Title: sick cycle

Author: defy destiny

Summary: Some friendships last a few years, some a lifetime, but few can last even longer… [Friendship of Aang and Zuko, the Avatar and the Fire Lord

Warnings: None really, this isn't a slash story, it just revolves around Zuko and Aang's friendship. FRIENDship. Sorry, nothing more, folks.

Inspiration: Sick Cycle Carousel by Lifehouse. It relates to Zuko, go listen to it and you'll see XD

Disclaimer: Yes, I do own Avatar the Last Airbender; it's in my DVD player right now. So there. Just kidding, belongs to Nickelodeon and Viacom and whoever else makes it.

Before-story-notes: Flameo, readers! I'll forewarn you that at one point the story gets a bit confusing, but as long as you have seen 'The Avatar and the Firelord' and 'The Blue Spirit', then I'm sure you'll be fine. Jeez, haven't done an Avatar fic in a while. Been too caught up in Kingdom Hearts and all, but it's good to be back. So, I'll shut up now, and without further ado:

sick cycle

"Do you really think friendships can last more than one lifetime?"

The awkwardness between Aang and Zuko lately was so intolerable that even Momo and Appa could feel the tension when around them. Any time they'd come near each other an uncomfortable silence would fall- not that Zuko spoke much to anyone anyway, though he tried-as if suddenly, when they were around each other, they no longer had anything to say. And though Zuko really tried to be friendly towards the airbender, it was hard. Even for the Avatar it was hard, even for the peacemaker.

How could Aang be friendly towards Zuko? The man- no, the teenager- who had chased him down to every corner of the world. The teenager who tried to capture him and turn him in to the Fire Lord, Aang's worst nightmare in flesh and blood. He's hurt him, his friends, and made everything so hard for everyone. So hard for Aang.

But then, that same teenager begged for forgiveness, he proved that he had changed. Turned away from his father, his nation, the people he loved and grew up with, to help the Avatar.

So Aang knew he had to at least try, even the slightest bit, because he would much rather make a friend than an enemy.

It was a relatively cool night despite the fact that it was the beginning of summer, and the fire was still burning vividly. Katara laid on top of her sleeping bag, hair strewn all over her face as she slumbered peacefully, her mouth slightly ajar, while Toph was sprawled out on the earth, having cleared the grass away so she could sleep on her element, just the way she liked it no matter how uncomfortable it looked. Haru, Teo, and The Duke were huddled in the far corner, away from the fire. The Duke was asleep on the slumbering Teo's lap and Haru was propped up against Teo's wheelchair comfortably. Meanwhile, Sokka had stolen Aang's sleeping spot, curled up on Appa's tail with drool hanging from his mouth in a rather comical way, Aang observed absentmindedly.

Zuko's golden eyes were lost in the fire, knees drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped tightly around his legs, as if he was trying to take up as little space as possible so not to cause any more trouble. His chin gently rested on his kneecap as he pondered on nearly the very same thing as Aang.

He had apologized to everyone, and it had been hard and even humiliating to do so. And when he did apologize, when he was finally accepted into the group, he was far more than relieved. Mere words couldn't describe his gratitude, even though the members of the group weren't exactly 'welcoming'. But he knew he had to say sorry, and he wouldn't have been able to live if he hadn't, and he meant it totally and entirely from the bottom of his heart.

What was bothering Zuko was that he had said sorry to them, but never to the Avatar directly. To the person he caused the most trouble for.

All the wrongdoings Zuko had done weren't that easy to commit, but then apologizing for them? That was a whole different difficult. Apologizing to the Avatar alone, one-on-one, right to his face? The hardest. Especially when it made Zuko think back to all the mistakes he had made.

The airbender sat across from Zuko, the only thing between them being the campfire, sparks flying out from it and landing on the grass every now and then. The Avatar's face was lightly illuminated by the flame, his legs crossed and his hands in his lap as he looked into the fire, a pensive expression on his face. Zuko marveled at how young and small he seemed to be from where he was sitting. The Avatar, the only and last hope, was a twelve or thirteen year old boy. Zuko could almost feel the airbender's pain, being depended on by every sole being- bar the Fire Nation-in the world, yet being so young.

Sensing the firebender's gaze on him, Aang lifted his teal-gray eyes toward Zuko, who quickly glanced back down to the fire. The silence was killing the Avatar; he had to say something, but what? Aang couldn't think back to another time where he was ever so speechless before. He knew he had to say something, because Zuko would never start a conversation, but how to start it…?

"Do… do you remember that time when you rescued me after I stole you away from Zhao?" Aang was caught off guard by the question. Maybe Zuko could start a conversation. His voice was so quiet and distant and his eyes never left the fire as he spoke.

"Y-yeah." Aang replied slowly and unsurely, wondering where this conversation was getting at. He listened intently to hear what Zuko had to say, watching the firebender with hidden anticipation. Zuko looked up steadily.

"And," he paused, searching for the words, "And that time in the Northern Water Tribe. Instead of letting me die in the blizzard, you saved me." he stated, only the slightest hint of question in his voice. Aang nodded tentatively, eyes locked with Zuko's.

"Why? Why did you save me?" he asked, voice full of wonder. Aang cocked his head to the side slightly, listening curiously as Zuko continued:

"I… I tried to hurt you, I tried to turn you in," his voice was dripping with shame, but Aang didn't interrupt him. These were the most words that Zuko had spoken to him throughout the whole week he had joined their group and Aang was not about to interject. "You saved my life, but I never deserved a second chance."

Aang thought about that for a moment, biting his lip in thought. Why did he save Zuko those times? Well, that's easy, Aang thought, Because…because he…

Okay, maybe it wasn't that easy. Why had Aang rescued his enemy?

The Avatar decided to put it an easier way for himself: Would he have left a boy not much older than him die? A boy that was maybe young enough for Aang to possibly befriend? To possibly give a second chance? Zuko deserved a second chance. Everyone did. But why did Aang save his life more than once, even after he continued to pursue them? What had possessed Aang to do that?

At first, he had hoped that maybe he and Zuko could form a friendship somehow. Something about Zuko told him that there was more to him than what meets the eye… but back then, he couldn't imagine what. And even when Zuko joined with Azula back at Ba Sing Se, Aang didn't completely lose hope that one day, he and Zuko could maybe establish an alliance of some sort. Aang seldom ever lost hope. In fact, he still had hope for that right now.

"I don't know," he replied sheepishly, causing Zuko to look back up again. The Avatar wasn't finished: "I guess I had a feeling, I don't know why. Something told me that… that maybe…" he trailed off and a silence fell, things were so much easier thought than said. Zuko felt the need to urge Aang to say what he was going to say, but he restrained himself.

Sokka let out a loud snore, rolling over so his back was toward the fire.

"Zuko, you know that time that I rescued you from Zhao's soldiers, right?" Aang asked hesitantly, planning the words he was going to say in his mind. He glanced up at the firebender, who nodded almost eagerly. "Do you… do you remember what I said to you right before I left?"

Zuko remembered, not even having to strain his memory at all. How could he forget? The words had been embedded into his mind ever since:

'If we knew each other back then, do you think we could have been friends too?'

He nodded again, and knew at once what Aang was trying to say.

"… I… but… A-Aang?" Zuko stuttered hesitantly, and Aang noted that it was the first time he had ever heard Zuko say his name. They made eye contact, and Zuko continued, a bit more at ease, "Aang, I'm… I'm sorry." the last word was barely as whisper, but had such an impact to Aang that it was as if he screamed it at the top of his lungs to the whole entire world.

What? That wasn't what Zuko had wanted to say! He left out so many parts… like how he wish he could take back what he had done, how he hoped he could be forgiven, how ashamed he truly was… Zuko glanced back down to the fire, and Aang's eyes visibly widened.

'Roku, I'm sorry.'

A huge, invisible weight lifted off both of their shoulders at once. Although it was a much simpler apology than what Zuko had intended to say, he felt so much better. He noticed the Avatar hadn't yet responded and looked back up at him to see that Aang's eyes were sparkling brilliantly, his sheer happiness evident. The boy's face lit up from a light that was not the campfire or the moon, flashing Zuko a toothy, sincere grin, and Zuko couldn't help but stare. The last time that someone had given him such an encouraging smile like that… Zuko couldn't even think back to it. It was startling, in an extremely good way. Made him feel like he was worth something for once.

And though Zuko would never admit to it, Aang saw the firebender's expression soften and his lips twitch upward ever so slightly, into a genuine smirk. Well, I guess I did end up making a friend after all, Aang thought blissfully.

"Its okay, Zuko. I forgive you." Aang felt relieved to finally feel happy again; it's been a while since he felt that emotion and boy did it feel good.

'Its okay, Sozin. I forgive you.'

And those last three words were all that ZukoSozinneeded.

"I don't see why not."

.the . end. ? .

A/N: By the way, how kick-ass was DoBS? Despite the little Kataang part (totally don't ship that way, but I digress), it was AWESOME! And, what the hell's that thing under Haru's nose? GROSS! Whatever happened to our facial-hairless bishounen!Haru that we all love? And the best part, of course: after three seasons of anticipating this very moment, Zuko's FINALLY crossing over to the good side!!! WOO-HOO! I hope the next episode comes soon XD

Enough of my ranting. See, I tried to tie in Sozin apologizing to Roku in this as well. Drop a review by, I hope you enjoyed

x . o . x