in her slit, he focused on giving her “relief” and let the fire do its thing. Looking at her face, he noticed her wince momentarily as if she was feeling something go up a tube that was never designed to have anything inserted into it, then her expression smoothed out, corresponding to how he noticed the flame consuming something. After a moment, he noticed the flame die out as if it had consumed everything he had told it to, so he withdrew his hand. Then he hesitated and winced, igniting his claw as it approached her rear entrance. He really didn’t want to do this part, but needs must, so he rubbed the entrance with a flame-coated claw until it managed to slip in, going until the tip of his actual finger made contact, purifying flame going first and consuming all it could find that was in that cavity. When the chamber was empty and the flame went out, Zuko withdrew his finger, inspected it, found it to be clean, and washed it thoroughly anyway because he was very much not comfortable with where it had just been.

Since the “housekeeping” that would become a morning routing was complete, he started fondling her chest. Or at least, the area on one of the peaks where the ice went through. Sensing the way her body’s chi flowed, he used the flames fueled by his care for her well-being to repair the damage caused. Noticing that it was happening only in one direction, he started wondering if he could heal her from the inside. After contemplating it, we positioned one hand over her chest and one over her mouth, sending a stream of fire into her mouth, down her throat, keeping it insubstantial enough to pass without issue, and down into her lungs. As the flames were traveling, he noticed them doing…something in her air passageway, but since it physically couldn’t harm her, he let the thought fade from his mind. (It was healing a lifetime of smoke inhalation. They live surrounded by fire at all times, especially in the Fire Nation, after all.) When it got to her lungs, he found himself breathing much heavier. As he noticed this, he also noticed her chest stop moving, informing him that not only was he breathing for himself and feeding his flames entirely from his own energy, he was also passing breath into her lungs. Extinguishing the flame on the outside, he focused his efforts on the inner damage, hoping to finish this as quickly as possible so neither of them would suffocate, but his greater concern was doing everything he could to keep the fire healing so he wouldn’t cause far more harm than he was trying to heal.

After a mercifully short time, he noticed the fire wasn’t doing anything except providing air to Azula, so he withdrew it the way he inserted it, getting somewhat lightheaded as his breathing returned to normal. As he rested his face against her breast, the softest pillow in all the world, to catch his breath, he wasn’t quite able to tell if her breathing was any easier, but he was willing to make that assumption. As he extended his hand again to continue from the outside, his stomach rumbled, prompting him to look out the window at the sun that was already almost a third of the way to its zenith. A little sheepishly, he covered his sister, put a robe on, and went to the entrance chamber. Opening the door, he saw Mai and a Dai Li agent standing on either side of it.

“Mai?”

“Hey, Zuko. They told me you were in there. How is she?”

“I’m working on it, but she can breathe without any weird sounds or expressions.”

“So that’s why you’re only coming out so late,” she nodded. “What finally brought you out here?”

“Hunger. Did they tell you about what my fire can do?”

“Yeah. It doesn’t sound natural, but then again, it’s you. Tell you what, go back in there and take a bath. I’ll get a servant to deliver breakfast,” she said, walking off.

“Shall I knock when they return?” asked the agent.

“Yes. I still don’t trust a single person here, remember,” Zuko narrowed his eyes.

“Indeed,” the agent replied, facing forward.

Closing the door, Zuko did as he was told, allowing water in the basin, heating it up, shucking the robe and basked in it for a moment before cleaning himself. If Azula were awake, I wouldn’t have to do this. She could just do for me what I did for her. Climbing out, he found one of Azula’s Earth Kingdom disguises and put it on, noticing that she had shifted slightly, breath still the deep, easy sighs of sleep. After a short time, he heard a knock at the door. Opening it, he found Mai leading a servant with a tray, who he let in to the entrance room.

“So-” Mai started, but Zuko was noticing the servant try and balance the tray while she also tried to fold out a table she had brought.

“Here,” he said, taking the tray to the bafflement of both females in the room. After a moment’s shock, the servant finished with the table, took the tray, and set it on it, also bringing a chair over from against the wall. “Thank you, that will be all,” Zuko waved her off, not realizing that she had been about to grab a chair for Mai, having brought enough food for two.

As she bowed and left, Zuko dug into the food, devouring it faster than Mai thought proper, especially since he took less time eating the whole tray than she would’ve taken on just her own helping. The disgust she was feeling at his atrocious table manners helped her get over the weird sight of a royal helping a servant.

Sighing, Zuko leaned back, having not wasted a single crumb, and started talking business.

“So, what has the Dai Li been up to while I’ve been in here?”

“They’ve been doing as you’ve asked, rounding up the loyalis-”

“They’re traitors, Mai. We are the new rulers of Ba Sing Se, Azula and me. When we’ve sufficiently cowed or won over the populous and brought in enough Fire Nation troops, we’ll make it official. In the meantime, the previous ruler has abandoned his throne. I understand he came into the throne room and left on the Bison?”

“That’s right. You also bring up something concerning: you and Azula.”

“What about us?” he narrowed his eyes.

“Are you her boyfriend?” she asked bluntly.

Zuko blinked at how upfront she was. “Uh, yeah. What about it?”

“You do know that that’ll cause a lot of problems, don’t you? For one thing, I doubt these peasants would tolerate a king and queen who are siblings. Neither will anyone in the Fire Nation.”

“Azula is the only person whose opinion I value. Everyone else can just deal with it.”

“That attitude won’t fly with anyone. You know that. Better than I do, probably.”

Zuko turned away, growling lightly. Unbeknownst to him, it was enough to make Mai shiver at the reminder of what he really was beneath the skin. What his sister was. And that reminded her of what happened when she had insinuated getting between Azula and what Mai had thought was just some random boytoy. Now knowing that it was Zuko, she found the princess’ reaction made more sense, but it also disappointed her, slamming home that Zuko was forever out of her reach. Oh, there were ways around Azula. Even through if need be, but if what happened yesterday was any indication…Mai shuddered. No, the moment she decided she wanted him, everyone else lost him. With a sigh, Zuko finally responded. “They don’t need to know about it. At least not until our hold over this place is completely under our direct control, and by then their spirit should be broken enough that they’ll either accept it as a “Royal Quirk” or they’d never accept our rule anyway. Anyway, your report?”

“Well, for one thing you won’t both be able to rule, especially before you come out about your relationship.”

“Hmm, I think it’s better if Azula took this throne, since I’ll be Fire Lord. Better to avoid one person having multiple titles, for bureaucratic reasons if nothing else.”

“Right. So, they’re rounding up the…traitors and keeping them in a holding cell. Long Feng and the five old generals are each in their own private cell. The only thing people are whispering about regarding recent events is that the Jasmine Dragon is missing a certain tea maker. Most people don’t know the Avatar even showed up, never mind got killed. And of course the king’s absence made no difference to the city.”

“Hmm,” Zuko rested his elbows on the tray, found it unstable, almost lost his balance, because it’s still Zuko, and started pacing. “All right, let’s see here. I want all the Dai Li to gather, loyalists and traitors, with the traitors in the middle, and have Long Feng chained up on a wooden platform.”

“Execution?”

“Yeah. I’ll give some presentation about the ‘New Order’ or something, then kill him, which should either provoke them or make them submit, depending on their individual attitude. Then I think I’ll do the same with the two most senior generals on the Palace steps in front of the Inner Ring people, then each of the other three in various districts around the Lower Ring. After that, I’ll take a couple dozen Dai Li to the Outer Wall and bring it down, allowing troops outside to march in. Hopefully a battalion or two of red-clad soldiers marching through the streets will be enough to quell any rebellion. If Earth Kingdom peasants feel hope, they’ll act on it to the death, but if we can smother that hope, they won’t do anything. Hmm, I think I’d better include an announcement that the Avatar died at my hand to remove the figurehead they’d gather around. Eh, I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, let whoever’s nearest the wall know to get a lot of troops ready to march. I should be done by sunset, so have them ready a dozen or so degrees beforehand.”

“Do you want my advice?”

“Uh, sure.”

“Use Azula as your sounding board.”

“Uh, right. Did you get what you should do?”

“Yeah, get Long Feng to his semi-public execution, dress up the generals for theirs, and send a letter to the nearest general to get a parade ready. See you later,” she waved as she left, letting the servant back in for the tray.

After the servant left with the tray and table, Zuko went back in the bedroom, giving Azula an inspection. Thinking about how full he was, he was reminded of how his fire was able to “breathe out” into her completely opposite of what fire is supposed to do, as if healing wasn’t, so he decided to try the same with energy. Poking her stomach with one hand, his own with the other, he concentrated on feeding her, hoping that it would give her actual energy rather than the physical food in his stomach. Suddenly he felt a little melancholic, which he interpreted as success, especially since her face gained some more color. Satisfied, he left, closing the curtains and making a fire barrier on the bedroom side of the windows and doors, fueling the fire out of a desire to protect her, trusting that anyone foolish enough to wish harm on her would cease to exist the moment they tried to enter the room.

***

Ty Lee and a loyal agent escorted him to the chamber where Azula made her own speech, meeting up with Mai, who was standing just outside it. “The traitors are front and center. Ping and Chung are flanking Long Feng, who’s chained to a wooden pole on a wooden platform, nothing from the ground anywhere on his person.”

“Very good, Mai. Thank you,” he said, walking in and proceeding to the stage.

Ty Lee leaned in to Mai, whispering “It’s like we still have Azula, even though she’s hurt, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. More than you think.”

“Well, he is my brother, after all.”

Both of them jerked away, hearing Azula’s voice right in their ears.

“How are you up and about so soon? I thought the waterbender nearly killed you?!” Ty Lee shout-whispered.

“Well, Zuzu left his fire burning in my room, so I helped myself. Now be quiet, his speech is about to start.”

The girls turned their attention to the prince onstage preparing his performance.

***

What am I doing? This is Azula’s job. She’s the one who can sell dirt to a badgermole. I’m not one for speeches, what if I mess this up?

“Remember Zuko, you have nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Always, remember who you are.”

I am Zuko, son of Ursa, son of Agni, Crown Prince of the Fire Nation and heir to the Dragon Throne. These peasants will bow to me and obey me as they would my sister.

With that, he took a deep breath, enhancing the green flames, opened his eyes, and began his performance.

“Dai Li of Ba Sing Se. For centuries your duty has been the preservation of the culture of this great city, spiritual guidance to those who need it, and the enforcement of peace and the will of the High King of the Earth Kingdom. You have failed this sacred duty set forth by the Avatar herself, Kyoshi. For twenty years, you have enforced order and the will of the Grand Secretariat while suppressing the spirit of the people within these mighty walls. As Avatar Aang has demonstrated, order is not the same as peace, nor is the will of the Grand Secretariat in line with the will of the High King. The people fear you and would never come to you with their troubles of a spiritual nature because they fear what you would do to their minds and spirits if they said or did anything that could be construed as ‘violating the order as set forth by the Grand Secretariat’. Crime is supposed to be dealt with by the city watch so the trouble doers can be punished or shown the error of their ways, as seen fit by the judges and magistrates, not wiped clean into a submissive drone by the ones they should be able to trust.

“All these issues can be laid at the feet of one man. One ambitious man who cared nothing for the city he was born in, the city he was supposed to protect from all enemies, foreign, domestic, and spiritual, nor the people he grew up among, who looked to him for guidance, comfort, and protection, nor even you, the Dai Li, who trusted him to lead you, who looked to him for direction, who did everything he asked because he was the one asking. He even cared nothing for the very King that every official within these impenetrable walls is sworn to serve. You all know better than I the condition the High King was in before the Avatar set him free, what a puppet he was, ignorant of the truth of anything outside the walls of the palace.”

He turned to Long Feng. “But I am not interested in attacking a man in chains. Long Feng, Grand Secretariat, leader of the Dai Li and chief advisor to the High King of the Earth Kingdom, what have you to say in your defense?”

Long Feng raised his chin, looking Zuko in the eye. “I have nothing to say to a banished prince of a foreign nation. You have desecrated my city with your ash and these traitors deserve whatever comes to them for siding with you and your brother-loving whore of a sister.”

Zuko waited for a moment to see if he would say anything else, but he seemed to be finished. Meanwhile, his vision was turning crimson at the edges. “Very well. If you will not respond to the accusations then I am forced to accept them as true. And for that, you shall burn.”

And with a flex of his will, he defended his sister’s honor, setting the Grand Secretariat alight in golden flames laced with every color. Immediately, the man started screaming as if tortured by a thousand demons of Hell, for the flames of a dragon are hellfire to their enemies and Long Feng made himself Zuko’s personal enemy.

When the screams faded, leaving absolutely nothing but a set of rusted shackles sitting on bare stone between the two most loyal Dai Li agents, Zuko turned back to the larger group. “The Grand Secretariat ordered you to obey my sister and her orders as if they came from him. Without him, those orders still stand, for Princess Azula of the Fire Nation is to be the High Queen of the Earth Kingdom in two days. She has taken this great city and made the previous High King flee, all without shedding the blood of a single Earth Kingdom citizen.” He looked Ghao in the eye. “What say you?”

Ghao held eye contact for a long time, but eventually his eyes and head lowered as he knelt. “I serve the ruler of Ba Sing Se.” Seeing their leader kneel, the others did the same, some reluctantly with sour looks on their faces, some with broken hearts, a few with relief, but the majority simply looked lost as their entire world turned upside down.

“Good. I want five more displays like this one set up around Ba Sing Se. Two of them in front of the palace doors where everyone in the Upper Ring can view them, and the other three dotted around the Middle Ring. Tomorrow morning the two senior generals will face an execution similar to the Grand Secretariat’s before the palace, throughout the afternoon the other three will do the same. When the last general has burned, you will take down a section of the Outer Wall within sight of the final execution, through which the army of the Fire Nation will enter the city. The morning after, the Princess will become Queen. Now make the preparations.”

As they all left, Zuko took a deep breath. Turning to Ping, he asked “So, how did I do?”

Any answer Ping could’ve given was interrupted by slow clapping as Azula stepped into the light saying “I think you did wonderfully. Not the way I’d have done it, but it seemed to get the point across. You even managed to finagle the loyalty of all the Dai Li, which I hadn’t managed to do yet. All in all, a very nice showing for something you planned all by yourself, with no input whatsoever from me,” she finished with narrow eyes.

“Azula, what are you doing up?”

“Well, I woke up all alone feeling like you ran your hands all over me while I slept-”

“It wasn’t like that!” Queue the flustered blush.

“-And noticed that there were a couple rainbow flames handy, so I pressed what was left of my wound to one and it healed. And now here I am.”

Zuko brought up a flaming hand to inspect said wound (“In public, Zuzu? How perverse.”) and found it to be, not exactly healed, but healed enough. Especially since she wasn’t likely to be doing any weird acrobatics in the near future.

“Well, I suppose you can walk around, but I don’t want you getting in any fights for at least a week.”

“Aww, not even a little spar?” she pouted.

“No. The Dai Li are your bodyguards and you will let them do their jobs.” Here he leaned in close and started whispering, “Or I’ll chain you to the bed again, but not in a way you’d like.”

She pouted harder, but sighed and walked off. Zuko turned to the agents on the stage and gestured for them to follow her. As they did, he turned to Mai and Ty Lee, who were still in their Kyoshi Warrior uniforms.

“Well, I like them, and we’re not supposed to reveal ourselves as Fire Nation yet.”

“We also didn’t bring any of our own clothes.”

“Hm. Well, you can help me pick out her royal outfit then, since we don’t have anything else to do ourselves for the rest of the day. Ty Lee, please lower your pitch before you start shattering glass.”

After grabbing lunch from the kitchens, Zuko and Ty Lee started arranging an outfit for the soon-to-be Queen, experimenting with various styles of dresses and armor of varying levels of functionality while their mannequin contemplated the virtues of clawing her own eyes out to relieve the boredom.

Eventually, they went with a more simplistic approach.

Azula's canonical armor

Using her customary armor as a base, they replaced the red underclothes with green ones, stylized a blue flame on her belt instead of the golden one, kept the black with gold and pink trim armor, and gave her a long, flowing red cape with green trim, the only actual red left in her outfit, other than the pink trim on parts of her armor and the background of her belt ornament. Noticing how little red there was in a Fire Nation Royal Outfit, they also went ahead and designed a gold circlet with a red stone to go across her forehead in addition to her topknot. (Based off Suyin’s circlet)

With the design in hand, Zuko looted the treasury for enough gold for it and a large ruby, then went with Ty Lee to a blacksmith where he could craft it, using the skills he learned from Piandao and then from sneaking into other blacksmith shops to watch them. Meanwhile, Mai wrote that letter with the final plans to whatever general decided to fail at surpassing the firstborn son of Azulon this month.

“Why are you putting the fire out?”

“I don’t want it to pollute this project. I’d much rather use my own flame so it can actually protect her rather than simply being a lifeless chunk of metal.” As an added bonus, he could actually reach into the flames and manipulate the metal there rather than fight with thermodynamics, which cause the metal to cool when you take it out to work it. Since it was gold he was manipulating, it was soft enough he could do that, since even in his own flames he’d have to use a hammer and anvil on weapons and armor.

When the gold was formed to his satisfaction, he took it out, sapped the heat from it, and handed it to Ty Lee for her approval. Upon getting it, he put the ruby into the forge, infusing it with the same fire. Not all of the material survived, but that’s why he brought such a large gem. When it reached the proper shape and size, he fashioned it to the circlet on one side so when he put it on her head the circle would close snugly around it.

“So, what makes this so special, besides the fact that you made it yourself?”

“Well, because I lit the forge with Azula’s protection in mind, any time someone goes for a headshot or something could harm her head in any way, it’ll naturally gravitate towards the circlet, which will absorb all the impact.”

“So, if a Yuyan Archer aimed for her face,…”

“The arrow would always go to her forehead. It’ll divert anything going above her collar, even rocks falling naturally or her getting slammed into a rock wall. Impact-based disorientation will very soon be a thing of the past for her.”

“But not anything below her neck?”

“That’s what the armor is for.”

***

“What have you two been doing?”

“It’s a secret.”

“I don’t like secrets.”

“Well, don’t worry, you’ll find out soon,” Zuko said, hugging his sister.

Fortunately for Ty Lee’s mental well-being, that did manage to calm her down enough that she stopped growling and her fingers straightened out.

They then collected Mai and the four of them enjoyed a meal together, the first one in over five years.

Upon retiring to Azula’s rooms, the two siblings felt a tension in the air, far too thick for them to relax, even after shedding their clothes and Zuko checking on her wound. He sat there for a moment, stroking the site.

“You almost died.”

“It felt like it.”

“I thought you died.”

“So did I.”

“I don’t think I can risk losing you again,” Zuko said, looking up from where he could still see the gaping hole in her chest, even though there was nothing but smooth skin there.

“Neither can I. I know we said we’d wait until we grew up, but…”

Knowing exactly where she was going with this, since it was also where he was going, he picked her up and laid her down in the center of the bed, kneeling between her legs.

“Zuzu,” she murmured, wrapping her arms around his neck and bringing him in for a kiss. After a few moments of this, Zuko started moving down her body the same way he did several times before, but instead of bringing her to climax or dangling her off the precipice, he simply took her most of the way there before withdrawing. As he rose, Azula put her hands on his shoulders to ground herself, claws digging lightly into the flesh. Rubbing the head against her slit, he looked at her face for any regret, hesitation, or any other expression that signaled that she had changed her mind, but she opened her eyes long enough to say “Do it” before clenching them and her jaw shut in preparation for what she heard was a sharp, tear-jerking pain, but as her brother slowly entered her, all she could feel was the pleasure. Where she had heard that there would be some kind of barrier he would puncture, making her bleed, there was only a sense of fullness as her womanhood stretched to accommodate for the man it was made to service. Of course, secondhand hearsay from superstitious commoners isn’t the most reliable sources of information, so she didn’t have to worry about her brother hurting her, as if he ever would.

The deeper he went, the more pleasure they both felt, until they almost reached climax as their hips made contact and they felt his tip brush up against her deepest depth. After a moment to get used to the sensation, they made eye contact, which prompted him to start moving. Back and forth, building momentum until Azula started matching his rate, bringing her own hips up to meet his, prompting him to maintain that rate and increase the ferocity until they were slamming together, bruising each other’s pelvises, and carving deep claw marks into each other, clamping their jaws on each other’s collar. It didn’t take long for them to start panting and calling each other’s names until finally, making eye contact, they both released, allowing themselves to reach the peak of pleasure.

They still had energy to burn and no matter how much they enjoyed each other, neither of them was fully satisfied. It was well after midnight when Azula finally collapsed down from her perch atop her brother and they wrapped their arms around each other, falling asleep entwined and connected more deeply than any other set of siblings or lovers could be. And they slept with a smile on each of their faces because, even if the entire world turned to ash, or all their plans fell apart by noon tomorrow, they had each other. And nothing, not disloyal agents, nor scheming politicians, nor concerned friends, nor traitorous uncles, not even malicious Fire Lords could separate them now.