The day did not start well.
Aang, Sokka, and Katara awoke to find their sleeping bags aflame and Zuko's troops surrounding them.
Sokka groaned. Another good morning wasted with fighting.
This time the soldiers focused on separating the kids from Appa. Only half actually concentrated on the kids, while the other half constantly blasted fire at the bison, keeping it from escaping. Aang, Sokka, and Katara were vastly outnumbered, and it wasn't long before Katara's water had evaporated, leaving Aang as the only bender on their team.
The flames surrounding them were so high, Aang could no longer see his friends. His fear grew, until he could feel himself starting to glow….
Zuko, having finally located the Avatar in the melee, charged straight at him, reaching out to grab him. Without thinking, Aang lifted his hands to protect himself just as his eyes and tattoos started to glow.
An instant later, Aang felt the most peculiar sensation. His spirit had left his body before, but it was not alone this time. Across from him, Zuko's spirit too was glowing blue.
"What did you – " Zuko started to panic, but had no time to finish his sentence before both boys felt themselves sucked back into their bodies.
Except, they were sucked back into the wrong ones.
Aang's eyes – Zuko's eyes – glowed as Aang fell into the teenager's body. Still in the Avatar State, the earth swirled around him, kicking up dust, as the ground beneath Zuko's soldiers turned to quicksand, swallowing them up to their knees in earth. A blast of air knocked Zuko in Aang's body straight into a tree, where he hit his head and lay, unmoving.
Exhausted from the effort, Aang stopped glowing and fell to his knees. Then he fell to the ground and joined Zuko in unconsciousness.
When the dust settled, Katara and Sokka made a mad dash for Aang's body, dragged it aboard Appa, and took off before Zuko's troops could recover.
When Zuko awoke, his first realization was that he was not on his ship, but was in fact, lying on the ground.
His second was that he must have been real drunk when he decided to get blue arrow tattoos on his hands.
His third was the memory of what had happened. He had left his body, which was bad enough, and now he was somehow – in the Avatar's?!
"Oh, Aang, you're awake! I just barely finished healing your burn. Are you okay?" the water tribe girl was suddenly hovering over him. The Avatar's friends thought he was….Aang, apparently. It had never occurred to Zuko that the Avatar had a name.
The water girl continued to gaze at him, and Zuko suddenly became acutely aware of the fact he had not properly talked to a girl since he'd last seen Mai three years ago.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just great." To prove his point, Zuko pushed himself off the ground, brushing himself off. Man, was this kid short.
"Are you sure you're okay?" the water girl asked again.
"I said I'm fine!" he snapped. She looked taken aback.
"Well, I'm only asking because usually you would just airbend yourself up….."
Right. They thought he was the Avatar. What would the Avatar say in this situation?
"Um…..thanks for caring. We should really get going now." The girl still looked concerned, but she at least didn't question him further. Both she and her brother climbed aboard the giant flying bison. The large beast seemed terrifying to Zuko, and he was very cautious as he climbed aboard after them.
Both kids were looking at him again. Even the lemur was staring. Were they expecting him to do something?
"Well, I guess I'll start off with the flying then," said the boy. He confidently strode to the bison's head, gripped the reins, and called, "Yip, yip!"
Zuko gripped the saddle tightly as the bison took off, trying to look nonchalantly used to flying, and failing miserably. He almost threw up as they ascended, and he swore his head was about to explode as his ears popped.
"Give me your shirt."
"What?" Zuko almost blushed.
"Your shirt has a hole in it, let me fix it." Zuko removed the Avatar's shirt and handed it to the girl awkwardly. She immediately started to sew the hole shut. Zuko inspected the Avatar's arms curiously. The tattoos didn't just cover his wrists, but wrapped around his arms all the way (he lifted his arms inconspicuously) to the armpit. He noticed the arrows on the Avatar's feet too, and briefly wondered if they also wrapped around his legs. Then, of course, the thought occurred to him that he might not want to know exactly where those ended. The less he saw of the Avatar, the better.
When the lemur came to sit on his lap, Zuko stiffened. The lemur glared at him and abandoned him for the water tribe girl, who petted the lemur affectionately, and said nothing to Zuko. He desperately hoped she wouldn't, as he had no clue what to say.
Well, capturing the Avatar would be a cup of tea now. All he had to do was convince the water tribe siblings to escort him to the fire nation capitol and turn himself in. Except, he realized, whatever fate awaited the Avatar would instead befall him.
So first he had to do was find….himself, switch bodies back, capture the Avatar, and then take him to the fire nation capitol. Without alerting the Avatar's companions. And, he realized, he must also do something before the Avatar did something treasonous in his body – like save some useless earthbender town. The next punishment after banishment was likely death. Of course, this all assumed they would even be able to switch back…..what if Zuko was stuck like this forever? His father would kill him, and Zuko was not exaggerating.
"We have to go back!" he suddenly declared. The water girl looked at him.
Why, why? "Zuko stole….something of mine," he finished. What could the Avatar have lost that was important enough to go chasing the enemy for?
"What did he steal?" A second later she gasped, "Does he have your glider? I don't think we grabbed it before we took off."
"Yes," Zuko said, relieved, "He has my glider! And….I need it."
"Sokka!" yelled the girl to her brother, "We have to find Zuko's ship! He stole Aang's glider!"
"We're going to go chase the angry jerk for a stick?!"
"Yes!" Zuko said fiercely. He had to convince them to find his ship. "It's a very important stick!"
"Yeah, yeah, I know, hand-crafted by the monks and everything….." the boy sighed, but steered the bison back towards the open water. Relieved he had been successful in his deception, Zuko turned his attention warily back to the girl practicing with a small ball of water. He must not let her find out who he really was, or he could already envision the icicles impaling his eyeballs.
Aang opened his eyes groggily. An old man stood over his bedside. A fire insignia decorated the wall behind him. Zuko's uncle! He had been captured!
Aang sat straight up, preparing to strike, but Zuko's uncle pushed him back down gently. "Be careful, Zuko," said the old man, "The Avatar knocked you unconscious."
The Avatar knocked him unconscious? Suddenly Aang remembered the moment before he entered the Avatar State. He had felt himself leaving his body…and landed in Zuko's. Zuko must have somehow messed up his connection with the spirits as he entered the Avatar State….
If he was Zuko, Zuko must be in his body. With Sokka and Katara. Not good. What if Zuko did something to them?
"Did they get away?" he asked, trying to keep his voice calm.
The old man sighed. "Yes, but don't get angry."
"I'm not angry." In fact, he was barely able to contain a sigh of relief. At least they hadn't been captured.
"You're….you're not?" Zuko's uncle looked thoroughly confused. Apparently that wasn't very Zuko-like. He'd have to act like Zuko until he could switch them back. If anyone on this ship found out he was the Avatar, he'd be in big trouble.
Now what would Zuko do? Zuko was….angry. Be angry. Right……
"I'm not angry," Aang repeated, "I'm FURIOUS!" He almost airbended himself off the bed, but caught himself in time and merely stood up, wobbling slightly as he marveled at his new height. "I'm going to go take it out on the crew!"
Zuko's uncle sighed exasperatedly. Apparently, this was normal Zuko-behavior. Pleased with his Zuko-imitation, Aang stomped out of the room (rather impressively, he thought) and turned left, hoping this would lead him up to the deck. Luckily for him, it did. Zuko's uncle trailed behind him.
Several soldiers milled around the deck, exchanging small talk and relaxing.
Aang's attention swerved to two soldiers who were holding his glider.
"My staff!" he said. The soldiers all looked at him.
"Sir?" the one holding the staff questioned. Right, not his staff, the Avatar's staff….
"Give me the Avatar's staff," Aang commanded. The soldier handed it to him. It felt good to have something familiar at least.
All Zuko's men were still staring at him, as if expecting him to give orders or something. What would Zuko do now?
"Men," Aang started, pacing through their ranks, doing his best impression of a Kuzon's father, who had been a navy captain, "It's….um, vitally important that we capture the Avatar." The soldiers looked bored. One rolled his eyes. "So…." Aang continued, summoning all powers of angry-motivational speech he possessed and shaking his fist, "So let's go get him! Because that's what we do! And, uh……that is all."
"Which direction should we travel, sir?"
"Oh, um…..north!" That was where they had been headed before Zuko ambushed them, right?
The men scattered to follow his orders. Sighing in relief that he was no longer surrounded by fire nation troops, Aang turned around to gaze at the ocean.
"So, Zuko," the old man approached him. Aang stiffened nervously. "Would you like a cup of tea?"
The smell of jasmine tea filled Aang's nose, and excitedly he turned to accept the cup, and sipped. It was as delicious as it had smelled.
The old man considered Aang, an eyebrow raised. "You're not my nephew, are you?"
Aang choked on his tea. "What?"
"What is your sister's name?" Zuko's uncle asked.
Aang drew a complete blank. "Zuko has – !" Realizing his mistake, he quickly tried to cover it. "Um, trick question! I don't have a sister!"
"Aha! Wrong answer!" the old man pointed a finger in Aang's face. Aang inhaled deeply and gripped his staff tighter, preparing for an attack.
"Don't worry. I'm certainly not going to attack the Avatar while he's in my nephew's body!" he chuckled. "I am Iroh." Iroh bowed.
"Aang." He bowed back. "How did you know?"
"I warned him charging at the Avatar directly was not a good idea. I suspected something had occurred after the battle. The Avatar's body had already collapsed when the dust cleared, but Zuko's didn't collapse until afterwards. Your behavior only confirmed something was wrong."
"I'm sure my nephew will find us if we don't find him first. Then we switch you back, and life continues on as normal." Iroh poured himself a cup of tea.
"Great, except I have no idea how we switched bodies in the first place."
Iroh took a sip of the tea. "Well, what happened right before the switch?"
Aang thought a moment. "Well, I was about to go into the Avatar State, Zuko leaped at me, I lifted my hands to keep him from hitting me….and then we were both out of our bodies."
Iroh sipped from his tea again, thinking. "Spirits are not meant to be in other bodies. I'm sure if you two met again, the balance will correct itself."
Aang sighed. "Spirit stuff is confusing."
"This coming from the Avatar?"
Aang smiled. "Yeah."
They both gazed at the shimmering ocean again.
"So….do people still play Pai Sho in this century?" asked Aang.
Iroh chuckled. "Of course. And I play a mean game."
Three games of Pai Sho later (Aang 0, Iroh 3), the crew alerted Aang that the bison had been spotted.
Barely restraining himself from using airbending to get to the deck faster, Aang rushed to the deck. Appa was flying straight toward them.
The soldiers were loading a catapult.
"No! Don't shoot!" Aang cried. The crew all stared at him. "Um….he's good at dodging. It's a waste of firepower. Just wait for them to land." They seemed to accept his reasoning, for they all turned their attention back to the bison.
Appa landed on the ship with an ear-blasting roar. Aang watched his body leap from Appa's back, and charged. It felt beyond weird to attack himself, but he needed his body back.
Zuko's currently gray eyes narrowed as he saw Aang, bracing himself for attack. Aang slung his staff back, preparing to slice at Zuko with air, but suddenly Katara stepped in front of Zuko, and Aang found himself buried in a wave brought onboard from the ocean.
Katara glared at him with such hatred Aang wanted to hide. "Katara, wait!" Katara was too focused on attacking him to even notice he had said her name. She slashed a disc of frozen ice straight at his face. Falling into a waterbending stance, Aang melted the ice back to water and swirled it to curve around him and knock over Katara, who was too shocked at the sight of Zuko waterbending to react. Aang froze the water to keep her from attacking him again, and yelled an apology, dropping his staff next to her to free his hands for forming an airball.
The entire battle screeched to a halt as Katara, Sokka, and Zuko's crew watched in shock as Zuko formed an airball, jumped atop it, and charged at the fleeing Avatar, who stopped running to respond with blasts of fire. The two boys battled fiercely, Zuko leaping agilely in circles around the Avatar, who futilely tried to hit him with fireballs, growing more frustrated by the second. Finally, Zuko managed to trip his opponent, pinning him to the ground with a powerful gust of air until his hand met the Avatar's forehead. For a moment, Zuko's eyes lit up with an unearthly glow. The Avatar's eyes and tattoos glowed too a second later. For five motionless seconds, both boys shone so brightly, the former participants of the battle were forced to look away.
Zuko's eyes stopped glowing and he stumbled, regaining his balance. He was standing over the still-glowing Avatar, hand still on his forehead. They'd switched back! And even better, he had managed to capture him! Well, actually, the Avatar had captured himself…..
He had no time to think any further before the Avatar's glow vanished. Aang blew Zuko off him and leaped back to his feet. "Run!" he called to his friends, melting the ice off Katara and whipping it at the shell-shocked soldiers behind her. Sokka helped her to her feet and both dashed towards Appa. Aang followed them, picking up his staff with airbending as he passed it.
"Don't let them get away!" cried Zuko, running after them. A few crew members started after the Avatar, but most took fighting stances, unsure of whether to attack the Avatar or their prince. That moment of hesitation was all Aang, Katara, and Sokka needed to climb aboard Appa and scream, "Yip yip!!!" frantically.
Enraged at the Avatar escaping yet again, Zuko slammed a blast of flames strong enough to form a dent in the deck.
His crew fled below in terror.
"So let me get this straight," Zhao laughed, clutching his side in agony, "You had control of the Avatar's body, and you still didn't capture him?"
"Shut up!" Zuko's nostrils flared dangerously.
"Why didn't you lock yourself up before switching back?"
Zuko snapped. It took all Iroh's strength to restrain his nephew from beating Zhao into a bloody, charred pulp.
"So let me get this straight," said Sokka once they landed for the night. "You went into the Avatar State just as Zuko attacked you, and that somehow made you both switch bodies?"
"Yeah." Aang didn't really get it either.
"Which means we were actually with angry jerk for hours, and you were on board a ship with dozens of fire nation troops, all at your command?"
Sokka blinked. "This is the weirdest day ever."
A/N: Yes, this story is weird. It's just that every kid show in existence seems to have one episode dedicated to people switching bodies, and I started wondering what would happen if the Avatar characters switched bodies....and what happened was an excuse to write Zuko on an airball. Also, this is partly inspired by this great deviantArt picture of Avatar!Zuko. Take all the spaces out of the link below to see it:
h t t p : / / w i g m a n i a . d e v i a n t a r t . c o m / a r t / A v a t a r - Z u k o - C o n c e p t - 7 2 5 9 8 2 1 0