I found an old fic I thought I'd lost. It takes place a year after Book 3 ends, but it was written in 2006/2007, during Book 2. Then I shipped Katara and Zuko like it was my job, so the writing's meant to reflect that. I don't ship them now so the story would obviously need to be rehabbed to reflect my preferences for canon couplings. I mean...it's a gen fic, but there are a few obvious instances when the reader is made clear that I was setting up the plot to reflect a Zutara shipping preference.
The setting: One year after the end of Book 3. Aang, Katara, and Sokka are in the western Earth Kingdom where they meet up with Zuko who has literally been off the grid since Azula conquered Ba Sing Se. No one knows where he's been, or what he's been doing, but the Order has been tracking him because Iroh has asked them to keep an eye on him. Iroh and the Order are the only people who know he's alive. Everyone else thinks he's dead which is fine by him.
Iroh is Fire Lord. Ozai is dead as is Azula. Never quite worked out the how and why of that. I was always going to cover the events through a series of flashbacks once I had worked out the details. Long story short: Iroh went back to the Fire Nation to challenge Ozai to a long, overdue Agni Kai with the full backing of an OWL army to take control if things got crazy. When he gets there, Ozai had left the Fire Nation to secure Ba Sing Se because rebellion had struck out all over the city the day before, leaving Azula behind to run things at home.
Azula wanted to go back to Ba Sing Se to stop the rebellions since she was the one who conquered the city in the first place, and had sent out an executive order to the army that she would be returning to the city, an order that the OWL intercepted. But Ozai was angry with her for leaving the city before it had been properly secured and returning home. Without telling her, he just leaves for Ba Sing Se with her personal guard and her Dai Li. His unwillingness to let her go back and take care of business was his way of saying "If I want something done right, I have to do it myself, apparently!"
In Ba Sing Se, Smellerbee and Longshot, who were trapped in the city once the Fire Nation took control and locked it down, started the rebellions themselves, massing quite an impressive rag-tag army of angry earthbenders, retired soldiers, and other warriors. The smiths in the Lower Ring donated weapons to the cause and many of the wealthy people gave them plenty of financial backing. So Ozai issues the ultimatum: "Fall in line or, when the comet arrives, I will burn the entire city to the ground." And of course that doesn't happen..
So that's why Ozai was going to Ba Sing Se.
Fast Forward one year: Terrorism is a thing in the EK as EK citizens and FN colonists slug it out to protect what they have. There's a bunch of hinky spirit stuff I barely touched upon that was happening. When I left off, everyone was being visited by dead loved ones, and the world was falling into chaos. It was my wish fulfillment to write a story with a whole bunch of crazy natural disasters and so that's what I was doing. There was also something about an exploding meteor. (No, really.) We're talking SyFy Original Movie level writing! :) Plus, Zuko... So over-the-top. Iroh was going to make Toph the Fire Lord upon his death. Ty Lee was in the OWL, Mai was stalking Zuko, Jet was alive, and Azula came back from the dead in some spirit thingy just to scare people. And it's written in 1st Person. It's so bad... I love it!
Maybe I should just resign myself to writing crazy fic because that is all I can seem to write. This morning I was toying around with the idea that I could write a sort of "thing" where Ursa is back at the palace with Zuko, Iroh is there as an adviser, too. It all sounds so harmless--a nice slice of life story with maybe some political stuffs and cameos from other characters..
Then I ask myself the important question every fan fiction reader asks? "WHERE IS PIANDAO?" So then I have to write him into this thing. And the best I could come up with is Azula wanted to live in a castle but Zuko didn't want her living in his castle so he bought Piandao's castle and moved Azula into it, far away from him. So Piandao just kinda hangs out there and spends his days with Iroh or hitting on Ursa. Then, for some reason, I needed Jeong Jeong to be there even though that makes even less sense. Then it became a crude buddy/work place comedy situation like Archer or Trailer Park Boys or It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Everybody is on OOC crack. Ursa is basically Malory Archer on steroids, micro-managing everyone. Iroh is acting like Xavier: Renegade Angel, talking and making even less sense than he did in Book 3, and Piandao is just--I don't even know. Jeong Jeong is trying to kill Piandao (and I titled the chapter, "Iroh Watches While Jeong Jeong Tries To Kill Piandao" because Piandao wrote and sold an unflattering unauthorized biography about Jeong Jeong and, apparently, a drinking game.
This morning, in the span of less than five minutes, I went from, "Hey, let's write a story about Zuko as Fire Lord, being surrounded by people who care about him," to "Let's write a story where Jeong Jeong tries to kill Piandao!"
So then I try to change it up. I decide to think of something for Legend of Korra. Things are okay. I think I have an idea for a one shot where Asami talks with Lin after she loses her bending. Then it hits me...
Zombies! Zombies everywhere! Zombies in Repubic City! DEAD REPUBIC! Piandao, one hundred thirty years old, with a sword, a shot gun, and lots and lots of zombies just all over the place. And then I get sad because there isn't a video game where I can play as Piandao and run around Republic City killing zombies with Ozai being King Zombie! That doesn't even make sense, I'm just sayin'...