[Genre:] Gen, Humor
[Word Count:] 4,587
[Disclaimer:] I do not own anything in Avatar and I make no money. (Sadly)
[Spoilers:] Post-Finale (Sorta)
[Summary:] For some reason unknown, Zuko and Aang are handcuffed to one-another. Only Iroh and Toph know the secret to free them. What can become of this?
[Note:] My first Aanko/Zukaang fic....and it's a mild oneshot! Yay!
He wasn’t sure how it happened, or more importantly, why it happened. All he knew now was that he was now stuck out in the middle of nowhere with two plebian Water Tribe peasants, a snobbish blind aristocrat, a very large bison that obviously did not like him in the slightest, a flying lemur who was in much agreement with said bison, his own uncle, and of course the young Avatar. Not only was he somehow part of the Avatar’s posse so to speak (much to his dismay of course) but he was also, for no better words to put this, “attached” to him. Yes, by attached it is meant literally. For he was now seated beside a blazing fire at sunset shooting disgruntled looks at the boy seated with his back to him, a long chain linking the two with thick steel cuffs.
His eyes darted from the pile of warm sleeping bodies sprawled against the fluffy beast, to his uncle who was propped up against a thick tree trunk also asleep, and then to the small body of the monk seated behind him, also shooting him heated glares. Aang kept his eyes leery, muttering inaudible profanities as well as something about this being one of the vilest things Azula has ever done. For once, Zuko had to admit, he was in much agreement with the monk’s muttered statement. They both sat in silence, eyes fixated on one another, waiting for the other to be the first to move or speak. It was a silent battle of will that was almost as deadly as their physical brawls of bending. Finally, Aang caved after Zuko gave a heated breath that smelled like smoke.
“I can’t believe this, of all the people Azula could’ve put me with, it had to be you,” Aang had made sure to put as much emphasis as possible on the final word in his sentence.
“You really think I’m all that pleased about this either?” Zuko snorted, practically rolling his eyes at such a statement.
The young Avatar shifted himself so he could better face the older teen, being extra careful to not wake his group with the clanging of the chain. “Oh, I thought this would’ve made you fantastically happy! In fact, I’m surprised you’re not all giddy with immense joy!” There was a definite tone of mocking and sarcasm in his voice. “Clearly, you hide your glee well, Zuko.”
“Don’t get so cocky, Avatar,” Zuko snapped and crossed his arms over his chest, the chain clattering sharply enough to make Aang wince at the sound. “You do realize right now you’re at my mercy?”
“Oh right, like you’re just going to drag me to your father with a broad grin on your face giggling happily over your simple capture. You do seem to forget that you’re handcuffed to me,” Aang rolled his eyes. “If anything your father would probably laugh you back out of the Fire Nation.”
Zuko glowered, for he was very much right. It would be foolish of him to try to weasel his way back into his father’s favor in this current situation. Though technically the Avatar was in his grasp now, it wouldn’t look all that honorable of him to watch his father’s men try to pry the binding off him just for the sake of having the Avatar. “Alright, fine. You got me. How do you suppose we get out of this, then?”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Aang sighed, holding up his hand to look at the tight grip the thick metal cuff had on his wrist. He could hardly move it was on so tight. “I may be the Avatar, but even I can’t bend metal.” Out of the corner of his eye he could’ve sworn he saw Toph smirk but just brushed that off as a trick of the firelight.
“So are you telling me we’re stuck like this?” Zuko’s gaze at Aang became deadly as he practically whipped himself around to stare directly at him. The chain tried clanging in defiance to his hasty movements but soon hushed when he stilled.
“Zuko, careful,” the boy hissed. “Too much noise and we’ll wake everyone up.”
“Like I care,” Zuko grumbled.
Aang tensed a bit. “You know Azula’s still after us, Zuko. For all we know she could be in this very forest right now just waiting to strike. Do you really want to risk her hearing us?”
“No matter what it’s like we’re walking around with an alarm on our heads.” Zuko whispered so low it was almost inaudible.
“What was that, Zuko? You were being so pouty I couldn’t hear you,” Aang couldn’t help but give him a sly grin.
Ignoring the comment, Zuko straightened up and shot him another glare. “I said it’s a bit hard for us to be totally silent with this heavy chain causing a racket.”
“Then I guess we’ll just have to try our hardest to keep this thing as still as possible until we can somehow get it off,” Aang shrugged. “Shouldn’t be too hard, as long as we keep close and pace our movements.”
“There’s no way I’m budding up on you,” Zuko snorted. “I like my space.”
“Well, guess what Zuko?” The young monk held up the chain. “You have about three meters’ worth of space until this thing goes away. Good enough for you?”
“Too bad then,” Aang shrugged but couldn’t help allowing a smug grin to play across his lips. “’Cause that’s all you’re getting.”
“I hate you,” Zuko looked away with a frown.
“The feeling’s mutual, then,” Aang smirked and then shuffled close, leaning against Zuko’s back.
Zuko was about to shove him off but thought better of it because of the noise. “What do you think you’re doing?” He turned his head slightly to peer over his shoulder.
“Getting comfortable,” Aang sighed and let his eyes flutter closed. “It’s late and I want to sleep.”
“On me?” The teen glared.
“Well, I can’t really lie down now, can I? It’d strain the chain too much and I really don’t want to make anymore noise nor tear any of our limbs off.” Aang opened one eye and smirked.
“True,” Zuko sighed in defeat. “Fine, just down move around too much...”
“I don’t really have much of a choice, do I?” Aang chuckled sleepily.
“Here,” Zuko grumbled and propped Aang up while shifted his body so Aang could lean into his lap instead. “This’ll be more comfortable for me.”
“Thanks, I guess…” The young monk murmured softly, shifting himself to his comfort.
“Just don’t expect this to be a regular thing,” Zuko glowered and then blinked slowly, finally nodding off.
“Don’t worry,” Aang grinned with his eyes closed. “I won’t.”
The next morning the group was awakened by bright sunlight. However, for Aang and Zuko, they weren’t quite so pleased when they awoke. What stirred them from their slumber were Katara’s giggles and whispers to Toph and Sokka’s snorts from trying to hold back his laughter. Even Iroh could be heard chuckling as he prepared the embers from the night’s fire into a cooking fire to make breakfast. Zuko was the first to have his eyes open slowly, blinking to allow himself to get used to the sunlight. Aang soon followed, yawning rather cat-like and blinking as well. It took Zuko a moment before he looked and realized what was so humorous.
It was a rather awkward position indeed. Zuko took a moment to fully take in what they looked like. Aang was seated in his lap rather provocatively, gripping tightly onto his tunic with his head nuzzled under his chin. Zuko had one hand partly down the back of the boy’s trousers, the other bracing himself from falling down. The arm keeping him propped up ached from being stuck that way for many hours. Zuko and Aang looked at the others laughing at them, then at each other, and then finally at their position and let out a loud scream. Aang flew off him like he was something burning and fell flat on his face when the chain lost slack. Zuko smacked his face his palm and looked away, his face flushing. This only made the others laugh at them even more.
“Sleep well?” Katara giggled, covering her lips with the tips of her fingers.
“By the looks of it they slept really well,” Sokka snickered, putting emphasis on the word ‘really’ and nudged his sister with his elbow.
“Now, now,” Iroh came up behind the two siblings and put his hands on their shoulders, chuckling. “Surely this was completely accidental considering their current situation. I’m sure if you two were handcuffed together for the night you’d wake up in some interesting positions too.”
“But it wouldn’t be as funny,” Sokka made sure to point out.
Iroh couldn’t help but laugh. “True.”
“It’s not funny!” Aang and Zuko practically shouted at the same time.
“Sounds to me like it is,” Toph couldn’t help but snicker herself. However, her amusement was for a different reason.
Later that morning while the group was seated for breakfast, Aang and Zuko disdainfully having to sit next to each other, was flooded with a variety of interesting conversation. Katara chatted happily about the letter she received via carrier-hawk from the Earth King who was safely hidden at Kyoshi Island until they had confirmation from King Bumi that Omashu was safe again. According to her, he was doing well and was learning an awful lot about the horrible war he had been unaware of for many years. Sokka chose to make fun of Katara’s excitement for the young king and said something about her having a thing for men with power. In return for the rather unfunny remark (at least to her, though Sokka laughed like a loon) using her bending she took a strand of porridge from her bowl and slapped it into his face. Her brother grimaced and wiped his face off, head hung low in defeat.
Toph chose to have her breakfast seated next to Iroh. The two had been well acquainted in the past. With Katara and Sokka distracted by their squabble and Aang and Zuko trying their best (though failing horribly) to make well of their situation, Toph took this opportunity to confess something to the older man. She set her bowl down and politely tugged on Iroh’s sleeve. He was currently watching as his nephew and the young Avatar ate their breakfast and tried not to the allow each other to catch one another casting glances.
“Hey, um, can I talk to you for a minute?” Toph asked him rather politely. She felt she should be polite with Iroh because she respected him after a previous conversation they had. However, she chose to be rude with her young friends all she wanted. That was how her mind worked.
“Of course,” Iroh turned his head to face her and smiled. “What is you wish to discuss?”
“The only person who knows this is Sokka, though he probably forgot by now, but…. I can bend metal…” Her voice lowered to a whisper.
“Is that a bad thing?” Iroh raised a brow in surprise.
“No! I mean, it’s a rare ability for skilled Earthbenders, but the reason why I’m feeling a bit off is because….” Toph let her voice trail off.
“Oh!” The older man chuckled. “You’re saying you can bend off the handcuffs without a problem?”
Toph couldn’t help but giggle for a moment. “Well, yeah. Should I? I mean, based on all the laughter I hear it’s pretty funny…”
“Isn’t it?” Iroh placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’d say give them a day or two. I think this could be an important lesson for my nephew. A lesson about teamwork and social interaction. He hasn’t had much experience in any of that.”
“What about Aang?”
“The young Avatar’s been under so much stress lately. He could use a break. Let him cause a ruckus for Zuko. It’ll give him something fun to do.” Iroh smiled.
“Will do,” Toph grinned and then went back to eating her porridge and listening to the chaos unfolding around her.
Soon the merriment of breakfast faded into silence along with the crackling fire. Finally tired of picking fights with his sister for the morning Sokka chose to toss grapes at Momo’s mouth instead. Iroh had taken to cleaning off Appa’s horns for they had dirtied from their travels. Toph had disappeared into the forest to take care of business, leaving Zuko and Aang frowning at each other, and Katara poking at the vanishing fire with a stick. Bored, Katara looked up at the two disgruntled boys.
“Hey, Zuko,” Katara pointed the stick in Zuko’s direction. “The fire’s about to go out. Could you go fetch us some more wood please?”
Zuko grumbled and stood up, “Fine.” However, he was soon reminded of his situation when the chain tightened sharply as he tried to walk away. He glared at Aang.
“What?” Aang looked up at him. “Katara said for you to go, not me.”
“In case you’ve forgotten…” Zuko said with gritted teeth, lifting up his arm so the chain clanged.
“If you want me to help you, you just have to ask,” Aang gave him a playful smile.
“You’re coming with me whether you like it or not, monk,” Zuko tried again to storm off but Aang refused to budge so the chain jerked him back.
“Not until you ask me nicely,” Now Aang was just being smug.
Zuko sighed, clenching his fists. “Fine. Please, oh wise Avatar, would you kindly escort me into the woods to gather firewood?” He practically gagged at his own sarcasm.
“Alright,” Aang stood up with a broad grin plastered on his face. Obviously he was rather pleased with himself. Zuko rolled his eyes and stormed off into the woods, Aang purposely dawdling behind him just to be an annoyance.
“You do realize we have a couple of Firebenders with us now. We don’t really need firewood,” Sokka pointed out after Momo caught a grape in midair.
“I know,” Katara grinned. “I just want to see if they can make it back without killing each other first.”
“I knew you had a devious side to you, sis,” Sokka smirked.
Katara laughed and then peered into the woods with a thoughtful expression.
Deep in the forest, the two disgruntled boys who were handcuffed to each other were having a rather heated discussion. Apparently, they had been distracted from the task they were assigned. It seemed that even though they were practically stuck together they still refused to cooperate. Not to mention Zuko was being unbearably stubborn and Aang was just having loads of fun tormenting him. To a passerby it was a brilliant sight. Especially when they were arguing.
“Could you at least be of some help?” Zuko snapped as he tried to hold a huge pile of sticks and logs.
“Sorry,” Aang replied airily. “Katara told you to gather the wood, not me.”
“Yeah, well, you had to come along.” The teen thrust one of the larger sticks towards Aang. “So help.”
“Nope,” Aang smiled and replaced the stick back on top of the stack.
“You’re such a child,” Zuko grumbled, trying to shift weight onto one arm so he could fit more wood. “This is why I can’t stand you. So immature.”
Aang used his Airbending to hover slightly and peer over Zuko’s shoulder with a frown. “Oh, so now you can’t stand me, huh? Well, now I feel rather accomplished.”
“What, is it your goal now to make my life miserable?”
“Think of it as payback for all the time you spent tormenting us,” Aang gave him a broad grin.
“Gee, thanks,” Zuko frowned then hurried off to find his way back to camp. The chain made delicate noises as it lazily swung while they walked side by side, keeping as great a distance between them as possible.
Unfortunately, neither of them realized a tree was about to cut their walk short. As they strolled the chain wrapped around a large tree trunk and jerked them to a halt. They stumbled, Zuko’s firewood clattering to the ground in a heap. While trying to get around the tree, Aang tripped over an upturned root and landed on top of Zuko, sending him flat on his back and on top of the wood. The teen cried out as jutting twigs dug into his back. Groaning, Aang pushed himself up, looming over the older teen. Zuko looked up at him, panting from having the wind knocked out of him, blinking slowly. The few seconds their gaze locked felt like a few years.
“I hate you,” Aang said softly. There was not bitterness or resentment in the statement. It was more like he was making a realization for the first time.
“Same,” Zuko replied in a startling monotone. He kept his golden eyes fixed on Aang’s darker ones.
For some reason he may never realize, Aang took that moment to study Zuko’s face. His eyes trailed from the teen’s eyes to the dark scar that marred one side. He followed the ridges and then let his eyes wander down the rest of his face to stop at his pale lips, which were parted slightly from his panting. Licking his own lips Aang leaned in close, his face just mere inches from Zuko’s. Zuko looked at him with a rather perplexed expression, not sure whether he should shove him off or not. Aang closed his eyes, and was just about to close the distance between them when…
“Hey! Aang! Zuko! Where are you? It’s a forest! Not like wood’s hard to find in there!”
They could clearly hear Katara’s calls so they knew they were close to camp. Muttering to themselves, Aang pushed himself off of Zuko and got to his feet, brushing himself off. Zuko then stood up as well, though he had a much harder time because he had to brace himself with only one hand. He then tried to bend over and pick up the wood but had a great amount of difficulty.
“Here, let me help you,” Aang said softly, bending over to gather some wood in his arms.
Zuko arched a brow but said nothing, joining the boy on the forest floor to pick up the firewood he dropped. He was so fixated on getting his gatherings back in order he didn’t notice that Aang had briefly blushed crimson. They walked back to the campsite in silence, not even bothering to cast a glance at one another.
Later that evening after a day with little torment (Katara was pleased to see them walking back with what looked like an equal share’s worth of work accomplished) and even fewer awkward moments, Zuko decided he needed a bath to relax the day’s tension away. Ever since that brief moment in the forest he had been afraid to look at the monk attached to him, let alone speak to him. However, if he was to bathe properly something had to be done. Deciding to not bother announcing his evening plans Zuko stood up from his seat by the fire. Aang got up to follow without a word.
“Where are we going?” Aang asked quietly when they were away from camp.
“I want to take a bath,” Zuko replied, not bothering to look at him.
“A bath? Are you joking?” Aang’s expression was incredulous. “How do you expect to bathe like this?”
“With much difficulty I’m sure,” the older teen shot him a sideways glare.
Aang rolled his eyes. “It won’t work you know.”
They soon came across an empty patch in the woods with a clear lake glistening in the moonlight. Zuko smirked and made his way to the water’s edge, motioning for Aang to stay put.
“No peeking,” Zuko told him as he slipped out of his tunic. He raised one arm high and it slid down the chain. Aang caught it and held onto it.
“Ew! What makes you think I would?” Aang scrunched his face in disgust.
“No reason…” Zuko once again had to brush the event that happened earlier that day out of his head. “Just don’t. I like my privacy.”
“Fine,” Aang covered his eyes with one hand when Zuko starting removing his trousers.
Once he removed his clothing, Zuko stepped into the water with a sigh, shivering for a moment at how cold it was. Aang had to step back a bit as Zuko moved forward more into the water. He sighed again once he was settled, the water coming up just passed his waist. The young monk could hear a small splash as Zuko bent forward to dunk his head into the water to get his hair wet. Zuko’s contented hums as he washed caused a smirk to form on Aang’s face.
“If I didn’t know better I would’ve thought you were a girl,” Aang chuckled.
“Don’t be foolish,” Zuko snorted, running his fingers through his short black hair. He caught Aang peering through his fingers from the corner of his eye. “What’d I say about peeking?”
“Sorry,” Aang jumped for a moment, clamping his fingers shut. The chain clanged, Zuko’s end glittering from the water droplets. Fortunately, Zuko didn’t notice Aang’s brief blush.
“Just because I like to be clean and well-groomed doesn’t make me girlish,” Zuko told him, slashing water up and down his arms.
“Then what does it make you?” Aang couldn’t help but grin.
“Proper,” Zuko checked his own body out to make sure he didn’t miss a spot before getting out of the water. “Pass me my tunic.”
“Sure,” the tunic slid to Zuko and he slipped it back on. The top was soon followed by everything else.
“Much better,” Zuko sighed contentedly. “Just because I have to sleep with a bunch of piggish children doesn’t mean I have to look or smell like one.”
“Can I open my eyes, now?” Aang said in a sort of whine.
“Go ahead,” Zuko smirked and Aang’s hand fell of his face so he could blink back into focus.
“So,” Aang went up beside the teen. “Are you saying I stink?”
“Well…” Zuko shifted his gaze. “Maybe not you…But those Water Tribe peasants? They could learn a thing or two about proper hygiene.” They began to make their ay back to camp.
“Yeah, well. Listen, your Royal Highness, not everyone can be as primp and proper as you. They’re my friends and I like them just the way they are.” Aang told him.
The older teen scoffed. “You need better taste in friends then.”
“Just like I need better taste in enemies,” Aang shot him a glare.
“You mean like Azula?” Zuko glared in return, but couldn’t help a smirk as well.
“You know what I mean,” Aang let a smirk play across his face as well. Strangely enough, the clangs coming from the chain that bound them almost sounded content.
“Oh, so you’re saying I’m not good enough to even be your enemy?” Zuko snorted.
“Nor my friend,” Aang’s smirk turned into a grin.
“Thanks, glad to know I’m completely worthless in your eyes. Really, it just makes my heart dance to know that you couldn’t give more than two grains about me,” Zuko muttered in mild sarcasm.
“At least I can give more about you than you can about me,” the young Avatar chuckled.
“How do you know?”
“I’m the Avatar, I know these things,” Aang replied in an airy tone that was almost mocking his own position.
Finally the two of them emerged from the forest. The rest of the group looked up at them, some with a quizzical expression, others curious. Katara was the first to speak.
“Where did you two run off to? You almost missed dinner,” she told them with one brow raised.
“For a walk,” Aang replied, stretching his arms high above his head casually. The hand that had Zuko’s cuff attached to it raised slightly as well. “We were bored…At least I was.”
“Yeah,” Zuko lowered his gaze. “A walk. Nothing spectacular. As if there’s nothing better to do around here anyway.”
“Zuko,” Katara giggled. “You’re hair’s still wet.”
Brow twitching, Zuko almost burst. “Fine! I took a bath, so what? Is that a crime to you peasants?”
“No…” Sokka chuckled with a devilish grin. “It’s not…When you’re alone.”
“What are you implying?” Aang giggled nervously, looking horrified.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Sokka paced around the fire dramatically. “Two people disappearing into the forest, one of them coming back soaking wet? Looks a bit suspicious if you ask me…”
“What’s there to be suspicious about?” Zuko shouted, practically about to blast fire at him. He turned around to look at Iroh. “Uncle!”
Iroh had to cover his mouth to hold back laughter. “Okay, okay. It seems you two have suffered each other’s company long enough. I think you might’ve learned something, Prince Zuko…”
Aang and Zuko looked baffled, “Wait, what?”
“I think you boys are ready,” Iroh placed a hand on Toph’s shoulder who grinned from ear to ear.
“Step back, everyone,” Toph got up to walk towards the two. “Alright Twinkletoes, Flameboy, hold still.”
“W-What are you doing?” Aang looked at her nervously.
“You’ll see,” Toph smirked and with that the chain and cuffs vibrated like mad. It clanged loudly as if being tortured. Suddenly it burst, bits of metal scattering about. The two boys had to cover their eyes to keep from getting hurt.
“What….” Zuko looked at his now extremely pale wrist, which had finally been freed from its metallic constraint.
“Toph…” Aang looked at his friend, not sure whether to be happy or mad. “You can bend metal?”
“Yeah,” Toph shrugged like it was nothing.
Aang’s face suddenly turned a variety of different shades. “You can bend metal…and you never told me? Toph…”
“Oh, I just realized! Appa wants me to-to-to build him a cave! See ya!” Toph darted off, gaining speed using Earthbending.
“Toph! Get back here! I want a word with you!” Aang exclaimed, following after her.
Iroh couldn’t help but burst out laughing. Zuko turned to face him with a heated glare.
“Uncle…What do you mean by ‘learned something’?” The teen’s voice was cold and deadly.
“Well, nephew, don’t take this the wrong way but I thought it’d be a great opportunity for you to learn something…”
“Learn something…LEARN SOMETHING? I-“ The thought of the scene in the forest flashed in his mind. “I-“ Followed by what just happened by the lake. “I went through all of that…for a LESSON?” Flames were practically shooting from every orifice. “UNCLE!”
“You’ll thank me for it one day, nephew, you’ll see,” Iroh’s voice shrank as he dodged a fire blast flung his way.
“Uncle! That’s it! You, me, right now! Agni Kai!” Zuko shot another blast of flames, with Iroh deflected with a wall of his own. They went on like that for a while, while Aang chased Toph around the campsite.
Watching all of this unfold from the sidelines made the two Water Tribe siblings glad it wasn’t them for once. They then both proceeded to laugh loudly, rolling on the ground, clutching onto nothing. Katara had tears streaming down their cheeks. Sokka had to grip onto Appa’s leg for support. Even the two animals looked amused.
As the wise used to say, some things are better learned the hard way…
Hope you all enjoyed!