Life Happens Wherever You Are (Zuko x OC)

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Chapter 19

We spent the rest of the day moving our stuff and Zuko into the new apartment. We had let him sleep for a while longer and then woke him up to leave. If we had tried to carry him there, we would have gotten weird looks. He ended up falling asleep on the carriage ride there.

“Zuko,” I said softly so that only he could hear it, placing a hand on his shoulder.

He groaned and opened his eyes, squinting at the light.

“We are at our new apartment, my nephew. We need to get inside,” Iroh called, already grabbing his stuff from the back.

Zuko looked at me and then nodded, and I helped him out and into the new apartment.

“Wow, this place is nice,” I said, bringing him through the kitchen area that was much bigger, and down a hallway that led to two rooms. I opened the door to one of them, to see an actual bed in the corner of the room and a table on the opposite side.

I placed Zuko down on the bed and brought my blanket out of my bag, placing it on top of him. I was about to walk out, when Zuko grabbed my hand before I could.

I turned to him with a gentle face and knelt down beside him.

“I just wanted to say,” he swallowed, his voice hoarse, “I care about you too, and I’m glad you have put up with me for this long.”

I smiled warmly, hiding a blush. “It’s been worth it.” I rubbed his hand with my thumb and then he let go, settling back down. I walked out of the room and closed the door quietly.

A while later it was getting dark, and I had been helping Iroh plan out his new tea shop. He was very excited, and couldn’t wait to get started.

“We should get some rest, we have a long day of set up tomorrow,” I smiled at him, standing up from the table in the kitchen.

Iroh nodded in agreement, and after saying good night I walked down the hallway to Zuko and I’s room. Zuko stirred when I walked in, and in the low light I could see his eyes flutter open.

“How are you feeling?” I asked him, sitting next to him on the bed.

He shrugged his shoulders in response, but then said, “That song you were singing earlier, can you finish it for me?”

I swallowed and felt my face heat up. I didn’t know he was listening to me sing.

I hesitated, but then agreed. Zuko shifted so that I had a space on the bed, but he was still facing me.

He closed his eyes, so I stood up and started to take off my dress. I couldn’t help but end the song, it was so beautiful, and it made me reminiscent of when I was younger.

I sighed, looking at him. He seemed so calm now, if only he would be like this all the time. I turned off the lamp and laid down next to him under the blanket.

“Iroh? Can I talk to you about something?” I asked him the next morning.

“Of course Mara, what is it?”

I swallowed, fidgeting with the cup of tea that Iroh had set out for me. I was sitting at the table and he was cooking something in the kitchen not too far away. “Well, a while ago, you said that times were changing, and that I shouldn’t think that I wouldn’t have a place with Zuko when he becomes firelord. Did you mean that?” I asked, not sure how to approach the question.

He turned to me with a questioning look.

I rambled on before he could say anything, “I mean like, we don’t know when Zuko will be able to return to the fire nation, but when we were talking about it before, you seemed to think that there was a chance that...” I trailed off and sighed. I guess I actually didn’t know what I was trying to ask.

He smiled warmly at me, and seemed to know what I was trying to say. “Mara, I meant what I said. We do not know what is going to happen with the avatar, and if and when he does succeed, the nations will be at peace. When there is peace, there is acceptance, and love. It might take the people of the fire nation a while to warm up to the new ways, but they will eventually. Also, they will not want to go against Zuko when he is firelord. They will tolerate until they accept and understand.”

I thought for a moment, “I’m just worried that I will get used to being with Zuko and then everything will change. I feel like I’m already falling down that hole, and I’m not sure if I want to continue falling or if I need to start trying to find my way out.”

“Love is a scary thing, I understand. But if you are caught on self-preservation, it will not work no matter what you do,” he stirred what he had in the pot and then continued, “Do you think you love him?”

The question smacked me in the face, do I love Zuko? The crown prince to the fire nation? The future firelord? The silent grump that took me from my home and showed me the world? Iroh’s face changed as he waited for my answer. It was almost like he knew what I was thinking about. I went back to the night after Zuko had his fight with Jet. The way his voice sent chills throughout my body, and his touch made my heart race. I have never felt like that before, not even with Sensu.

“I...I don’t know,” his face flashed in my mind, the way that he notices when something is off, or when he is gentle with me. The thought of him warmed my heart. “Maybe I do.”

Iroh smiled softly, “I understand that these feelings can be confusing sometimes. The main thing to pay attention to is not only how you feel with him, but how you feel without him.”

I nodded, and was about to say something, when Iroh looked towards the door to our room and held up his hand to me to stop. I stopped and listened, hearing movement coming from the room. I looked back to him and nodded, and then focused my attention back to my tea. After a few moments, the door opened, and Zuko came out, fully dressed, and yawning.

He rubbed his eyes, “What’s that smell?”

Iroh responded, stirring the pot, “It’s jook, I’m sure you wouldn’t like it.”

I watched Zuko, he seemed... different?

Zuko walked over to the pot on the stove and smelled it, as if he liked the smell. Iroh stepped back, looking at him weirdly, and then glanced over at me. I raised my eyebrows, not sure what to do.

“Actually,” Zuko started, looking over to Iroh, “It smells delicious. I’d love a bowl uncle.” He picked up a bowl from the next to the pot and held it out to Iroh.

Iroh eyed him suspiciously, “Now that your fever is gone, you seem different somehow.” He put a ladle of jook into his bowl.

“It’s a new day,” Zuko gestured widely to the apartment, “We’ve got a new apartment, new furniture, and today is the grand opening of your new tea shop,” he sat down at the table next to me, “It also doesn’t hurt to have a beautiful girl supporting me,” he smiled, glancing at me. I blushed and smiled, glancing at Iroh. He gave me a knowing look. “Things are looking up, uncle.”

Iroh smiled at him and continued to stir the pot, and then brought a bowl of it over to me and got himself one as well, sitting down on the other side of Zuko.

“Is that your way of saying that you have changed your mind about making a life here?” Iroh asked, taking a sip from his bowl.

For once Zuko didn’t seem annoyed with his uncle. He looked at him gratefully, and said, “I guess we’ll just have to see.” Zuko stole a glance at me from over his bowl, smiling.

I smiled to myself, feeling my heart flutter under his gaze. Did this just answer the questions that I talked about with Iroh?

After we were finished eating, I went to put on my new dress that Iroh had helped me pick out. It was great timing that we got it just before moving into an upper part of the city. I was about to walk out when I heard Iroh and Zuko talking, and I stopped before opening the door to try to listen to their conversation.

It was hard to hear but I picked up a few things, “So you care... her?” I strained to hear Iroh say.

“Yes, I...” Was that, happiness I heard in Zuko’s voice? I didn’t hear the rest of what he said, but then it fell quiet.

I stifled a sigh and decided that I should go out there. Was Zuko finally happy? I hadn’t heard or seen him happy like that in all of the time we have spent together. The closest I’ve seen was when he gave me my necklace.

Iroh and Zuko were both looking at me when I walked out into the living area. Did I miss something? I smiled at them, and they both smiled back. I sat down next to Zuko and asked, “So Iroh, did you decide on a name for your tea shop?”

Iroh grinned widely, “Yes! I decided on The Jasmine Dragon.”

I smiled, “I love it.” I glanced at Zuko to see his reaction, and he nodded at Iroh and smiled.

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