Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar The Last Airbender. It is the property of its creators and Nickelodeon.
Chapter 1: The Second Student
Zuko woke up, got dressed, grabbed his swords, and headed out.
He had a lesson plan for the Avatar, but he didn't want to neglect his own training either. He needed to be stronger so as to fend off attackers, and Azula. He knew it was only a matter of time before father would send his sister, as well as assassins out to kill him.
When he finally reached the courtyard, he did breathing exercises to calm himself down. When his head was clear, he drew his swords and began to train. Sounds were emanating through the air as he swung his swords, almost as though the swords were singing.
"That's amazing Zuko."
"Ah!" yelled a surprised Zuko. He turned around quickly and saw that it was just Aang. "Oh, it's you."
"Yep." Replied Aang. He then took a look at Zuko's dual Dao swords."You know, Sokka has a pretty cool sword, you should see it."
"Really?", said Zuko rather curiously, "Maybe another time."
Zuko was about to put his swords away, but Aang piped up, "No, it's ok, you can practice a little longer."
"You sure? I don't want to sacrifice your training for mine."
"Yeah it's fine. How about this? From now on, you teach me after breakfast."
Zuko thought for a moment, "Sure. That's a great idea." He said. He then carried on with his training. He continued on with all sorts of sword fighting moves, and as Aang was watching, he became entranced. He had seen Zuko's swordsmanship before when Zhao captured him, but never this clearly. The spinning of the swords, the footwork. It all came so naturally to Zuko.
'Sokka's good, but Zuko's incredible,' he thought.
As Aang continued to watch Zuko practice, the Duke, still groggy and half-asleep, walked in and saw what was going on. When he saw that Zuko was practicing, he immediately woke up. He walked over to Aang, sat right next to him, and began to watch with equal interest.
Out of the corner of his eye, Zuko noticed the two of them looking at him practicing. He ignored it, of course, as he could not afford to lose focus. However, a memory occurred to him as he continued his practice.
Lu Ten was in the courtyard of the palace in the early morning sun practicing with dual Dao swords. As he practiced, he noticed a five year old Zuko watching with a keen interest.
Lu Ten took a glance and then smiled.
"So, you like weapons Zuko?" he asked
"Yeah. I think they're really cool." He answered.
Lu Ten chuckled, "Yeah. They are cool. So, would you like to learn how to use dual swords?"
"Really? You'd teach me?" asked Zuko rather excitedly.
"Of course. I wouldn't be much of a cousin if I didn't do anything to help you become stronger."
"Thanks! You're the best LuTen!" exclaimed Zuko with a hug.
(End of Flashback)
As Zuko put away his swords, he heard something that surprised him.
"That's so cool. I wish I could fight like that." Said the Duke.
He turned around to see the Duke, who then instantly clamped his mouth. Zuko was taken aback by this thinking that he scared the kid. But then he took another look at him. He had the same look that he had when he watched Lu Ten practice.
"Would you like to learn, the Duke?" asked Zuko.
"Hey, you said my name correctly!" said the Duke.
"Well yeah. You always say that's your name," he grinned, "So, you like swords?"
"Yeah, they're totally awesome!"
"Well, if you'd like, I can teach you how to use these after Aang's lessons" said Zuko.
"Really? You would do that! Wow, umm, thanks!" exclaimed the Duke with the biggest smile on his face.
"You'd really be willing to teach the Duke?" asked Aang.
"Sure, why not; I don't mind," said Zuko.
"O wow! Yay! This is will be just like when Jet taught me!" exclaimed the Duke.
"Wait, Jet?" asked Zuko "As in 'Freedom Fighter' Jet?"
"You know Jet!" Aang and the Duke asked with great surprise.
"Yeah. We met on a barge to Ba Sing Se. We stole some food from the captain because he was hogging most of the good food. We actually got along for a little while, until we got to the city…" explained Zuko.
"What happened?" asked Aang curiously.
"Well, he asked me to join the 'Freedom Fighters.' I turned him down, for obvious reasons. The next thing I know, I saw a cold look on his face. I turned around and saw my uncle firebending his tea."
Zuko saw the Duke and Aang's expressions when he said this. It had "Oh Boy" written all over it.
"Then what happened?" asked the Duke.
"Later in the week, he came back to fight me. The Dai Li came and arrested him after the fight" said Zuko.
"That explains how Jet was brainwashed!" said Aang.
"Sorry about that, but it was that or having me and my uncle killed…" said Zuko apologetically.
"It's okay. When we went to Lake Laogai, he attacked us because Long Feng brainwashed him. But we were able to free him for a little bit…until Long Feng hit him, with a boulder. He was badly hurt, we tried to help him a bit, but he told us to go ahead to get Appa, so we aren't sure if he's ok." Said Aang with worry in his voice.
"So, Jet got hurt?" asked the Duke.
"Yeah. But Smellerbee and Longshot were with him, so he might be ok." Said Aang trying to comfort the Duke.
"I'm sure he's fine."
The Duke and Aang looked toward Zuko.
"From what I know about him, we have similar personalities", he began. He then turned to Aang, "If you remember anything about fighting me, it's that I'm hard to get rid of. I'm sure he's alive."
After a moment Aang finally spoke up.
"You're right Zuko, Jet's probably fine." He said.
"Yeah. You're right. He's out there, somewhere. Thanks Zuko I needed that." Said the Duke.
Zuko grinned, "No problem, I wouldn't be much of a teacher if I didn't help out my two students in any way I can."
"So you're really going to teach me?" asked the Duke.
"Sure I will. If you want." Replied Zuko.
The Duke nodded 'yes', and then ran off to the camp with the biggest grin Zuko had ever seen.
"That's really nice of you to teach him Zuko." Said Aang.
"What's wrong?" Aang asked.
"Not much, it's just, well, I've never really acted like that before. Well I have, but not in a long time. Not since…" Zuko's thoughts immediately went to the times he shared with his mom.
"Yes?" questioned Aang.
Zuko snapped out of the silent trance that he had, "Nothing. Look you better head back. Otherwise your friends will think that I'm kidnapping you or something. Besides you need to eat. You'll need as much energy as you can for firebending."
"Oh, ok. Let's head back together. That way you can get breakfast too."
"Really? Your friends wouldn't mind would they?" he asked with his thoughts drifting towards Katara.
"Don't worry about it too much. It will take a while. But they'll come around." Said Aang in a comforting voice.
After a minute of thinking, Zuko finally spoke up, "Alright. I suppose I could go with you."
Zuko followed Aang back to the campsite. Along the way, he realized something. First of all, he the Avatar didn't act sheepish around him anymore. To him, it meant that the Avatar had accepted him. But there was something more, something else that caught his attention. He was becoming his old self.