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Kind of Like You

The Mai/Zuko Fic Exchange


September 17th, 2008

Day Eight: the four corners i see @ 07:17 am

peri_peteia:
Tags: ,

Title: the four corners i see
Rating: PG

For: invaderk


Zuko looked into the opened wardrobe doors and frowned. Nothing would ever endear the sight of the Fire Lord robes - any version - to him. They were heavy and stiff, and above all unbelievably hot. He was cranky just thinking about his impending detainment in the hot midday blaze. The robes always doubled the effect of the sun, which made him sleepy, and he'd written a really nice speech. ("If you forget what you're going to say next," Aang had told him, " finish the sentence and stare really seriously out at the crowds. They'll think whatever you just said was really important while you try to remember.")

*

His father had believed in pageantry, had utilized every opportunity for a display of Fire Nation might, and his newly acquired but still loving subjects had made it clear that not all changes were welcome.

"Don't rush, nephew," Iroh had told him. "You may find the footing you thought to be sturdy quickly replaced by - well, quicksand!"

"This is so stupid!" Zuko had shouted. "Who cares if the Fire Lord makes offering to the Sun Warriors? We're supposed to have killed all the dragons! Why do I have to remind everyone of that every year?"

"That doesn't mean we forget that it happened! If we always ignore the past, what will we become in the future? You can't ask the world to pretend that the Fire Nation did not invade."

"But none of the speeches every mention any of that! All we ever do is talk about how proud a nation we are!"

"Write a new speech then, Zuko! You are the Fire Lord now, you have to take control of these things!"

"...Oh."

*

The palace was a sight to behold in the mornings before a ceremony. Hundreds of servants and imperial escorts, typically unseen, rushed about with the urgency of an entire displaced colony of beetle-roaches. Zuko was not appreciative of this marvel of human ingenuity, however; Zuko hated mornings, and he hated ceremonies, and he hated the morning preparation more than anything.

"It will be the most grand reception you've ever seen, Your Grace, it will be utterly magnificent, Your Grace, there's only the small matter of how all of your personal servants will be poached and you won't even be able to find your shoes," Zuko grumbled angrily to himself. He really hated these things.

*

"Hey, Zuko," Sokka had said. "Since you're the Fire Lord and everything, can you like, make with the snacks?"

"Yeah, come on, Fancy Hair, we were promised Fire Nation delicacies," Toph had added.

"'Fancy Hair'?" Sokka had replied skeptically.

"It's something new I'm trying out," Toph had replied.

"Even I think that was weak," Zuko had said.

"I'm weak with hunger! You can't expect me to be performing at peak abilities when I could faint at any moment!"

"In that case, we'll definitely need at least a dozen tarts immediately," Sokka had intoned somberly.

Zuko had sighed. "I can't win this, can I."

"Nope," Toph had said satisfiedly.

*

Zuko scanned the room. He was a skilled tracker, surely his own clothing couldn't evade him. He saw a spot of gold out of the corner of his eye, and turned to face his desk.

*

His first diplomatic conference had not gone as hoped. Things had gotten off to a shaky start when one of the lower ranking officials passed along a Water Tribe joke he'd learned while in the colonies, shortly before learning he was chatting with one of the delegates from the Northern Water Tribe. Zuko spent the remainder of the conference fielding angry lectures, with the lone exception of one delegate from Ba Sing Se. In his relief, Zuko had proceeded to spill hot tea all over both of them.

"I hate this so much," he had muttered to Mai.

"You were really doing her a favor," Mai whispered in response. "Those robes were hideous. She looked more like a turtle-duck than a formal delegate."

Zuko had snorted. "Stop it. We should look serious."

*

"Have you checked in your wardrobe?" Mai asked, leaning against the doorframe. "I think you'd have noticed shoes on your desk earlier."

Zuko tossed the handful of books he was holding onto the desk and ran his hands through his hair. "Why would they be there? I never put them there."

"You never put anything in your wardrobe, Zuko. I'm surprised you knew what I was talking about."

*

"Your serious face isn't really reassuring, Zuko. Try something different."

Zuko had narrowly restrained himself from crossing his arms in irritation before he responded. "If we're not being serious, what am I supposed to do? Tell jokes? That didn't go well the first time!"

Mai had discreetly poked him in the ribs, and said, "Smile. Tell this horrible motley crew that you know what's best for the Fire Nation, and you have the faith of the Avatar behind you."

"What if they still don't believe in me?"

"Iroh says if they aren't happy after the talks, show them to the banquet hall and then talk again."

*

"Why can't I do any of this myself?"

Mai handed him the elusive shoes and looked at him seriously. "They're shoes, Zuko. It doesn't mean anything if you don't know where they are."

"No one thinks I can do this. All of Father's chancellors think Uncle should be in charge."

"Not everyone thinks that. There were a bunch of girls discussing how much they'd heard about the handsome, young Fire Lord in the Grand Hall this morning."

Zuko scoffed. "That's not reassuring! What do they know?" Something she said gave him pause. "A bunch of girls think I'm handsome?"

Mai's eyes narrowed. "That was not the point."

"No, no, of course not," Zuko blurted. "I was just startled."

"Are my compliments, which are not infrequent, insufficient? Will you be requiring a greeting party in the mornings now?"

"No, I just - " Zuko thought fast. "I don't see why anyone would bother, when it's obvious I only have eyes for you."

Mai smiled. "You should try lines like that on the Omashu delegate next time. I think he'd be very impressed."

"That was a good recovery, you have to admit," Zuko prodded.

"It wasn't your worst attempt," Mai said, and leaned down for a kiss.
 
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Comments

 
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From:ali_wildgoose
Date:September 17th, 2008 10:43 am (UTC)
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This charmed the pants off me, seriously. SERIOUSLY. This grin on my face right now? It is a PRETTY BIG GRIN.

In fact, I'm going to hold off on more specific commentary until after the reveal, such that I can provide you with some small motivation to post this as yourself once the exchange is over. <3
From:magicnoire
Date:September 17th, 2008 11:40 am (UTC)
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Oh Zuko, never change.
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From:tehlobster
Date:September 17th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
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*great big grin*
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From:invaderk
Date:September 21st, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
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GAH, I adore this! I missed the memo about these being posted and am therefore really late on the uptake, but seriously: <3333

Very charming and bantery and lovely. <333

Kind of Like You

The Mai/Zuko Fic Exchange