A/N: Well, this is my first ever multi-chapter yaoi story, so let's see how THIS goes. I'm not entirely sure why the hell I decided on a multichap Avatar yaoi, but, uh…. *shrug* Here goes nothing, neh?
Thanks to VixenReborn and devil-kitsune for getting my ass in gear and making me write this faster. And to Pitapai for helping me decide on the title. ("Kibou" means "Hope" by the way.)
This World Doesn't Have Heroes
The murmurs had started the moment he had stepped out of the dressing room and out in front of the all white backdrop. While the camera had been snapping, flash shining in his eyes, blinding him, he could dull his senses enough to ignore it. The sheer contempt and loathing he felt as he posed time and time again, both for himself and the ones who were allowing this, doing this, to him, was enough to drive him made. Yet each moment his feelings, senses, emotions, dulled a little, more and more.
He had hoped that those annoying voices would stop once he left the studio, threw off those stupid designer clothes and pulled back on his own, but they didn't. The followed him to school, where face after face was suddenly looking at him, looking at him when they'd never even shot a glance his way before. Girls and boys alike, hate and lust, it didn't matter to him, it all blurred into an almost endless slur of emotion he never wanted.
Soon, the whispers were everywhere he went, no matter where he went, everyone knew him by now. Knew his face, his body, knew him just by looking at him and he hated it. Like rumors, the publicity died down after a bit, but it was too late and the damage was done. Even if he was no longer the number one thing in the spotlight, he was still IN the spotlight, where he had never, ever, ever wanted to be.
Zuko Hihoshi hated what had become of his life, hated it almost as much as he hated his father, and that was truly saying something.
His father on the other hand, had never been more pleased with his son, and that made him feel even more hateful towards what he had done. The modeling offer had been unexpected and unwanted, but Zuko had been sure that it might give him some kind of freedom from his family, some kind of rebellion against the perfect son his father wanted to mold.
He had been hopelessly wrong.
Under the spotlight of the camera, Zuko had been once more judged based upon social status and appearance alone. There had been nothing different between the way he was treated at home and the way he was treated in the studio, it made him feel even lower than he normally did. Makeup artist after makeup artist had had their way with his pale skin, covering every blotch, every bruise, every scar, no one even asked where they came from, or why they were there now. No one ever had.
When Zuko had gone home he had stood in the shower for two hours, till the water was ice cold, just shaking as the powers and glosses and gods only knew what else unglued from his skin and fell to the shower floor and into the drain. If he cried, he didn't remember, but he wouldn't have been surprised at all. No one would have heard him over the sound of the water, and even if they had, they wouldn't have cared. His sister and his father both viewed him as weak and useless anyway, a few tears wouldn't change that.
But once the photos were printed (some pop magazine or something, he couldn't remember and didn't care), things changed, and whether for better or for worse he couldn't tell. At first, his father had been shocked at the sight of his son in designer clothing, posing mostly by himself in various backgrounds, advertising this designer and that one. Zuko had thought, hoped, that his father would be furious, would lose some kind of cool and composure over this.
Then the pictures had been found by the school.
Not a single teacher had commented, they didn't dare with who his father was, but the students had no boundaries. The few who had tried to turn it into something to throw at him as an insult or a disgrace were quickly silenced by his suddenly large group of fans. Boy and girls of all ages who just wanted something pretty to look at swarmed him and it made Zuko feel absolutely vile. The sixteen love notes he received in his locker the first day really didn't help his feelings of self loathing either.
After that, whatever hope he had had disappeared entirely as soon as he went home after that first day. His father had never been more pleased with something he had done, congratulating him and informing him of just how many high end photographers and modeling agencies wanted him on their lists now. The small social standing Zuko had been teetering on based solely upon his father was suddenly a standing all his own, all because of a few simple snapshots that didn't even look like him anymore.
His sister, pretty Azula who had always been the bane of his existence and the apple of his father's eye, suddenly respected him. She was eager to tell people her brother was THE Zuko Hihoshi, star freelance model, now. Her ridicule never stopped though, her seemingly never ending teasing and bullying didn't go away, but when in the public eye she treated him like someone equal to her.
At one time, Zuko would have died for that, but now, now he just wished she would go back to hating him all the time.
The only person who Zuko could turn to was his uncle, who without a word took him in and treated him like a normal person. Iroh was the only one who ever had.
But just one person in a world full of those willing to only look at what they saw on the surface, hell, what they saw at first glance, wasn't enough. Even when that person was the most wonderful, understanding, loving uncle anyone could or should possibly ever ask for, it just couldn't add up to the crushing amount of people who just didn't get it. Zuko was drowning, slowly but surely falling into a pit of hate and despair as he was chained more and more to his family name and to what he hated more than anything else in the world. Modeling became just another thing in his life he wished would just shrivel up and die, much like his father and his home and his school. There was nothing left tying him to the planes of the world but his uncle, nothing left for him to believe in and reach for. It was all just pain and hate and loathing and the more days passed, the less and less Zuko believed he could make it.
Had he not known that his uncle would have been absolutely devastated if he had died, he would have willingly left the land of the living long ago. But Iroh had already lost his son to the war, and Zuko had always been like a second child to him, much as he had been more of a father to the boy than his own, and so Zuko lived. Even if it meant living a life he hated, living in a house full of people he despised, in a world full of those who didn't know or care about him, he lived.
Each and every day he prayed for a reason to perhaps stop hating himself so much, something to make him rethinking his own self loathing at selling himself to the mass media. So far, nothing had appeared to make him rethink his hate but a small calico kitten that he had picked up on the way home from school. His father's only condition had been that he take complete responsibility for the feline, and Zuko's mental response had been "as if I'd let YOU take care of her".
And so Zuko lived only for two things, his uncle and his teashop, those hours, sometimes days if he was lucky, that he would spend inside the Jasmine Dragon, and Kibou, his pet cat. Not the most amazing things to live for, but they kept Zuko from just picking up a razor and ending it, and really, that was all that mattered.
Don't get the wrong idea, Zuko wasn't depressed, not in the slightest. He liked living, he liked breathing, being alive seemed like a rather good thing to do thank you very much. But it was hard when one was living in the shadow of a man he hated, strapped down by the stereotype the world had written for him before he could so much as make a move on his own. Living a life dictated by others didn't seem like the most appealing idea, a life where he was forced to hate every move he made… Zuko didn't want to live like that.
Sometimes he would lay in bed at night, petting Kibou listlessly, wondering blankly if, perhaps, he might one day have something, someone, to live for. If perhaps one day, the words inside himself that he wished to copy down onto paper might be allowed flow, if maybe one day he would stop hating himself and his every action.
But for now, all he could do was live the life he despised, and hope that maybe he would come out alive.