Heart of the Dragon General

General Iroh. Fire Nation hero. First born son of Fire Lord Azulan. The Dragon of the West. It was thought he would be the greatest warrior in the history of the Fire Nation. But all that changed when the war claimed his son's life. This changed him, and he turned his back on the war. This was a necessary event. Iroh had a role to play in bringing balance back to the world...but to play that role, he first had to be broken down, so that he could be rebuilt. This truth was self evident in the spirit realm. But one particular spirit felt this was unfair to Iroh. The wheels of fate are cruel to those caught in the gears, but this particular spirit felt that Iroh deserved kindness. And so this spirit sent Iroh one who would help him to rebuild himself. And so, shortly after his son's funeral, Iroh would find a creature sent by the spirits, the likes of which he never would have imagined...a pretty pink pony princess. Somepony to love...and be loved by.

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49. Night of Two Moons

Zuko paced worriedly back and forth in the throne room of the Fire Lord.  What he'd thought of as the hard part - the invasion - was over now, and rather anticlimactically.  Ozai had abandoned his throne, and tomorrow he would be crowned Fire Lord.  Then would come the really hard part, trying to work with other leaders to ratify some sort of peace treaty, all the while glancing over his shoulder for when Ozai would make his move with the army he had with him, since a rather large number of Fire Benders were unaccounted for, along with the new War Balloons.  Until that was nailed down, negotiations for peace were unlikely to progress well.

And as of right now, all of that was the least of his worries.  Jin and Mai had asked to meet with him tonight, at the same time, in the royal quarters, with insistence that what they had to discuss had to be tonight, before he was officially crowned.  They'd set a specific time for him to be there, and that time was slowly approaching.  And despite everything, the one thought his mind kept returning to was, That's where grandfather died.

At long last, the time was upon him, and he made his way to the Royal Quarters, hoping he'd come out of this alive and more or less in one piece, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

When he arrived, he found them both sitting relaxed on the bed, Jin sending a smirk Mai's way and Mai seeming somehow flustered.  When he entered, they both smiled at him, Jin more widely than Mai, even though Mai's smile was a bit wider than normal anyway.  "Hey Zuko!" Jin greeted happily.  "Come sit with us!"  She patted the bed between the two of them.

Zuko's sense of personal danger shot up several notches, but he did as requested.  "So...you two had something you wanted to talk to me about?" he asked nervously.

"More or less," Mai replied.  "We certainly have a good amount to discuss."

Zuko nodded, swallowing.  "Mai...I'm sorry I hurt you..."

"But not for what you did?"

Zuko winced, but he continued on.  "...no.  I did what I felt I had to do for your sake, to stay true to myself and protect you from what I saw myself having become.  I won't apologize for that, only for the pain it caused you...and for that, I can only hope I can earn your forgiveness."

Mai stared at him for a time, then rolled her eyes.  "You say that like I didn't already know you were a chivalrous idiot," she said at last.  "Apology accepted."  Leaning in, she placed her lips against his, catching him completely off guard.  Just as he started to relax into the kiss and return it, she pulled back.  Locking her eyes on his, she poked him in the chest to emphasize her words.  "But don't you ever.  Break up with me.  Again."

Grinning wide in his nervousness, Zuko nodded readily.

Jin couldn't prevent her giggles.  "You two are so cute together!" she squealed.  "No wonder Cadence put so much effort into the two of you."

Zuko gulped as he turned towards her.  "Jin...I..."  Unsure what to say or do, he glanced back and forth between the two girls.

"We've been talking," Jin explained.  "About how we feel about you."

"And we came to a rather surprising discovery," Mai continued.  "Both of us would step aside and let the other be with you instead...if that's what would make you happy."

"Which just leaves us in a different quandary," Jin added as she saw the confusion on Zuko's face.  "Because we know you care about us both...and after talking to you back before we left Ba Sing Se, I know you don't have it in you to hurt either of us by choosing the other."

"Jin had...a rather unique solution," Mai admitted.  "She invited me to participate in an...experiment."  She lowered her gaze, her cheeks coloring.

"It went surprisingly well for both of us," Jin pointed out as Zuko became more and more confused.  "Which left us with a...rather equitable solution as a possibility."

"Which is why we're all here, now," Mai offered.  "Before the coronation and all the official stuff goes through.  While you and I are still technically vagabond traitors, and not saddled with the burdens of politics and society."  She smiled softly.  "It's not Prince Zuko or a Governor's daughter here."

"It's just Zuko...and just Mai...and just Jin," Jin concluded.  "Here to see if you can handle both of us."

Zuko backed up on the bed, caught completely off guard, only to see the two of them turn to crawl towards him, wicked mischief in their eyes.  He struggled to figure out what to do...only to recall obscure words of wisdom Iroh had given him when he'd asked him why girls were so strange.

"Zuko, there will be times in your life where you will caught up in the flow of events, with no escape or resistance possible.  At those times, all you can do is embrace it, and ride it out until you can once more guide your life and things make sense again."  A soft chuckle.  "That is the nature of men and women...at least from our perspective."

Finally getting a glimmering of the meaning of Iroh's strange advice, Zuko took the only option available to him...and embraced the flow of events before him, and the two who embodied that change.

 

 

Several hours later, Zuko sat out on the balcony, staring up at the moon.  Taking in a deep breath, he exhaled a stream of smoke.  He wasn't sure why his Fire Bending was causing him to exhale smoke just now...but it somehow seemed appropriate with how...disheveled yet refreshed he felt.

Much to his surprise, Cadence approached on near silent wings, circling around his smoke rings.  "So...how'd your talk with Mai and Jin go?" she asked softly.

Zuko stared at her for a time, but the only response he could find energy to give was a goofy grin.  Confused, Cadence glanced into the bedroom...and saw only discarded clothing and a very rumpled bed from which snoring could be heard.

Zuko struggled not to laugh at the bright blush on Cadence's cheeks.  He didn't do a very good job.

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