Zuko watches as his friends leave to find Aang, an earthbending teacher. It's going to be weeks before he sees them again and he really wishes he could join them but ever since the north pole incident, his father has been keeping a sharp eye on him. He's started regretting trying to help fight with the others, he didn't really do much except almost getting himself killed. His father's trust in him dropped significantly and not only is he watching Zuko more closely but he's ordered the guards to as well. Zuko sighs as he heads to the garden to feed the turtle ducks.
During his time feeding the turtle ducks, his father comes up to him and sits beside him. Zuko doesn't really pay attention to him when he starts talking "I know you're mad about not being able to travel with your friends this time and with the extra guards watching over you from afar but as your parent, it's my job to guide and protect you." "I feel like a prisoner." Zuko spits out, his father sighs before continuing. "Once your grounding is over, I'll allow you all the freedom I allowed before and you may continue to travel around the city with your friends as long as you have a guard with you."
"Hey, Zuzu!" someone calls out to him, Zuko smiles a little and Iroh leaves deciding its best to give him some alone time with his other friends. "Thought we'd come over since you're probably lonely since your other group of friends is busy." Azula says as she, Mai, Ty Lee, and Kiyi sit down beside Zuko. "Being grounded sucks, doesn't it? I was grounded last month for staying out past my curfew." Azula says as she tries to cheer Zuko up. "Yeah, mommy was mad! Azula came home in the middle of the night instead of at dusk like she's supposed to." Kiyi pipes up while Mai and Tylee giggle a little at Azula's expense.
"Yeah but it's different. You can go around town without guards and you're fourteen! Here I am sixteen and I have to always ask my dad if I can go out and when I do go out, dad makes me take guards with me even when I'm with friends!" Zuko complains "You forget, there are constant assassination attempts on you and your father, even your father doesn't go anywhere without someone with him." Ty Lee points out. "Not to mention your tendency to do stupid things," Azula adds. Zuko grumbles knowing Azula and Ty Lee have a point.
"So… How's your life going?" Zuko asks. "Well, I've left home for a while and joined the circus but came back because Azula said I could stay with her for the time being. The circus was fun for a while but it got tiring so it's nice to be taken care of and to be able to hang out with friends again! My aura has never been pinker!" Ty Lee says happily. "Mine is the same as always." replies Mai in her normal monotone voice.
"Kiyi! Don't get too close to the pond, ok?" Azula shouts as the others turn to see the toddler trying to reach out to touch one of the turtle ducks. Kiyi doesn't seem to be paying any attention to them and grabs one of the baby ducks. The duckling is startled and starts quacking and squirming around wanting to be released. "Oh no…" Azula mutters before she gets up and heads to where Kiyi is, but before Azula is able to reach Kiyi the mother duck comes up and bites Kiyi on the arm. Kiyi shrieks and lets the duckling go. Azula grabs the mother duck and pulls it off of her crying sister, gently placing it back into the pond. She comes back to the group holding Kiyi in her arms. Zuko does a small chuckle and Azula gives him a pointed look. "What's so funny about my younger sister getting bitten, Zuzu?" She grits out in a low and dangerous tone. "It's just, it reminds me about when we were younger and how you would always throw rocks at them. Now you're so gentle with them." Azula shrugs "Well I've learned to be more gentle over the past few years, having the responsibilities of looking out for someone really makes you grow up." she says in her normal snarky tone.
"Zula when can we go home? It's boring here!" Kiyi huffs getting tired of Azula holding her. "How about we play hide and seek?" Azula suggests wanting to spend more time with her friends and cousin. Kiyi happily agrees. Azula tells a guard to keep watch over Kiyi and to come get her if Kiyi has any problems while Kiyi is counting and then takes the others to hide in Zuko's room. "This should give us at least a few more minutes." Azula says as they all settle into a comfortable position on Zuko's bed.
"I've noticed you guys are much closer than you used to be, what changed?" Zuko asks "Azula did actually! We were at first only really friends with her because we feared her but after the whole thing with her dad she relied on us for comfort and it brought us closer." Ty Lee says as she hugs Azula. "I've realized that love was stronger than fear, mom feared father and yet when I came to her and told her what dad was planning she told me she would protect me and I heard her later that night confronting father. I then realized that if father was wrong about fear being stronger than love, that there must be other things he was wrong about and so I decided to change. I grew distant from father and relied on my friends for love and support, actually, I tried staying away from father for as much as I could, usually staying at Mai's home or at ember island with Lo and Li." "Wait, your dad wanted to kill you!?" Zuko asks shocked as this is the first time he's hearing this interrupting Azula in the process, Azula looking crossed tells Zuko in an annoyed tone "Azulon ordered my death and Ozai agreed to it with no hesitation or remorse. It was hard at first, I really thought he loved me… When I went to mom she explained some truths about father, that it wasn't my fault he didn't love me. Father was just a horrible person who doesn't care for anyone unless they are useful and will discard them to meet his goals."
"Wow… I don't know what to say, Azula… I'm sorry you had to go through that." Zuko whispers out as he reaches out and squeezes her shoulders. Azula wipes the tears from her eyes that she didn't even know were there and pushes Zuko's hand off of her "Yeah yeah well I'm fine now. That part of my life is in the past, I've moved on." She says, cooly. Zuko can tell that she's still hurting but doesn't want to push his cousin.
They spend the day chatting with each other and Azula comes up with different ways to keep Kiyi busy and out of her hair. When dusk arrives Ty Lee leaves with Azula and Kiyi to go back home leaving just Zuko and Mai together. It's at first awkward as they have never really spent time alone so they don't know quite what to say. "So… Are you going home as well?" Zuko asks, Mai shrugs "It's so boring at home, I'd much rather stay with you." Mai says as she leans in. Zuko blushes a little stuttering out "how is being at my place any different than being at home?" Mai smirks a little "You're much more of an interesting person to hang around then my parents and brother." She says. "I am?" Zuko says dumbfounded, Mai chuckles, finding Zuko's awkwardness adorable. "Yes, you are. You're so cute when you're nervous."
Iroh is watching from afar as Zuko and Mai talk to each other already concocting a plan to get them to date. Eventually, it becomes night so Iroh approaches the two "It's getting late, perhaps it's time for you to head home, Mai." He says, Mai agrees "Yeah, I guess it is. I'll see you soon hopefully. Perhaps tomorrow?" Mai suggests looking at Zuko. "He'd loved that!" Iroh answers for Zuko "You should come over for dinner." He adds "Alright, I will. Thanks for the invitation, Iroh." Mai says as she bids farewell. "Bye Mai!" Zuko yells out as Mai leaves.