Life's Not Fair
Prince Zuko was not having a good day. Point of fact, Prince Zuko was having what most folk referred to as a "right shitty day all around."
Now, a lot of people think twisting their ankle and missing their rent payment means they're having a bad day. More intelligent people think being dumped by your true love and having your house robbed while you're at your true love's house being dumped means you're having a bad day. Even wiser people would admit that being beaten up by your crown-stealing younger sibling, stripped to your underwear, denied food or water, and left chained to a rock in the middle of the forest means you're having a bad day.
Not only was Zuko beaten up by his crown-stealing younger sibling and bound mostly-naked (and very thirsty) to a rock in the middle of the forest, but he gets to refer to his day as "shitty all around" because it was in this state that one of his many other enemies happened upon him.
Nope, not those pesky pirates. Nor was it the vengeful disembodied spirit of the late great admiral. It wasn't even a pack of opportunistic Earth Kingdom children looking for target practice.
No, it was the people Prince Zuko wanted to see least of all in the world at that moment: the Avatar and his merry entourage of sychophants and zoo animals.
The prince stared at them, not quite sure what to say. They stared back at his lack of clothing, also stunned into silence.
The moment dragged on.
"Whoa," the Avatar eventually said. At that, the water tribe boy started pointing and laughing hysterically. Zuko was too proud to close his eyes or look away, so he stared right back at them and tried to retain as much dignity as one in his circumstances possibly can. He noticed the girl wasn't laughing, but her gawking stare wasn't hardly better.
Eventually they got a hold of themselves and started discussing what, if anything, they should do in this situation. They were very pointedly loud about it, wanting to be certain he heard every new theory and all its potential consequences. Zuko used the experience to fuel his inner desire to kill things.
After at least ten minutes of debate, they decided the most appropriate solution was to leave him exactly where he was as a sight for the next passerby to enjoy, and the passerby after that. Why rob the rest of the Earth Kingdom of this most entertaining display? So with great pleasure they bowed mockingly, turned, and walked off. That is until the waterbender held up her hand.
"Wait," she said. "I forgot something."
She turned back and strode over to Zuko. He stared warily at her. She walked right up and looked him in the eye. Then she deliberately and slowly walked in a circle around him, making sure to stand as close as possible, even with the rock in the way behind him. Zuko stiffened and tried to lean back in the opposite direction. She grinned.
"What?" he snapped.
"Oh nothing," she said in a sing-song voice. "Just basking in the irony."
Zuko growled at her under his breath, and a tiny puff of flame escaped his nostrils.
She giggled, patted his head, and said, "Good horsey."
He roared and sent a stream of spiteful fire at her face, but the little insect had already scampered off into the trees with her friends, laughing.
Perfectly shitty end to a perfectly shitty day.
Zuko tugged in vain at his chains again, and stewed. As if everything else hadn't been bad enough, now the hateful girl was somewhere out there laughing at him. And she'd called him a... Zuko shook his head furiously, pony-tail swinging, and tried to wipe the entire encounter from his mind. There was only so much ignominy a person of royalty could take in single day. He decided to lean his head against the rock behind him and try and get some sleep.
Three minutes later it started to rain, and Zuko lost all faith in the world.
Dedicated to LJ's illumis, who pointed out Zuko's uncanny resemblance to a bad-tempered horse.