Life Happens Wherever You Are (Zuko x OC)

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Chapter 8

Zuko came back late last night, we were just thinking about going to look for him when we heard Chu outside, and he slumped in soaking wet.

“Did you find your lightning?” Iroh had asked as Zuko curled up in a corner, away from both of us.

“No.” Zuko had replied, bitterly.

I woke up to the smell of tea, a wonderful smell in the morning. I yawned and stretched, sitting up to look around. Iroh was a little ways away from me making tea, and Zuko was still curled up in the corner.

I moved over to Iroh, who poured me a cup of tea.

“Good morning Mara,” he handed the cup to me.

“Good morning Iroh. What tea do we have today? It smells very good.”

“It is a very special tea, one that will help Zuko come out of his funk.”

I raised my eyebrow at him, “His... funk?”

He chuckled and handed me another cup, “Here, take this to him.”

“Why me?”

“Because, I can tell he likes you. He is more likely to accept the tea from you than me right now.”

I nodded and went over to Zuko. I knelt down next to him and touched his shoulder lightly. He groaned softly and shifted.

“Zuko,” I started, keeping my hand on his shoulder, “I have tea for you, it’ll help you feel better.”

Zuko rolled over and sat up, looking at me. He looked down at his cup and then over at Iroh. “Did he make it?” his voice was deep and gruff, even more than it normally is.

I nodded.

“I don’t want it then.”

“Zuko, please. Take it,” I pleaded.

He looked up at me, and his face softened, “Alright.” He grumbled.

I smiled softly as he took the cup and started to drink it. I could see him start to feel better already.

I took a sip from my cup, wow this tea was amazing. I could feel it already beginning to lift my spirits.

“We should head out on the road soon, go somewhere that isn’t deserted and falling apart,” Iroh spoke up from across the room.

We both looked over at him, “That’s a good idea,” I looked back over to Zuko, “What do you think?”

He clenched his jaw, “Fine.”

“Perfect! It’s settled then, let’s start packing up!” Iroh practically jumped to his feet, making me giggle and Zuko roll his eyes.

We packed up our stuff and all climbed on Chu. First, it was Zuko, then me, then Iroh. It was a tight squeeze, but we had to deal with it for the time being.

After a while, we started seeing more and more trees, that actually had leaves on them and made the travel more interesting to look at. Eventually, I could tell that Iroh wanted to stop, because he kept groaning in pain.

Zuko got tired of this and said, “Maybe we should make camp.” I could hear the annoyance in his voice and smiled.

“No, please, don’t stop just for me,” Iroh responded in a painful voice and then groaned again.

I tried to hold in my laughter as Zuko brought Chu to a sudden holt. He jumped down and helped me off, Iroh getting off on his own, but still groaning as he walked over to a rock and sat down.

“Do you think maybe he needs another healing session?” I asked Zuko.

“No,” he snapped, turning his head to me and looking at me. Then his voice softened, “He’s just being dramatic. I’m sure he’s fine.”

We all quickly turned in the direction of a sound coming from beside us in the trees. Zuko went into his fighting stance, and Iroh complained, “What now?”

Zuko glared at him as the sounds got closer, and I realized it sounded like a few different animals coming towards us. All of a sudden, five rhinos with fire nation brutes jumped out, surrounding us on all sides.

“Oh great,” I mumbled underneath my breath from beside Zuko, cracking open my water flask.

“Colonel Mongke, what a pleasant surprise,” Iroh said from behind us. He walked up and put a hand on Zuko’s shoulder.

I gave a questioning look to Zuko, he knows these guys?

“If you’re surprised we’re here, then the dragon of the west has lost a few steps,” the guy he called Colonel Mongke said.

Dragon of the west? Did Iroh know that they had been following us this whole time? Is that why he was trying to get us to stop? I glanced over at Iroh, raising an eyebrow. The guy clanked his metal arm pieces together, creating sparks. I looked around to see that the other guys had their own weapons, one had a spear, one had a bow and arrow, one had a metal chain that he was swinging around.

I was about to look for the last guy when Zuko said, “You know these guys?” One of the few questions I had running through my brain.

I glanced back at his uncle again, and he had a smirk on his face. “Sure, Colonel Mongke and the Rough Rhinos are legendary. Each one is a different kind of weapon specialist.” I could see that. I finally looked at the fifth guy, he was wearing full armor with a helmet that hid his face. I couldn’t tell what kind of weapon he had though. “They’re also a very capable singing group,” Iroh smiled, amused.

I raised my eyebrows in surprise, these goons don’t look much like they would sing.

“We’re not here to give a concert!” Colonel Mongke snapped, “We’re here to apprehend fugitives.”

“Aw, that’s too bad, I would have liked to hear you sing,” I joked, narrowing my eyes at him.

He eyed me, as if he was sizing me up. He probably is wondering who I am, and just wants Zuko and his uncle. I wasn’t going to let that happen though. I could tell that Zuko and Iroh were getting ready for a fight, so I did the same, breathing deeply.

“Would you like some tea first? I’d love some.” Iroh taunted, rubbing his shoulder. Maybe I should have given him another healing session before we left. “How about you, Kachi?” he eyed the man with the spear, “I make you as a Jasmine man. Am I right?”

I shoved down a smile, glancing at Zuko who’s face was hard in concentration.

“Enough stalling, round them up!” Colonel Mongke shouted.

Here we go.

The man with the chain struck first, throwing the end which seemed to have a metal ball attached to the end of it at Iroh, who sensed it coming and kicked it away. It ended up wrapping around one of the other rhinos legs. He rolled to dodge a flaming arrow and a fire blast that came out of nowhere, ran to the rhino with the chain wrapped around its leg and smacked it. Making the rhino run off, dragging the first guy with it.

A flaming arrow came flying towards Zuko and I. Zuko blocked it with one hand, slashing it out of the sky and into two pieces, and with the other, returned fire, burning through the string of the bow. Colonel Mongke shot multiple fire blasts at us, I brought up a wall of water to block and whipped a stream of water around, smacking him in the face. While he was distracted, Zuko went around the back and jumped onto the Rhino, kicking him off with a few fire blasts.

Iroh ran back to Chu, jumping on and riding back towards us. Zuko jumped off of the Rhino and behind Iroh, and they came speeding towards me. Zuko reached a hand down to me, and I grabbed it, the momentum and his strength swinging me back and onto Chu. The man in full armor that I couldn’t figure out finally attacked, throwing something our way, that exploded next to us.

“Are you kidding me!? Explosives!?” I yelled, creating a shield of water to protect our backs as we sped away.

I coughed as we came out of the thick black smoke.

“It’s nice to see old friends.” Iroh looked behind us.

“Too bad you don’t have any old friends that don’t want to attack you.” Zuko spat back bitterly.

I grimaced at the comment and the anger in his voice.

“Hmm, old friends that don’t want to attack me...”

“Gee why didn’t we think of that sooner?” I scoffed, still partially choking on the smoke.

Zuko looked back at me, concerned, and then grabbed my arms and wrapped them around his waist.

I settled in for the ride, relaxing into Zuko’s back.

After it had been dark for a while, we decided to find a place to stop for the night. Zuko got off first, then Iroh, as Zuko was helping me down. I was so tired I almost lost my footing and fell into Zuko. Our bodies were touching, our faces just inches apart. We locked eyes, I could see the fire burning, changing.

“You two okay over there?” Iroh asked, amused.

We both blushed and pulled away. Zuko rubbed the back of his neck, and I responded, “Yeah, I just lost my balance, and Zuko caught me.” I glanced over at Zuko and blushed again.

“Well, if you two are done, we should set up camp.” Iroh joked with a grin on his face.

“Uncle!” Zuko growled, stalking away to collect firewood.

“What my nephew?” he chuckled, watching him go.

He looked over at me knowingly, and I blushed and turned away, hiding a small smile. I tied Chu to a tree, and grabbed my bag. I laid out my blanket not far from Chu, and sat down cross legged. Iroh was setting up his area.

“I see the way you look at him,” Iroh said, making me jump.

“What do you mean?” I stumbled.

He chuckled again. “I am a lot older than you are, I have seen my share of those looks. You needn’t try to hide them from me.”

I sighed, “It doesn’t matter anyway. He’s the prince of the fire nation, once he goes back home I will be irrelevant and he will find someone else; someone from the fire nation that the people will accept.”

“You mustn’t think that way. You do not know what will end up happening. The times are changing, and as long as the avatar is with us, there is a chance for peace among the nations.”

I smiled sadly at him. If only the avatar was around when my village was attacked, maybe then my parents would still be alive. But then, where would I be today? I would not have grown up with Rahin or Osana, I would have never met Zuko, and experienced the things I have with him.

Everything happens for a reason. I heard Rahin’s voice echoing through my mind.

Zuko came back with the firewood and helped his uncle build a fire. Iroh then made some tea, and we ate some fruit and bread. Zuko and I went over to our blanket and sat down next to each other. We were on the other side of the fire from Iroh, Zuko wanted it that way. I saw Zuko looking at me from the corner of my eye and turned to look at him. He didn’t retreat this time, he just kept staring, this time into my eyes. His gaze fluttered down to the necklace he gave me.

He shifted his weight and brought his hands up to my neck. My breath hitched as he grabbed the necklace, “The clasp is showing,” he explained, his voice low and breathy. He adjusted my necklace and dropped his hands into his lap, his eyes roaming my body.

I blushed and looked down, glancing over at Iroh who was watching us with a smile. I blushed more, then looked out into the trees on the other side of us. The trees were getting less and less as we were traveling, we seemed to be going back into the desert. I wonder where Iroh is taking us?

Zuko laid down on his back next to me, with his hands up behind his head. I laid down beside him, facing him. He turned his head to look at me and smiled, “Goodnight Mara,”

I couldn’t help but smile, “Goodnight Zuko.”

“Goodnight nephew and Mara,” We heard Iroh call, breaking the tension that was building between us.

I laughed lightly at the annoyed look on Zuko’s face.

“Goodnight uncle,” he growled.

“Goodnight Iroh,” I smiled.

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