Pyrophobia

Summary: A little insight into Zuko's thoughts…and the poor guy's feeling pretty depressed
Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Pairings: None
Warnings: None
Disclaimer: Me no own, you know sue. Comprendez?
Author's Note: Wow, got a thing for angst, haven't I? I like Zuko, but I find it amusing to watch him suffer. You've gotta feel sorry for the guy – he gets a pretty raw deal in the canon. You have to admire his determination, though. It would have taken me all of a week to decide 'screw this; let's go get drunk or something'.

People assume that a bender cannot be hurt by their own element. I only have to look into the mirror to see that it is not so. A waterbender can drown. An airbender can suffocate. An earthbender could be buried alive. And a firebender burns just like everyone else.

I am still phobic about flames near my face.

People assume that I got my scar in an accident…which only goes to show you how stupid people really are. It can't really be that hard to comprehend the degree of precision required to burn the area around an eye so extensively without blinding the victim. The scar is distinctive if nothing else – a parting gift from my father. And people wonder why I'm so bitter.

I have acquired a reputation for being ruthlessly single-minded. Or is that just how people view the Fire Nation as a whole? In all honesty, I don't really care any more. We will win this war, irrespective of whether or not I capture the Avatar. My sister will inherit the throne – sooner rather than later, if I know Azula. The Fire Nation will reign supreme, etcetera, etcetera.

So where does that leave me?

I've heard jingoistic commanders and impressionable new recruits describing this perfect future so many times. And the more I hear about it, the more I come to realise that there's no place for me there. I'm a failure. I'm sixteen, and I've spent the majority of my teenage years roaming the world in one battered ship. And to add insult to injury, I'm getting thoroughly beaten by a twelve-year-old airbender.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

Ah, yes, of course – to restore my honour. But in the eyes of who, exactly - someone willing to sacrifice thousands of innocent lives as a diversion? A man who would maim and cast out his own son? I'm not like them. I refuse to believe that I am. I could have killed Zhao, but I chose not to. I could have destroyed Kyoshi, but I didn't. I am not like them. Perhaps I've allied myself with the wrong people.

Perhaps the Fire Nation's victory isn't as inevitable as I'd thought.

Perhaps I've been going about this all the wrong way.