Disclaimer: I own nothing. Avatar the Last Airbender belongs to Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko
The first time Zuko saw color, truly realized there was some meaning behind it, was when he peered at his reflection in the sleek ice. He was a toddler.
He didn't notice that his skin was pale and his hair was black, unlike most water tribe boys.
No, the only thing that captured the recently turned two year olds interest was his eyes. Gold is a strange color for people of the water tribe to see, much less have. Most of their land is cold and desolate, white and blue. No gold.
Zuko loved them though.
He loved the way they seemed to shimmer like when he awoke early with his mother to watch the sun break over the water.
He loved how they stood out so starkly against his skin. He loved that Sokka, who'd diverted the adult's attention so much from him, had eyes were just like everyone else's, blue. Well except for his mother's, of course.
He loved to be different.
You're special his mother always told him.
Though he didn't know what that word meant exactly, this new find only encouraged the idea. Yes, he is special, isn't he?
The second time Zuko truly saw color was when he first saw little Katara.
His mother's friend's stomach had been getting quite huge lately, he noticed. He had vague memories of the same thing happening leading up to when Sokka dropped in on his perfect life. But now, he was used to it.
So, the first time he saw Katara at the tent next door, he looked boringly at his mother, wanting to go back outside. She was just a shriveled up little thing, that had her eyes closed, and smelled weird.
His mother smiled kindly at him. Have Patience she whispered and appeared sad as she looked at the tiny thing, seemingly wrapped up in her own world. Then the baby opened up her eyes, and everyone in the tent -all of three people, his mother, his mother's friend, and her husband- stared at her, even Zuko.
So the shriveled thing had blue eyes as well? There was something about them though, that just seemed so different to the toddler.
"Why don't I have blue eyes?" he had asked his mother as innocently as most children do. Everyone in the tent turned their attention on him. However, the expressions on their faces kept him from enjoying the attention. Silent conversations seemed to be exchanged. His mother shook her head as her friend's husband opened his mouth.
"No, Hakoda" she said sharply, a tone Zuko had never heard from her.
"Ursa, he'll know soon" The husband, apparently Hakoda advised. Zuko looked expectantly at his mother, still she shook her head.
"He's too young" she told them, picking her son up from the floor to hold him in her lap.
"But" His mother's friend started
Zuko didn't know what was going on, but he did realize that it was serious enough for him to keep his mouth shut. He continued to stare at Katara's eyes, trying to figure them out.
"Is she special?" he asked. No one with eyes like that could be anything but.
"Yes" his mother said, a smile on her face. "You're both special"
For a moment, Zuko had forgotten that he thought himself special.
"My eyes aren't blue" He stated.
"Because you're special in a different way" she said and tickled his nose the way he liked. Zuko laughed. She smiled as well, but it didn't reach her eyes. Her gold eyes. Hakoda and Kya's blue eyes were happy, full of mirth, and….blue. Yet, his mother's were sad as they gazed at Katara. Sad and….gold.
"Azula" He heard her whisper faintly. Again, Zuko looked into Katara's eyes. Her eyes were the biggest, deepest, clearest blue Zuko had ever seen. They shimmered more than his had too. Suddenly, Zuko didn't love his eyes just as much. Maybe he wasn't so special.
The third time Zuko truly saw color, he was eight and playing games with his two friends: Sokka and Katara. Hide and seek was the game. Zuko was hiding, Sokka too. The poor Katara had no chance to find them. The two had climbed over the village walls -against their parents' rules- to hide out farther in the ice, then split up.
Zuko ran farther and faster than he ever had before. When Zuko finally decided he had run far enough, he turned around, and could see the village in the distance. There, Zuko decided to wait for Katara to find him feeling very confident in his hiding spot.
He waited and waited and…..waited. It soon became obvious that there was a storm brewing and Katara wasn't coming.
Giving up, Zuko started walking back to the village. The storm picked up more, very quickly, and it started getting very cold. Suddenly, Zuko was grateful for his parka, but still shook.
The sky got dark and Zuko couldn't see the town anymore. He got scared, but walked on. Everything started to hurt, his bones ached.
There was crunching of ice behind him, Zuko walked faster. Vaguely he could see the village in the distance. The ice crunching followed him, and he felt a figure looming behind him.
Zuko's fear increased as something hot from the core of him spread throughout his body. The figure seemed to come closer as the heat spread to his hands. Something touched his shoulder and Zuko lashed out.
There was a cry of pain, as he realized he was within the village walls. Zuko turned and saw a slumped figure at his feet. The figure's long hair fell in tendrils across her face.
Katara, Zuko saw with horrid realization. She held her very…red hand.
"Katara!" Zuko yelled.
The wind died down, and the sky lightened once more. There were tears in her eyes. Zuko could only stare at her as she cried. He stared as his mother asked him questions, and looked concerned. He stared as she was carried off by her father, still crying. He starred at her tent as Sokka came back looking worried. He only stopped starring when his mother hugged him and whispered in his ear.
"My son, you are a fire bender"
And then Zuko didn't really see anything. He didn't see people of the water tribe giving him pitying looks; he didn't see his mother writing a letter to someone he didn't know; he didn't even see Katara when she stood behind him as he sat alone on the village wall, an indecisive look on her face and seeming to have been magically healed.
All he could see was the color of Katara's blood and most of all the color he saw when he lashed out at her: Orange yet yellow. Suddenly, Zuko didn't like his eyes very much, and he certainly didn't love them.
In his mind, he could never be special. No one that could hurt Katara, with her beautiful blue eyes could ever be special. They didn't deserve that honor. Especially, it seemed, a little boy with golden eyes, the same color as the fire that could only cause the color red to appear, a horrible gushy red. Not blue, never blue.
The last time Zuko truly saw color for what it was, was in the eyes of one of the soldiers that attacked his village when he was thirteen. He, Sokka, and Katara had been told to hide, but Katara has run off to search for Kya, and Zuko had gone off after her, leaving Sokka to find Hakoda. When he finally found her at her family's tent, both Katara's and Zuko's mothers were there.
"Run!" They told their children. But both stood still.
"Yes, listen to your mothers, I have a few things to ask the water tribe peasant and Fire Nation traitor" The Soldier's voice chilled Zuko to the bone with it's coldness.
"Run" they repeated, more calmly this time. It was a dead calm. Making his feet work, Zuko tugged at Katara.
"Come on, we have to find Hakoda" He said hurriedly, eyeing those inside the tent with worry. Katara nodded quickly and followed him. About twenty feet from the camp, though, Zuko heard a scream that he recognized distinctly as his mother's. He stopped cold, and Katara turned to stare at him in worry.
"Go find Hakoda!" He yelled. She nodded and turned, but not before giving him a brief hug. Zuko ran back to the tent, to find his mother and Kya burned and broken on the icy floor. The soldier stood at the flap of the tent.
"Didn't your mother tell you to leave, boy" He said sharply, uncaringly. Zuko starred at the bodies. And starred. Not a single tear fell from his eye, all moisture in his body seemed to evaporate with the heat that singed through his body. He closed his eyes and felt it deep within his core
"Boy!" the soldier said once more, but Zuko didn't listen. He let the heat go through his palms, and he let it fall free to the soldier before him.
Here he opened his eyes to meet those of the soldier's. In the split second before the fire hit him, Zuko saw only one color in the soldier's eyes. He saw fear.
Fear too, has a color.
It is the color that makes you want to crawl out of your skin. It is the point at which the dread in the center of your body has reason to be released. In Zuko's case, it's where color becomes meaningless and all that really matters is the emotions that you feel.
And, in the soldier's case, it's the line that you cross where you realize your life is over.
After all was said and done, the soldiers were gone, and Zuko was an orphan living with Hakoda and the recently motherless Katara and Sokka. Later, he traveled the world, running from a sister he never knew he had who was after a flying boy he had blasted out of an iceberg in the heat of rage.
He no longer saw color. He never truly saw it at least. He didn't distinguish between gold and blue.
He didn't see Aang's grey eyes or any earth bender's brown ones. All that he saw was fear, hate, anger….love. He never again thought himself as special because of his eyes or hated his gift of fire bending. They were only colors. Fire bending was an emotion in itself. Anger powered Zuko's bending. Anger, Hate, and…love. The last one only seemed to happen when he practiced around Katara, not Toph, Sokka, Aang, or Appa, but Katara. Never did fear power his bending though, never fear. Because now, Zuko feared nothing, as he knew what color truly was and it wasn't something to make him special. It was love, hate, anger, even death. Though Zuko knew this, he never saw it. He chose not to see color. Not even Katara's blue eyes.
If you choose not to see color, then it can't decide whom you are.