Though I just posted a story post-Crossroads of Destiniy centered on Katara, I'm going to write one for Zuko. No, that doesn't mean Zutara. It means I'm feeling extrageekycreative tonight.

Setting: Post-Season 2 Finale. Zuko thinks of his decision and wonders; did he make the right one?

I'm well aware that once Season Three comes out, this fic will probably be totally redundant and useless. But it's so fun to write Zuko. The complex ones are always fun for me to write. Also, Mai is in this because the season finale made me like Ty Lee and Mai more; they're not bad girls...they just probably don't get/care what Azula's really trying to do. Hurrah for the writers making fun of Mai for being Avatar!Emo.

Zuko stood quietly beside his sister. The younger of the Fire Nation royalty observed her 'kingdom' with a disturbing look of satisfaction. Before, it wouldn't have phased him. Now, it got under his skin.

But he still didn't move. He stood silently next to the Earth King's throne and looked ahead.

"Father will be proud that you and I have taken Ba Sing Se"

"Yes," he answered. But he didn't truly believe it. If Azula knew, if he dropped his guard for a moment, she'd turn on him.
Azula was cunning with words; no matter how he detested her, envied her, she would speak and make him feel like whatever she was saying was the truth. It was a skill she'd learned from their father.

She's crazy and she needs to go down.

His uncle's words echoed in his mind. She had lied before,; what would stop her from lying again?

...No. Father would accept him back; he thought. He would have to; the prince had helped capture in a few weeks what a century of besigeing hadn't been able to accomplish.

But his uncle's words would not leave his mind. The utter shame in the old man's eyes as they took him away struck Zuko deep.

And the Avatar; he didn't have the Avatar. His sister had almost killed the boy; he'd seen it before a wall of water fell over him. Even for honor, that was too much. As much as Zuko wanted his honor back, he never would have killed anyone for it. He'd offered help to Zhao (whose refusal had led to his death). Defending the lives of soldiers had given the young man the scar which branded him. He could change his name and how he looked, but that would always be there.

Even if the waterbender had offered to heal it. That wouldn't have been possible; even if for one fleeting moment he believed her. He wondered what she had thought of his choice; did she hate him or, like his uncle, just felt ashamed at his actions?

Despite himself, he worried for his uncle, and he worried for the boy. He absently found himself hoping that the Avatar was okay. When he caught himself doing that, he put it out of his mind.

"She always lies," he would try to remind himself. But Azula kept spinning webs of words around him. Distantly, she didn't seem geniuine.

Zuko was offered a seat. He took it, and still said nothing.

"...that you, Zuko?"

The prince looked up to see a young woman staring at him. She seemed vaugely familiar.

"Do I...know you?"

Unlike every other time he said it, it hadn't come out condescending. The girl closed her eyes, thinking for a moment. Zuko looked again; she was familiar. He did know her.

"Where do I..."

"You pushed me into the fountain"

Oh. Her. A sharp tinge of a blush registered in his cheeks.

"Sorry for that, Mai," he responded, turning his scarred eye away from her.

"It's alright," she stepped closer, up the steps to actually talk. Neither talked for a while.

"Azula said something about you traveling."

No response.

"She said your father sent you on some mission; she said you stood up to the Fire Lord".

Zuko clenched his teeth, but responded.

"I did"

The nihilistic voice of Mai softened only slightly as she reached to turn Zuko's face.

"Not going to tell me why, are you?"

Zuko pulled away, and stood up. Mai caught a glimpse of the dark scar marring the prince's pale face. She stepped to the side and said nothing as the prince walked away.

"Azula always lies," he muttered. "And so do her friends. Always lies. Always"

"Brother?" It was Azula's cold voice, like steel.

"Yes, Azula?" he was submissive, even though it felt wrong.

"Where are you going?"

"Bed", he chanced to slide past her towards new chambers.

"Always lies. She always lies". The mantra would never stick, but he tried not to believe her. It was hard to believe someone who spun illusions like honor and pride in front of you was lying.