Feed the Fire

This is my very first completed ATLA fanfic. I wrote it a long time ago I just didn't have an account until now to post it. In it, Zuko has joined the Gaang. Also, "The Firebending Masters" didn't happen; just assume Zuko already knew the things the dragons taught them. I had an idea for this fic, but then it sort of wrote itself. Anyway, enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender.

"Hey Zuko" Aang said randomly. "What's your idea of love?"

The scarred teen stared at his younger friend with surprise and raised his eyebrow. "Kind of a random question. Why do you ask?"

"Just…curious". As he said this his gaze transferred over to a certain waterbender and he quickly turned to hide the blush that crept onto his cheeks. Zuko, however, followed his gaze and didn't fail to notice the blush either.

"I think I know why". The firebending prince smirked. "All right, you want my take on love? Let me explain it in the way I think of it."

"There are different types of love. Romantic love, I assume that's the kind you want to talk about, is passionate, but it's calm too."

"I don't get it" the monk interrupted. "How can be passionate and calm at the same time?"

"Let me explain. And don't interrupt or I won't explain it to you. Think of love like fire."

"How can you compare love with fire?" Aang cried. "Love is a good thing. Fire… it's bad. It's destructive and it burns and hurts and" he stopped as Zuko held up a hand.

"Yes fire can be destructive. But it also provides warmth and light. Fire is energy and energy is life. So fire equals life". He bended a fireball into his hand. "Hold out your hands." Aang hesitated. "If I'm going to teach you firebending, you have to trust and listen to me" Zuko said.

Aang cautiously did as he was told. Zuko placed the fire in his hands. "What does it feel like?"

"Uh, warm?" Aang said. Zuko rolled his eyes and gave the monk a Well, duh! look. "I mean what does it really feel like?"

"Like…a pulse. A heartbeat. Like it's really alive."

Zuko bended a piece of the fire back into his hands. "Yeah, fire is alive, in its own way."

"Okay, so fire is life. But what about fire being like love?"

"Let me explain it. Here". He went over to their bags and returned with a rock.

"Aang, meet flint," he said, holding up the rock, "and," he pulled out his dagger, "steel. Now, when flint and steel meet, they create sparks". He struck them together and sure enough sparks came off.

"But sparks aren't enough for real love." He gestured to the pit where their fire normally burned. "You need respect." Zuko lined the outside of the pit with rocks. "You need commitment." He then lined the inside of the pit with coals and twigs to burn. "You also need intimacy and affection."

"Now that you have these things the sparks can become real fire." He struck the flint and steel together again and this time the sparks caught and a small flame appeared. "Now, flint and steel have met, sparks flew between them, and now with commitment, respect, intimacy, and affection all fueling it, fire-love-has been created."

"But fire can go out eventually, can't it?" Aang asked.

Zuko cast him a sidelong glance. "Didn't I say don't interrupt?"

Aang ducked his head and flushed. "Sorry".

Zuko smirked as he had earlier. "Yes fire could go out, if it's not maintained. This is the real test of love. How long can it last?"

"Watch the fire. When it starts, it grows quickly with fuel to burn. It's hot, passionate. Eventually as the fire continues to burn, it shrinks but keeps burning. When two people fall in love, they might feel a high, passionate attraction to one another. Over time, though, the passion burns down yet the heat still remains. Feel".

Aang reached his hands over and felt the fire. Even thought the flames had shrunk, heat was still being radiated from them.

"The couple has a warmer, more mature love over time now. They learn about one another, and learn to deal when they're apart," Zuko said and for a moment his thoughts turned to a dark-haired girl he wished was by his side right now. "The relationship deepens and the truly committed try to work out any problems they have and keep the relationship maintained. They feed the fire."

"The warmth, it's the affection and intimacy you're feeling. Fire is formed, maintained, and it lives and grows then dies down and becomes warm and comforting, just like love over a long time. As the fire burns down look what's left." He poked at the fire with a stick and showed the red glow underneath.

"Embers" Aang said as understanding dawned on him. "Even when it seems like the passion is all gone, the warmth and love are still there."

Zuko smiled. "Exactly. This is real love, being able to maintain that warmth over time. But every once in a while that fire needs fed. So you feed it," he tossed a log on the fire and stirred it, "and now the passion comes back."

Just as he said this, flames roared back into life and settled into a rhythmic flickering. "Lust and infatuation are just flames. There's heat and passion, but no commitment, no true feelings, only a physical, unrealistic desire. It's not real love. You need all of it- respect, commitment, affection, and intimacy to have real love. Take one away and the fire doesn't burn as well; it'll go out because it's not being maintained properly."

"Wow, Zuko." Aang said in amazement. "That was kind of…deep. I think your uncle would be proud."

"He might be. You know, he told me he still loves his wife. She's been gone almost twenty-five years now, and yet he still has a place in his heart for her. I think that's real love. To care for someone even when they're gone for so long. He told me throughout his life he's experienced lust over women but she's the only one that made him experience love."

Aang smiled. "I guess they knew how to feed the fire then."