It’s a fun ‘verse isn’t it, anon? I think I like it better than the “original flavor” 😛
So let’s see… for the first, I’m gonna say yes–and give you a ficlet in a bit–because FN!Tetsuki meeting Zuko has a sort of drama that is entirely different from original Iron Will. But the second I’m going to say… hm… maybe…
It’s partially no mostly because the first meeting Tetsuki would have with the Gaang, regardless of FN version or original version, would be as part of the Freedom Fighters, so not much difference there. And then every subsequent meeting after that–as far as the Gaang are concerned–she’s just one more Fire Nation girl who is trying to kill them. Not much difference than what their brief interactions with Mai and Ty Lee are, then.
But it’s also partially yes because… well… FN!Tetsuki really is a lot more fun than the original flavor Iron Will and so if I ever properly write Iron Will I may just go the FN!Tetsuki route completely. Like with (En)Closure, a lot of the ficlets on here are me throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks, and the fact that Tetsuki being Azula’s bodyguard is so compelling is, frankly, sticking really well.
So maybe on the Gaang, which for all intents and purposes of this ask box event means no. But maybe one day I’ll get to writing Iron Will in a coherent, consistent manner. (HAHAHAHAHA, uh, my poor series, what have they done to deserve me as a writer)
Anyway, here’s that FN!Tetsuki meets Zuko ficlet:
The first time you come to court is as Azula’s–friend, follower, servant, plaything, you’re not sure, you don’t much care–you try not to gawk at the sheer opulence like the absolute hoyden you are.
Your origins were humble, for all that your bloodline says otherwise, your early years were spent in forest camps and rough villages with barely enough people to be considered such. Your father worked best on the frontier, amongst people who would never know or care about what kings and lords got up to so long as they could take care of their basic needs.
In another life, you might have been much the same.
But even going from that to your grandparents’ holdings–their mansion only one in comparison to the utterly tiny buildings in the town around it–is nothing like the adjustments required here.
“You’re making a scene,” Mai sighs, informing but uncaring. Hypocrite. Her family is better off than yours, but they’re nouveau riche–the court is an entirely different sort of splendor than she’s used to as well.
“Who needs ceilings that high?” You respond rather than feel chastened. You’re not the one making a scene, you are insignificant in the trail of Azula as it should be. “How do people even get up there? The servants must, there would be cobwebs otherwise.”
“Who cares what the servants do?” Mai says, a droll sort of thing meant to shame you once more. She is not Azula, her words have no bite.
Ty Lee giggles, “Maybe they stack on top of each other to reach the ceilings.”
You consider the thought, smile at the image, “I doubt it,” you disagree, but temper it with flattery, “I don’t think any servants are as skilled as you are.”
“Obviously,” Mai says–less in agreement to the compliment and more out of disparaging those inferior–but it still makes Ty Lee grin brightly.
“Quiet,” Azula says, not even turning around to address you to your faces. It gets the job done anyway. “I don’t have to remind you to be on your best behavior, do I?”
It is threat more than question, but plausibly deniable permission on top of that.
Then Azula turns around, a small, sideways smile on her lips. “Let’s show the court exactly what we learned at the Academy.”
Nothing catches on fire–both surprising and not in a hall full of benders–but Ty Lee does manage to get up to the ceiling by way of hanging banners and three tactless young officers end up with stab wounds.
Only one of them was your fault.
Bizarrely enough, you meet the Dragon of the West before the Fire Nation prince. Or perhaps it is not so odd given the way the boy avoids his younger sister.
It is incidental when you meet him, the Dragon of the West, the would-have-been Fire Lord were it not for his lost son.
You wonder, briefly, what it must be like to have a father who would ruin himself at losing you. But, of course, you would have no idea where to begin.
It is as you are wandering the halls–not lost, merely… exploring–that you happen upon each other.
“Your eyes,” says the Dragon of the West, surprised, and you look away quickly, flushing, self-conscious. Your eyes are grey and green and nothing at all like flames.
“Please excuse me, your highness,” you murmur before scuttling away.
You get even more lost before a maid happens upon you and is kind enough to guide you back. As befitting your borrowed status, she does not look you in the eyes.
You will never know this, but it was not the color of your eyes that surprised the Dragon of the West but rather their age.
He would have said they were old eyes in a young face.
He would have been right.
The first time you meet Zuko it is from two steps behind Azula as is your place. He barely even notices you–which internally you sneer as a lack of situational awareness, but you know has more to do with the way he practically flinches away from his younger sister.
This? This is supposed to be the future Fire Lord?
Unfortunately, it’s not so much about him as a person as it is him as a symbol–there is no argument that Azula is the better heir, more talented, more compelling, the kind of leader that would bring greatness to the nation. But there will still be traditionalists and opportunists who prefer him over her. Those who cling foolishly to birth order and sex, those who would rather have an easily manipulated Fire Lord.
His mere existence is a threat to Azula’s reign.
The second time you meet Zuko, you actually exchange words.
In plain clothes and a houndsnake coiled loosely around your shoulders, you look nothing like a royal attendant.
He recognizes you anyway, if belatedly, apparently not so unobservant as you thought.
“Fire Nation Prince Zuko,” you say to the Freedom Fighters, most of them too thrilled at capturing their prey to pay any attention to his face or yours.
“Let me go,” he says. He struggles with the ropes. Futilely tries to burn them away.
“I wouldn’t bother,” you say, “they’re enforced with wire. You’d only end up burning yourself.”
Jet laughs at the irony and, after a beat, so do the others. He takes over at this point, as is his wont. He still thinks he’s in charge. It’s useful, so she’ll let him. “Listen up, Fire Nation scum,” he starts on his spiel, “we are the children of those you killed, those you oppressed. We’re what happens when–”
“Did Azula put you up to this?” Zuko asks, interrupting Jet, and if there is anything bitter in his tone, resigned and expectant, then it is too mild for you to hear.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” you say, because why would you ever give up your cover at his behest, “I’m just an Earth Kingdom orphan trying to strike back against Fire Nation tyranny.”
In another life, you wouldn’t be lying at all.