this falls Canonically -- Uhm, I would say just before the Episode "The
I think. It is AU though so yeah, it's like from there and then slants off into it's own wacky direction.
There! I've finally stopped talking about it and managed to write this silly thing! I've been promising it to my friends for ages and kept getting distracted by other things. Hi guys!
I don't think it's terrible Cliched but I do it sometimes without meaning to, see I love Folklore and Mythology to death (yes yes, I know some of you are painfully aware of that) and so my whole life is built around the sort of "standard" plots. I like to think I put my own twist on them but if I start bothering you feel free to tell me.
and so you know I'm not stalking you-- though I'm certain a large
portion of you have skipped on to the story already-- I use and abuse
the review reply feature. Be warned.
The forest was still and quiet, spring was changing slowly into summer and the leaves were turning from that sweet spring green into that deep and vibrant green of the hotter months. It was still cool enough that the fire was necessary but he had kept it small just to be safe.
He glanced across the fire at the bound figure of the Avatar. Like this he certainly didn't look like the Master of all four elements, he just looked like a child, bound, gagged and beaten. There was a sour twist of guilt in the pit of Zuko's stomach.
He reminded himself that this was the Avatar, that it wasn't just a child. Here, laying bound on the forest floor was his way home, the key to earning his father's love and approval. It wasn't really a child, it wasn't anything but a means to an end. The thoughts did little to comfort him and in the back of his mind was an image of Iroh's face, looking sad and betrayed.
The fire flared to life and Zuko cursed under his breath, closing his eyes and drawing in a deep breath through his nose. He held it a moment and let it out slowly. The flames flickered and died, falling under their own control once more. Only his father mattered, he would restore Zuko's honor and love him and treat him like a son.
The Avatar started to shiver, his teeth chattering together even in the soft warmth of the evening. Zuko sighed heavily and stood, skirting around the fire and dropping to the balls of his feet, turning the frail body onto its back. The Avatar had always been a bit pale, the blue ink of his tattoos saw to that, but now his skin had that waxy sort of pale color that accompanies illness.
He felt his jaw clench tightly as he tried to get a rein on his anger again. Of all the things to have happen this was probably one of the worst. The Avatar, savior of the people and near-mythical figure was a child, and his body was weak, and he was ill.
Judging by the flaming heat of his flesh there was no way he would survive the arduous journey to Ozai's throne room, which left Zuko only one option. He had never been formally trained in healing, why would he? There was no need for a Prince to stoop to helping someone in his army, there were surgeons for that very reason. But when he...when he and Iroh were on that one ship with that one crew it sometimes became necessary for everyone to pitch in, and when he and Iroh escaped the North Pole, they had to do everything for themselves.
He knew a little, and he fumbled a lot, but he set to work trying to heal the Avatar so he'd be alive long enough to reach Ozai?
And then what?
And then the Fire Lord would do what was necessary.
Kill him. Save the Avatar so that Ozai might have the honor of killing him.
The sour feeling of guilt twisted in Zuko's stomach again and he tried not to think. Right now, all that mattered was that he had the Avatar, he had won and he wasn't going to lose him now when there might be something he could do.
The Avatar would get better, Zuko would bring him into the Fire Nation and everything would get better.
Iroh entered the camp slowly, the Ostrich-horse laden down with Agni only knew what, and inspected the scene before him. His outward appearance didn't actually change but he seemed older and sadder the moment that he beheld the bound Avatar. He didn't say anything, and Zuko was startled by his reaction. He actually felt bad. He felt bad for having captured the Avatar for a brief second because it so obviously disappointed his dear Uncle.
But that didn't matter, his father would be proud, his father would love him, his father would be thrilled.
"We don't have a ship anymore Uncle, you can't just buy everything you see at a Market." Zuko sighed, hoping their old argument would stir the old man to life. Surely Iroh had to realize that this was important. It was important for Zuko to earn his honor back and the Avatar would allow him to do that. If the boy didn't fight so hard Zuko wouldn't have had to hurt him, and Zuko had every intention of helping him as much as possible.
His Uncle glanced over one shoulder at the young prince but said nothing, merely got out his old tea set and started to make tea, his face still looking much older and sadder.
Zuko sighed, frustrated. Iroh would come around eventually.
"He doesn't look well Zuko." Iroh murmured later as he was pouring the tea, it smelled sickly sweet and Zuko couldn't name it from where he was.
"He'll get better. We can stay here for a little." He glanced to the Avatar. "We'll stay here until he wakes up at least, he isn't any use to me dead." That had been the wrong thing obviously. His Uncle shook his head very softly and glanced down into the cup he held between his large hands. Zuko felt the fires of his anger twisting and twining like snakes in his chest and he had to take several deep breaths to calm himself
Why was his life so hard? No matter what he did someone always seemed disappointed in him. It was maddening. But Iroh was soft in his old age. He had tried several times to convince Zuko to stop looking for the Avatar, and he had made it clear—especially after Azula came into the picture—that he didn't believe the Fire Lord would ever take Zuko back.
He would come around though. When his father welcomed Zuko back as a hero and restored his Honor then Uncle would come around and understand, he just didn't have faith, he was old and hardened by battle.
Zuko could understand. Uncle loved him, he would come around soon.
Aang awoke slowly. What little of the sky he could see was pale grey, streaked with orange and pink, all the colors of the dawn. He felt a bit cold and sticky, but at first he attributed that to the dew, until his vision went hazy for a moment and a cough shook his small—tied up—frame. He cast a glance around as much as he was able to and saw nothing. Trees instead of Appa, rocks instead of his friends, a small fire.
He shifted, slowly and saw a dark figure hunched against a tree and it took him several long moments to piece together the fragments of memories and clues that he already had and when he did he almost wished he was still asleep.
He remembered the storm first. It had been as bad as the storm that sent him to what should have been a watery grave. He was shaking from more than just the cold and when Katara suggested they land he had jumped at the opportunity. They had landed at the edge of a forest and managed to find a small amount of shelter. They lit a tiny fire at first but it sizzled and went out soon enough. They'd huddled together and fallen into an uneasy sleep, Aang was tortured by nightmares.
Toph had shouted them away, "Run." She'd managed, and then fireballs rained down upon them, strong enough to turn the rain into steam. They had scattered, and Aang had hung back a moment, urging Appa to take off without them, Aang waved the whistle, trying to save his oldest friend. Just as Appa had taken off Zuko had fallen upon him, a whirl of fire and steel.
Now he was here, every inch of him aching and he was shivering and bound. He hoped that since he was alone with the banished prince that meant the others were safe.
"I suppose you're feeling better if you're up." Zuko hadn't moved an inch and until then Aang had assumed the Firebender was asleep. Aang didn't say anything, which didn't matter because as Zuko stood he started to speak. "You've been out for a few days, some powerful 'bender you are."
Aang absorbed this in silence. It must just be him under Zuko's care, but his friends would be looking for them, if it was just the prince that was no problem, Aang was certain they would save him. However, he doubted Zuko didn't have an army hiding somewhere.
"So what, you save me just to kill me?" Aang asked, furious. He wanted so badly to believe that everyone had some good in them, Zuko above all others. The prince had saved him, and helped him, you didn't do that if you were pure evil. He deserved a chance at redemption, but every time Aang offered him a chance, Zuko spat on it, almost trying to prove he was just as evil as his father.
Zuko froze, his good eye narrowing viciously. Was it some trick that the Avatar's words so closely mirrored the thought he'd buried when he first caught the child? Or was it just a coincidence? There was no way it was a trick, the Avatar wasn't bright enough for that, he was simple—like all Airbenders.
"I am to deliver you alive to my father, what happens is up to him and if you please him or not."
"I don't care about pleasing a monster like him. He's destroying this world, I know you can see it too!" Aang pleaded, praying that he could get through to the prince, all it would take was a moment, a second to plant the idea into his head. Just a chance to nurture the good Aang knew to be within the young man.
Zuko regarded the young boy for a moment, he had a lump on the side of his head that looked red still, and his small frame was littered with cuts and bruises. Zuko had done his best to heal the boy, but time would be the real doctor in a case like this.
Still, for all the pain Zuko had caused—no matter that he was forced to undo a great deal of it—the child still looked at him with those large and soulful eyes, like a turtle duck begging for scraps. Only the Avatar didn't want breadcrumbs, he wanted Zuko to renounce his evil ways and his warmongering father, abandon his quest and join the "good fight" and be a "hero".
He snorted at his own thoughts.
"He is uniting this world as the Avatar never could." Zuko hissed, turning toward the tree he had slept against the last few nights and grasped his small, worn pack, rifling through it until he found a small, crusty bit of bread. After all the work he went through keeping the brat alive he wasn't going to let him starve to death.
"You can't believe that." The words came out in a rush of air, more of a sigh than anything else and even with his back to him Zuko could still see the way those grey eyes were large and filled with hurt, and confusion and a thousand other emotions that didn't make the slightest amount of sense. He was the Avatar, people like Zuko were supposed to be his enemy, but here he was getting a motivational speech every time he cast a glance over his shoulder. It was as vexing as it was confusing.
"What do you think is going to happen Avatar," he spat the word out like it was a foul taste in his mouth or a vile insult, "Do you think I'm going to turn around one day with a smile on my face, proclaim I'll follow you in your daft endeavor and join you against my father?" He sneered and whirled on the boy, lifting him easily by the front of his distinct yellow and orange garb. "He is my father and he loves me, I just need to prove myself to him and you're going to help me do that." Zuko assured him, dropping him into a heap and storming to the other side of the camp when he was done.
"He banished you Zuko, how long has it been? Don't you think he would have asked you back by now if it was just a matter of you proving yourself to him?" Now Zuko was certain that the Avatar must have more than just a mastery of all four elements, first he had echoed Zuko's own thoughts and now he was quoting his Uncle.
A lance of pain slid through Zuko's heart at the thought of his Uncle. The old man had woken early and gone into town. Taking care of the sickly Avatar had depleted their supplies faster than either of them anticipated. No doubt the man would come back with half the marketplace, but that wasn't what caused the strange pain. The man had been so quiet lately.
No matter how many times Zuko had explained his position, assured Uncle that his father would give him a Hero's Welcome, the old man would just look to the little boy and shake his head. Zuko felt more helpless than anything now. He craved his father's approval and he desperately wanted to go home, that wasn't going to change, but still he wanted his Uncle to be happy, and to be proud of him. Those two things had always been such a constant through all the turmoil that it was strange to suddenly be without them.
"Shut up." His voice was low and dangerous. "You don't know. You don't know anything, you don't know about him and you don't know anything about me." His fists clenched at his sides and Aang didn't fail to notice this. The roll was nothing but crumbs now and with a quick burst of flames it wasn't even that anymore.
"It is good to see you awake." Hearing Iroh's voice sound so kind and warm after so long without it was like a balm on Zuko's soul. Even if the warmth was directed to the Avatar instead of him Zuko found it was comforting, it meant his Uncle was still there, under the suddenly cold and quiet exterior. "May I get you something to eat, or some tea?" Zuko was about to shout that he had already gotten food for the Avatar, but he looked at the palm of his hand and saw the smudges of ashes on his fingers and remained quiet. His Uncle revealed a small pouch of fruits and sat beside the young monk, helping him to sit up. "My name is Iroh." He offered. They knew each other, but he felt it was time for a proper introduction, "and it is an honor to meet the Avatar." He smiled warmly and Zuko returned to the tree at the far end of the camp and sat quietly with his arms folded across his chest, ducking his head and letting the wide brim of his hat hide the rest of the camp from sight.
How was it for a first chapter? I adore Avatar to death but I don't get to watch it as often as I like so if I make any glaring Canon!Mistakes that can't really be explained away by "it's AU" than please point them out.