Future Proof

Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender. Sadly enough.

Warnings: Speculation, Spoilers up to Season Three

AN: For AtLA Land's bingo card writing challenge. Prompt was "Firebending."

Kuzon is sixteen when Aang is ten. Quite a difference for boys of that age. But Kuzon felt a connection the first time they met, almost a spark of familiarity and recollection. He's the baby of the family, born when his parents had imagined themselves too old for another child. And Aang is like the little brother he never had. The little brother he can never have.

Besides, it makes his mother smile when she sees them playing together.

Gyatso and she have known each other for a long time. Since long before his father died or Kuzon and his sisters were born. Before Aang was born.

And of course, Aang is an airbender; all the nomads are. That makes it a twinge odd. But it's nice in a way. There aren't many benders where they live, and neither of his older sisters can bend at all. Kuzon is the only one.

For some reason, that makes his mother smile, too. Especially when she watches Aang and him bending together. She likes to stand just outside the doorway, greying hair blowing in the breeze and an unreadable gleam in her eyes.

But she isn't watching them right now. Gyatso has pulled her back into the house to talk over some adult matter that neither wants Aang to overhear. They might tell Kuzon later, but he doesn't really worry about that as Aang and he go back and forth with bending tricks. It'll be hard to top the move Aang just performed, but Kuzon has something he's never showed Aang, showed anyone. He's met a fair number of firebenders, but he's only seen one other person do this before.

Kuzon waves Aang closer to him and waits for him to approach. When the younger boy does, Kuzon offers him a smile before he cups his hands together and breathes a flame to life. Aang looks at him with puzzlement, but his eyes widen impossibly as Kuzon pulls back his hands but the fire continues to hover midair. Not completely stationary but drifting up and down like a boat over the waves. And Aang's grey eyes grow even larger as the top of the flames flicker in an almost dance, swaying back and forth in time with every inhale and exhale. Shifting colors from red to orange to yellow with the subtlest hints of blue and green peeking through so quickly that most people would think they imagined it.

"Flameo, hotman!" Aang exclaims a minute later when it's finally extinguished. "That was amazing! How did you do that? I could feel the air moving."

Kuzon grins at him. "Just have to control the heat around the fire and use it to make the air move."

"Definitely flameo," the airbender repeats. "When did you learn to do that? Did you practice since my last visit?"

Kuzon feels his smile harden at the edges momentarily, but it eases just as quickly. He tilts his head back to gaze at the sun and lets out a sigh.

"I… I've seen someone else do it, but I didn't get it myself until just recently." He pauses for a second but goes on before Aang can question him further. "My father showed me," Kuzon tells him, looking down from the sun. "Years ago. Just before he died."

"Your dad?" Aang questions with a note of uncertainty in his voice. He shifts from one foot to the other and bites his lip.

Kuzon blinks at him. "What?"

"You… You just never really talk about your dad."

The older boy shrugs and gazes at nothing. "It's just hard sometimes," he admits. "Remembering how he died. It still makes my mom cry, so we usually don't talk about it." He's silent for a moment. "I wasn't even there, you know. I was with my sister that night; it was her birthday. She was the one who carried me down to the boat."

Aang gulps and sniffles both. His face is sad and heart obviously heavy, even for a man he's never met.

"Oh… I'm really sorry, Kuzon."

He waves the apology away and tries his best to make Aang feel better. "It's not like it's your fault or anything. You weren't even alive back then. Besides, it was a long time ago."

Quiet settles around them. Kuzon feels the breeze pick up and pull at his clothes. He wonders if that's Aang's doing, but it feels nice either way. It's calming. Soothing. Reminds him of his father when they used to go down by the shore and hunt for pretty seashells to take back. He still has a few saved, beautiful and broken in the chaos of running for their lives. The ones that he'd had in his pocket from the day before, that he'd forgotten to give to her earlier. His mother told him to keep them. That he deserved something his father had touched when everything else had been destroyed.

"What was his name?"

Aang's voice jars him out of his thoughts. Kuzon glances at him, only to realize that the airbender is looking at his cupped hand and the fire that he's unconsciously made. He isn't sure how that happened; he hadn't even meant to do it. But fire has always been so easy for him. Just like exhaling. He's never struggled. Never had to think about it. Fire just is for him.

His mother says that it was the same way for his father.

"His name?" Kuzon repeats blankly as he tears his gaze away. He feels the flame flicker and caress his skin.

"Your dad?" Aang clarifies, still watching him with eyes that are somehow far too ancient for his face. "What was his name?"

"My father…" Kuzon breathes in and out before replying. "His name was Roku."

Ever Hopeful,