Thank you Bdeogale Nigripes, serendipity-surprise, Shinobi Bender, kausingkayn, ViolotQ, and Opaul. This is the second oneshot I wrote but the last to be posted.
(I've always been privileged, but if you think my life has been easy, you are deluding yourself…)
He was a hot-head. He was rugged and manly and rough-and-tumble, if not a little on the sensitive side if someone spoke of certain things. He loved feeding turtle-ducks and fighting with Firebending and defending his beloved nation even more.
Even at the young age of sixteen, he was a magnificent and benevolent firelord.
He didn't speak of it often, but sometimes the pressure of running an entire country at such a young age got to him. His knees felt weak and his chest ached—he was sure he was in over his head.
(…I've always had to struggle and fight, and it's made me strong. It's made me who I am…)
Oftentimes under such pressure, he would curl up under the sheets and grip them so tightly they would start smoking, and he would screw his face up and think of his mother and uncle and all of their times together on Ember Island, because he just wasn't READY for all this responsibility yet.
And then he remembered he had an entire country counting on him.
And he smoothed down his robes, stuck in his crown, and took his place on the throne, because he WAS the Firelord now and he WOULD help bring peace—along with the Avatar.
(…But I have doubts, too—and I can't help but remember things.)
It was easy to remember the happy days of his family when he was having a relapse, and he often recalled things long-buried dormant in his memory. He was eight, and he could see he was feeding the turtle-ducks…
But Azula. A hand on his back, and suddenly his arms were flailing and his lungs were filling up with water while his clothes did absolutely NOTHING but act as 20 tons of bricks weighing him down…
It was so dishonorable to say such things… but Zuko was deathly afraid of drowning.