Full summary: Zuko leaves the Fire Nation to teach the Avatar firebending, but Aang refuses. Rejected by the Gaang and pursued by Azula, Zuko ifs faced with his past choices, haunted by his memories, and considered a traitor to the Fire Nation, Zuko must change his life and himself in order to find his true destiny.
Chapter 1: Prologue
"I don't know…"
Aang stared fixedly at the ground, one foot drawing patterns in the loose dirt. His gaze flickered nervously toward Katara's face. The look lasted less than a second, but Zuko didn't miss it. He himself glanced at the waterbender. Her face was hard as a rock, her blue eyes colder than steel. She was the main obstacle. The rest of the group looked as if they might accept Zuko's offer, but the girl was firm and unflinching.
"Katara," the airbender's voice was almost pleading as he attempted to reason with the watertribe girl. "I need a firebending teacher, and Zuko's the only one we know who's even offered to help!"
"No!" Katara yelled. "Do you remember anything he's done? He's a monster, Aang!"
Zuko clenched his teeth and his fists and forced himself not to react to that description of himself.
"He burned down the Kyoshi Village, he attacked you, he attacked the rest of us, he threatened my tribe, and attacked the Northern Water Tribe, he joined Azula in Ba Sing Se, and he…he…he's done lots of other stuff too!"
"I SAID NO!" She was screaming now, her voice rising several octaves.
"Twinkletoes is right, Sweetness."
It was the blind earthbender talking now. Zuko tried to cover his surprise. He had burned her and she was still willing to stand up for him? Apparently Katara had the same thought.
"Why are you defending him? He burned you, remember? Ugh, what do you know? You weren't there all those times he tried to capture Aang! You have no way of understanding what he put us through!" Katara threw her hands into the air. "All of you people are such idiots! If we let him join he'll murder us all in our sleep!"
"But where am I going to learn firebending?" Aang begged.
"I don't know!" Katara waved her arms over her head as if that would frighten Zuko off. "Find Jeong Jeong! Or just don't learn firebending! You can probably defeat the Fire Lord without it if you master the other three! Just get that two-faced traitor out of here!"
At the word "two-faced" Zuko instinctively reached toward his scar. Suddenly aware of what he was doing, he forced his hand back to his side.
Aang looked up at Zuko, regret showing in his gray eyes.
"I'm sorry Zuko," he said, his voice apologetic, "But I need to keep peace within my group. If Katara is angry and unhappy we'll all fall apart. Maybe after Katara has calmed down a little…"
"NO!" The watertribe girl shrieked.
Zuko didn't even remember turning to walk away. But as he made his way back toward his camp he felt as if he could hear the girl's words chasing him away. He knew without a doubt that she would never allow him there. He would never belong with them. He was alone.
"Now you've done it, Sweetness!"
He heard the earthbender's voice faintly in the distance.
"Great job, Twinkletoes! That was possibly the biggest mistake you've ever made!"
Zuko sighed. He felt like leaving the Fire Nation was the biggest mistake he had ever made.
General Iroh, the Dragon of the West, stared fixedly at the map spread open before him. One hand loosely gripped a teacup, the other rested on the map, his forefinger tapping thoughtfully just outside Ba Sing Se.
On the day of the eclipse, King Bumi had singlehandedly succeeded in taking back Omashu. The Order of the White Lotus had quickly moved their headquarters there. The Fire Nation had made a few attempts at retaking the city, but all had failed. Iroh smiled slightly. Ozai did have a habit of underestimating his enemy. Of course, his enemy was a group of old people who had formed a secret society, but at Omashu they had proved they were stronger than they appeared.
Apparently the Day of Black Sun had not gone so well for the Avatar and his companions. A few days ago, Iroh had received a messenger hawk from a spy in the Fire Nation Palace. The Avatar had invaded the Fire Nation. Iroh had marveled at the Avatar's careful planning in the invasion. They had calculated everything, up to the length of the eclipse and the time when it would be the most useful to them. And those submarines were pure genius.
Unfortunately, Ozai had been prepared. He had evacuated from the palace, leaving the Avatar to face only an empty throne room. When they tried to find the Fire Lord in his secret bunker, they found Azula instead. She had kept them well occupied until the end of the eclipse. Then, forced to retreat, most of the invasion force had been captured. Only the Avatar and a small group of children with him had escaped.
Iroh was forced to admit that his niece was indeed very cunning and powerful. She was a strong strategist and warrior, and a very dangerous enemy. However, Iroh was convinced that her inner strength was no match for Zuko's. Azula may have been cold-blooded, precise, and calculating, but Zuko had a fierce will and determination that rivaled even the dragons of old.
The retired general sighed. He missed his nephew. Even though at the time he had felt it was the only way to react, he couldn't help but regret his treatment of him while Iroh was in jail. Zuko had begged for help and guidance, and Iroh had ignored him. While he was sure that Zuko needed to find his own way, and would eventually take the right path, Iroh was beginning to doubt if that would be soon enough. As of yet, he had received no word on his nephew. There where rumors that Prince Zuko once again left the Fire Nation, this time to join the Avatar (some said he had even attacked the Fire Lord first), but the spy had not yet confirmed these.
Iroh sipped his tea idly, the flavor of Jasmine filling his mouth. He very much hoped the rumors were true. If his nephew was with the Avatar he had truly made the right decision. Iroh was quite sure that if he hadn't already, Zuko soon would. His nephew was strong. Iroh had faith in him.
"Why won't she just give me a chance?" Zuko yelled. "I know I messed up! But can't she just let me try to make it up? The others were willing!"
He sat down and buried his face in his hands. He probably lost any hope he had when he burned the blind girl's feet. But even if he had not done that, he doubted the girl would have reacted any different.
During the journey to the Western Air Temple, Zuko had told himself that he wasn't expecting to be allowed to join the group. But really, he realized, he had thought he was going to be accepted. The Avatar needed a teacher, and he had offered. He knew he shouldn't have been surprised at the outright hostility the girl had shown him, but he was. He had placed all his hope in the Avatar, and the Avatar had failed him.
Once again, Zuko had relied on the Avatar. He had hoped to join him, and help defeat his father. He would not have all that he had longed for, but at least he would have returned to his nation, and he would have a chance to repair what his family had ruined. He could have ended the war, and turned the Fire Nation into a place of peace.
But the Avatar had refused. Still a child, the airbender was afraid to stand against Katara. He had accepted her opinion, refusing to choose his own path. Surprisingly, the Avatar was a lot like he, Zuko, had been. Zuko had willingly taken the destiny his father had placed on him, instead of looking to find his true one.
Zuko considered his new position. He had turned against his father, openly defying him, to join the Avatar. The Avatar had sent him away. Even in banishment, Zuko had more hope. There was always a chance that he could capture the Avatar and return to the Fire Nation. That option was gone. The Fire Nation was no longer Zuko's home.
He had no home.
So, this was just the prologue. The next chapter will be longer and have more angst. In case you haven't figured it out, this is about what would have happened if the Gaang had refused to let Zuko join. Please review!