Life Happens Wherever You Are (Zuko x OC)

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Chapter 3

I woke up to a hand gently shaking me awake. “Mara, wake up,” I heard Zuko say.

I groaned and rolled over to face him. He was crouching down next to me, ready to go.

“Alright, I’m awake.”

“We should get going soon. I might have an idea on how to find my sister.”

I yawned, “Okay, what’s your plan?” I got up and started rolling up the blanket.

“I’ll explain on the way.”

“Of course you will,” I rolled my eyes and shoved my blanket in my bag. “Have you eaten?”

Zuko shook his head.

“Here,” I pulled two pieces of bread from my bag and handed him one, “Rahin gave me some food for the road before we left.”

He thanked me and we ate our bread in silence. Once we were done, he got up onto Chu, and then held a hand down for me to help me up. I grabbed it and swung on.

Once we had been on the road for a few minutes, I got tired of waiting for him to start talking. “So, are you going to tell me your plan?” I asked.

I heard him sigh, “Right. The plan. Sorry, I’m not used to having to tell others what my plan is. Before you woke up this morning, I went out to check the area. I found what I think is fur that is from the Avatars bison, and there was a trail of it leading out. I’m hoping that by following the trail, we will find Azula tracking them. Then, we can just follow her.”

I nodded, “That’s a good plan. But I haven’t seen any-” I stopped as I started to see what looked like white fur starting to show up on the ground.

He turned and smirked at me.

“Hmph,” I crossed my arms playfully, which then led to me almost falling off again. Zuko brought an arm backwards to steady me, and then he brought my arms up and around his waist again. I felt him softly laugh as I huffed.

I lost track of how long we have been riding for. I know that we are fairly far away from my village though, because the sand had started to fade, and little patches of grass were scattered around, becoming bigger and more frequent as we went.

“Do you think we are getting close?” I asked Zuko.

“I’m not sure, there’s no telling how long that trail has been there for,” his husky voice made my heart flutter.

“If you think about it, it couldn’t have been there for too long, because it would have been covered or blown away eventually,” I tried to steady my voice. I was struggling to keep my breathing normal, we were sitting so close together. We had both relaxed into each other a while ago. My arms were wrapped loosely around him and my hands were resting in his lap. His enticing aroma of sandalwood swirled around my head and through my nose.

He nodded at me, and we fell silent.

The grass was pretty much consistent now, and the trail of fur had gotten thicker. We came up on a town, slowing down. Zuko stopped Chu next to a tree that was hidden from the town and got off. He grabbed something from a satchel that was hanging on the side, and stuffed it under his shirt.

“Wait here,” he said, and then walked away, towards the town before I could say anything.

A few minutes later, he came back, with a small bag of fruit. He put everything back in the satchel, and got back on, making sure to keep me steady so that I didn’t fall off. I didn’t know how he got the fruit, and I figured it was probably best not to ask. Once he was on, he handed me an apple and we started traveling again.

It was getting dark now, the air was cooler and a small breeze had started, which was making me cold. Zuko must’ve felt me shiver, because we started to slow near a group of trees.

“We should probably stop for the night, it’s getting late and cold, and you should rest,” Zuko broke the silence.

I stifled a yawn, “Okay, if you feel like we can stop, I’m all for it.”

He led Chu over to a tree and got off, helping me off as well.

“Your balance must be getting better, you didn’t almost fall that time,” he joked.

“Oh haha, very funny,” I tried to keep a straight face, but gave in to a smile.

I saw the hint of a smile on his face before he turned away. He doesn’t smile much, and when he does, it’s barely even a smile. I could tell that he was very troubled, but aren’t we all? I had heard stories of Zuko’s impatience and temper, but he was gentle and quiet around me. There is no way I was going to try to get him angry to see what he would do, I’d rather not go down that road, there is no promise of return.

I watched Zuko walking around collecting wood for a fire. He seemed concentrated, his eyebrows were knitted together. He must be thinking about something. I grabbed my bag and set it on the ground, pulling out my blanket. Zuko came back and started setting up the fire.

“Would you like to train with me?” I heard him ask quietly.

I smiled, “Sure, let’s do that.” I picked up my water flask and put it on my shoulder.

“Ready?” he went down into his fighting stance.

“Ready,” I opened the flask and brought out a stream of water.

He threw a small fireball at me, which I blocked, and countered with a snake of water to his left. He dodged it, and kicked up flames at me. I brought up a small wave of water in front of me to stop the flames, then sent icicles flying towards him. His eyes widened and he ducked down to avoid them.

“Oh, so this is how we’re going to do it huh?” he said playfully.

“What, too hard for you?” I laughed.

“Child’s play,” he countered, with a small smile.

Zuko was sitting over by the fire after he finished building it while I was feeding Chu. I looked over at him, he was staring into the flames, matching his breath to it. I walked over and sat down next to him. I glanced at him nervously, not sure if he was in the mood for conversation or not.

“What?” he spoke up first, “Do you need something?”

“Um, well, no not exactly.”

He glanced at me, his face softened. “What is it?” he asked.

I took a deep breath, “I was wondering if you would tell me about this thing with your sister, and why you are traveling alone and not on your ship.” I stopped, waiting for his reaction.

His shoulders slumped and he sighed. Without looking up from his work he said, “It’s complicated. But I will try to explain it. So you know that I was banished, right?”

I nodded.

“Well, part of my banishment was to find and capture the Avatar. Only then was I allowed to return home and regain my honor. A couple of weeks ago, my sister, Azula, found my uncle and I while we were staying at a village. She told me that my father had changed his mind and wanted me back. I foolishly believed her. When we were boarding her ship, we figured out that it was a trap, and that she was not sent to bring me home as family, she was there to bring me as a prisoner.”

I frowned at this, but stayed quiet. He took a moment to collect his thoughts.

“Not only was I banished, but now I am a fugitive of my own country. I was traveling with my uncle, but I parted ways with him so that he didn’t have to be burdened by my presence. He doesn’t agree with a lot of the things I’ve done.”

I let silence take over for a minute, waiting to see if he was done talking. Once I figured he was done, I said, “So, you want to capture the Avatar before your sister in hopes that you can still return home as family?”

He nodded and stared at the fire. His strong arms glistened in the light, making his muscles look more defined. I tore my gaze from him and looked at my bag. I grabbed the bag of food that Rahin gave me, and searched for what he said he put in there to remember him by. My hand fell on what felt like paper. I pulled it out, and opened it.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the village.”

I sensed him look at me, and I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

“What’s that?” Zuko asked.

“It’s a painting, that Rahin had done when I was younger. That’s me, in the middle. On the left, that’s his wife. They were like family to me. After she died, he told me that I was all he had left.”

“You didn’t have to defend me like that,” he said softly.

“Yes, I did. I will not be another bystander that stays quiet when someone who did something good is treated badly. I may not have been raised very long by my mother, but I remember her always speaking out for people.”

He sighed, “Maybe once the war is over, you can go back.”

I shook my head and looked at him, “I saw the hatred in their eyes. Towards you, but also towards me. Even if the war ends, I don’t think they will ever accept me back as a part of them.” We locked eyes, and in that moment, I understood the pain that he felt, not being able to go back to a place he once considered home. I looked away just as a tear slipped down.

“We should get some sleep,” Zuko said softly after a few moments of silence.

I nodded and laid out the blanket. We both got under and faced away from each other. I noticed he was closer to me this time. I thought about Rahin, I hope he doesn’t feel that I betrayed him. He knew how much I cared about people, and how I felt about not speaking up when I see something I believe is wrong. Hopefully, one day, at least Rahin will accept me back. I closed my eyes and heard Osana. Remember, always follow the flow of your heart, it will show you the true path to your destiny.

“Goodnight Zuko.”

He softly grunted back.

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