Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Rating: PG/PG-13 (Alcohol and sex mentioned)
Characters/Pairings: Aang/Zuko, Mai/Zuko
Word Count: 3,560
Zuko was tired. It was seven at night. His car was the last one in the lot. His office was the last one lit. But it was the price he had to pay. He was the youngest VP at FN Corp. He didn’t need any rumors of his promotion being some underhanded family deal. His father was a president, his grandfather was majority stock holder and a great-uncle of his was the CEO of the company, Zuko might be young, but he knew how it would look to most. It probably was actually the case. It wasn’t that uncommon. No matter, it was now his job to prove that hiring him had been the right choice. If it meant arriving at work first, and leaving last so be it.
Zuko liked his job well enough, and he was good at it. His personal life was a landmine right now; it was nice to get away from it. His long-time girlfriend was getting to be more of a headache, and he had never had time to make many friends. In college he had been too busy trying to join the right clubs, get the right internships. He was honestly surprised he had even had time to meet his girlfriend then. It was kind of characteristic though; he met her at a one of the annual social functions of his father’s. Her father had been friends with his. She came along to network. It just fell into place, and it had made sense. They were both ambitious and smart.
She had looked so stunning in that red dress, Zuko thought as he realized his eyes were drooping shut and that the flickering of the monitor was giving him a headache. He should just go home. He was at a good enough stopping point. He leaned back on his chair, stretching. The young executive loosened his tie and got ready to leave. He turned off the light to his office and locked the door. Sometimes he would bring work home with him, but not tonight. Tonight he just wanted to relax and watch whatever the TV network executives deemed popular. It would likely make Mai happy for once, if such a feat was possible.
He turned the hall lights off as he left. By the time he left the building would be just an empty dark structure. During the day it was packed to the gills with people and activity. On good days it was positively chaotic, energizing, exhilarating. But the good days were gone. Now there was one obstacle, which almost everyone was working on in some capacity. Sure progress was made, enough to keep them in business, but not enough to grow as much as they wanted to. The problem of the Avatar. The Avatar estate to be exact. They owned just enough shares to block the acquisition. The heir to the estate recently came of age, but could not be located. In press reports and the like he had said that he was going to follow in his ancestor’s path and resist the any take-overs of other companies. It had become Zuko’s duty to find this young heir and convince him to go along or at least sell his shares. Then they could finally complete their takeover of Earth King Inc. He could never remember the boy’s name, it began with an A and was unusual.
Zuko resented the duty a bit, because the Avatar estate would not have been an issue if they had been able to make the preparations to take over Earth King Inc. sooner. He resented having to pick up what he saw as his father’s mess.
He got to the first floor. There were loiterers by the door. That was bothersome. Teenagers hanging out in parking lots are rarely good for business. Kids these days have more time and passion than sense, and FN didn’t exactly have the best press. Zuko made a mental know to press the building owners to pay for a full-time overnight security guard. With how much they were paying in rent, it wasn’t an unreasonable request.
“And then I got in,” a young boy with strange hair said, telling some stupid tale of exploit. Just judging by appearances, Zuko reckoned that the boy was not pursuing higher education.
They weren’t as young as Zuko had thought the crowd would be, and there was only three of them. Still they had an unwashed look to them that didn’t sit well with him.
“But she totally blew me off! It sucked!”
“You’re kidding!” a girl, slightly younger said – probably the boy’s sister or cousin. She had curly hair and a certain beauty to her. If she had taken better care of herself, and used more product to tame her hair, she might’ve been beautiful.
Zuko turned and raised an eyebrow at them, and doing his best I’m-an-authority-figure voice. “Can I help you with anything? I’m sorry but this building will not be open until eight tomorrow morning, please return then.”
The boy and girl ran, only the third person, a boy who was still a teenager, maybe even a minor remained. There was something interesting about him. Zuko couldn’t put his finger on it.
With a confident smile the boy said, “I’ll see you some other time then. Thank you…”
“Zuko,” the young VP said. “And who might you be?”
“I’m no one special,” the boy said. “You can call me Michael.”
“And what, Michael, will be the nature of your visit to FN Corp. tomorrow?”
“I know what you want to do to Earth King Inc., and I’m going to stop it.”
“I see. I hope you don’t have your heart too set on it. It’s inevitable. Big businesses take over small businesses all the time. It is the way the world works. Have a good night.”
Zuko turned and walked to his car. The boy didn’t seem to be a threat. He was smaller, and had a certain vulnerability to him. It didn’t matter. Some teenager, or even three, weren’t going to be able to interfere with their business. Still, it was curious, their planned takeover of Earth King Inc. wasn’t supposed to be public knowledge yet. He should notify Zhao about a possible mole. If they had a disgruntled employee giving secrets to random teenagers, it had to be dealt with, and it was Zhao’s job to deal with things.
Zhao was one of the rising stars of FN Corp., he began in the mail room, worked his way up high, now he only reported to the CEO. That was the reward he had gotten for having JJ as a mentor. JJ used to be one of the VPs before he went mad and left for some hippie feel-good co-op commune thing. Zuko didn’t like Zhao, but his father saw him as a necessary evil. And for now he had to play along with what his father wanted. Maybe after he got to be CEO he’d get rid of Zhao.
Zuko sighed as he got in his car. The kid was still in the parking lot. “Hey kid, don’t you have a home to go to?”
The boy walked off without a word. Zuko hoped it would be the last he saw of the kid. He had enough to deal with.
“Your dinner’s cold,” Mai greeted him in a tone that made the lukewarm meal seem piping hot by comparison. They had been dating five years, and just began living together last year. Mai had been the one to suggest it. She said that it’d make easier for them to see each other with their busy schedules.
“I told you not to bother,” Zuko began warily. They had this fight every night. He could predict what she was going to say before she said it.
“Oh, so you ate on your way home then?!”
“No, but I don’t want you to go out of your way.”
“We’re living together! We’ve been living together for almost a year, we’re almost married! You should let me do more for you.”
“I didn’t agree to move in with you so you could play housewife.”
“You should just break up with me if you don’t want to marry me.”
“Who said anything about me not wanting to marry you?!”
“Then why haven’t you proposed yet! My mother cries over us living together every time she calls!”
“If her feelings are so important to you, you shouldn’t have moved in with me.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t have!”
Cue the water works. It happened like this every time. He moved in to comfort her, and she pushed him away.
“Why don’t you marry me already?”
“We’ve talked about this before Mai.”
“At least propose to me! I’m getting old! I want to have a baby. I don’t want to have to pray that we’ve able to conceive when we’re in our forties!”
Zuko sighed. He couldn’t give her what she wanted.
“Look we’ve both had a long day,” he suggested calmly, as he took off his suit jacket and threw it on the couch. “We should get some sleep, we both need rest.”
That’s what he always said, it never really worked though. What did she want? They had been over it a million times. They had a lot of school debt. They lived in a one-room apartment. Because of his position he was told he needed to live in the expensive area of town. It was all they could afford with both of them working. They had no way to afford a down payment on a house, much less a mortgage. Zuko didn’t want to raise a baby in a crowded apartment, especially not if Mai had to be working full time just to afford it.
Mai stormed off to their bedroom. She threw the closet doors open and picked out a dress. It was the one that showed off her shoulders.
“What are you doing?” Zuko asked, trying to hide the annoyance in his voice.
“I’m going out,” Mai replied curtly. “Ty Lee called earlier and said she wanted to go dancing.”
Zuko opened his mouth to object, but closed it, thinking it better just to be silent.
“I’m going to stay over at her place tonight,” Mai continued, in a short a matter of fact tone. “So you don’t need to worry about me waking you up if I get in late.”
“Stay safe,” Zuko said breaking the silence as Mai fished through her jewelry box for her favorite dangly earrings. “You’re important to me.”
“I know,” Mai said, her anger subsiding a bit frustrating surfacing.
“Say hi to my evil sister for me,” Zuko said with a smile. “Tell her that when she gets done with business school I’ll make sure to fire my secretary, so she can have that job.”
Mai laughed. It had been the first time he had heard her laugh in weeks. “No thanks, I want to live to be an old lady.”
“You won’t just be an old lady,” he corrected her with a gentle smile, enjoying the happy energy between them. “You’ll be my old lady.”
“So you’re proposing to me?” Mai said, a smile on her face, and an eyebrow raised.
Zuko had gone too far. He answered lightly, “Not tonight, but soon.”
“I’ll show you the ring I want,” Mai said her disappointment audible. “Next time we go out together.”
“Sure,” Zuko agreed, lying threw his teeth. He knew Mai had expensive taste.
“See you tomorrow,” Mai said trying to make her voice happy and light as she put her shoes on and went out the door.
“Yeah,” Zuko agreed. After seeing her off he went to the kitchen. On the table was some Italian-looking dish. It was indeed cold. Cold but edible. Edible was all he needed.
It wasn’t even nine when he sat down to watch the television and eat. He flipped through channels. All that was on were variety shows and other mind-numbing nonsense. He turned it off and sat down and ate by himself. As soon as he finished, he put the dishes in the sink and thought of what he wanted to do that night.
Dancing didn’t sound too bad. Maybe he should try to go out and find Mai. That might be nice. He hadn’t done anything nice to surprise her. It might not be the surprise she wants, but there was no way he could afford the ring or the baby that would make her really happy.
What was the name of the dance hall she said she liked to go to? Was it The Frog or The Toad or something like that? It was some amphibian or something. Maybe it was The Newt? It couldn’t be too far. He put a coat on and decided to walk to it.
Ty Lee was a strange girl. If she hadn’t been friends with Mai since they were little, he would’ve avoided her like the plague. She was exactly the type of woman he didn’t have much respect for. She came from a good family but threw it all away without a second thought. She always had at least a half-dozen boyfriends. What was worst was that she seemed to have no goals or dreams of her own. She was content just to get by, and to mooch off of whoever she could. He was just honestly waiting for the day when Mai would inform him that Ty Lee had been abusing drugs or something like that.
He found his way to a place called “The Frog” judging by the long line of men waiting out in front of it; it looked like it probably was the type of place Ty Lee would like. She was predictable if nothing else.
The bouncer let him easily enough. Zuko surveyed the crowd. It was crowded, smoke filled the air. He tried to navigate through the crowd, looking for Mai or at least Ty Lee. Ty Lee was normally really easy to find, just look for the girl surrounded by a circle of guys. That method wasn’t working well for Zuko, as the majority of the patrons were guys.
The vast majority.
The great vast majority.
It dawned on him that the clientele of the bar might be such that the company of women was not necessary for the patrons to have a good time. He paused. Someone grabbed his butt before disappearing into the crowd. After the initial panic wore off Zuko realized that it was probably best that his girlfriend was going dancing at a gay bar. Less temptation to for her to cheat. Not that she was the cheating type.
“Zuko!” a young male voice called out.
Zuko turned around. He didn’t know any queers. Why was someone calling his name? Who did he know who wouldn’t have the good sense not to call his name loudly in such a place? Images of his picture in tabloids with the caption “FN Corp’s heir a fag?” appeared in his head. He needed to leave. Now.
He made it to the door when he felt a tug on his sleeve. It was the boy from earlier in the parking lot. The teen: Michael.
“Stay!” the boy said, as if he had the power to command him.
“I can’t be seen here,” Zuko explained shortly. “Coming here was a mistake.”
“I want to dance,” the teen announced, ignoring Zuko’s concern. “Dance with me!”
Zuko sighed. “Whatever! Just stop calling me by my name like that,” he found himself saying.
“That’s fine,” the boy agreed. “I’ll call you Michael.”
“Michael is your name,” Zuko pointed out crossly. He had been lied to.
“If you dance with me I’ll tell you my real name,” the boy said with an impish smile.
Zuko obliged him. At first dancing with the youth was really awkward, he wasn’t sure if he should lead or how it should work. But time and the beers he drank made it easier. It was the most fun he could remember having in a long time. All too soon he realized that as much fun as dancing was, he had to work the next day and it was getting late.
“I should get going,” Zuko said when a relatively quiet portion of a song played.
“Okay,” the teenager said. “I want to blow this joint too.”
“No,” the twenty-something VP clarified. “I mean I should get going home.”
“Your place is fine.”
“No it’s not –“
The music’s volume picked up. Zuko frowned. Trying to talk in a crowded dance floor was like trying to sculpt ice in a furnace, pointless. He was just going to leave. He had tried to be nice to the youth, but the kid was too dense. He’d just leave the boy behind. The kid seemed comfortable enough.
As soon as Zuko left the building he shivered, the air had gotten colder, how long had he been dancing? He looked at his wrist expecting a watch.
“Give me my watch back,” Zuko said crossly. Away from beer, dancing, and hopelessly upbeat music he was no longer in good humor.
“Let me stay with you tonight.”
“Out of the question!” Zuko fumed. “You’re a child. You’re a boy. I’m not gay. I don’t like you. Just give me my stupid watch.”
“I saw how you were looking at me earlier,” the boy pointed out, making Zuko come as close to blushing as he had ever come since he hit puberty.
The boy was a child. He wasn’t going to let a mere child get under his skin. He turned and walked away. “Fine, keep the watch.”
He could hear the footfalls of the youth following him.
“Are you sure? It’s an awfully nice watch.”
“Yes, you can sell it and rent a decent room for the night,” Zuko said irritably. “You want a place to stay, use that as your ticket.”
“You’re deep in the closet aren’t you?”
“Look I don’t even know your name. I have a girlfriend.”
“So did the guy I slept with last,” the boy said with a smirk. “He had a nice suit like you too.”
“You’re a runaway aren’t you?”
“Won’t your parents miss you tonight?”
“They’re dead. They get to miss me every night,” the boy replied with a bit of dry humor. He had to have been watching too much Monty Python.
“I have no use for a rent boy,” Zuko said bluntly. “I am not going to be your client. Go back to the bar and find some other man in a suit.”
He turned and walked away. It was best this way.
“My name is Aang,” the teenager confessed, throwing the watch at Zuko’s back. “I don’t want your money. I just want to spend the night with you.”
Zuko sighed, he picked up his watch. It was about two am. He didn’t have any more time to waste with an annoying teenager. The name was odd, he was sure he had heard it before, but he couldn’t quite place it.
“Fine,” Zuko said. “You can come home with me. But when I kick you out in the morning, that’s the last time I will ever see you.”
Aang smiled, and put his arm in Zuko’s and said cheerfully, “Come on, let’s go.”
Zuko pulled his arm away from the boy and they made their way to his place in relative silence.
“Welcome to Casa de Zuko,” the young VP said sarcastically.
Aang’s eyes widened. “Wow, this is a really nice place.”
“The bed’s through that door,” Zuko told the boy. “I’ll sleep on the couch-”
Zuko was irrupted by a kiss. He had never kissed another guy before. It wasn’t like kissing a woman. He pushed Aang away.
“I know you want it,” Aang said, looking up at Zuko coyly.
“You’re a child-”
“I’m not queer. I’ve got a girlfriend.”
“Then why should my kissing you bother you so much? Why don’t we just see where this goes?”
Zuko wasn’t sure if it was the exhaustion, or the beer, or just his weakness, but he and the boy did find out where it went. It went to the bedroom.
Zuko’s alarm went off promptly at 6 am. It was way too early. He hit the snooze bar and rolled over. There was a boy in his bed. He decided that work didn’t really need him until 8 am.
At 8 am Zuko strolled into work. His clothes were properly pressed. His hair done better than it had been in a while. And the receptionist, Lo, or maybe it was Li, Zuko always had a hard time telling them apart, commented that he seemed to have more of a spring in his step than usual.
Zuko got to his office, and looked at the terminal at his desk. He had a new message. He opened it. More new information about the heir of the Avatar estate. He opened his notes to add them to it. He liked keeping a paper record; computers crashed often and were difficult. On the first page something caught his eye. He had the name of the heir to the Avatar estate written down; it had been discovered not too long after he started keeping notes.
It said: "Aang."