Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar the Last Airbender

Notes: I read the new Avatar comic sanctioned by Nickelodeon called "The Promise." I had enough issues with it to write retaliatory fanfiction full of impotent rage. Also, trying out a new style of writing…sorta.

fool's fire

we were no more fleeting or stable than earthbound stars

Her words burn. 'Meant to be.' She says it so expressionlessly that he wonders if she is joking him, if any moment her lips will part into that teasing cocky smile he's come to adore and things will be fine again. But she just keeps staring at him. Blank faced, like she didn't just bring his world crumbling down around his ears.

"What?" he asks. It sounds as blank as she looks. He stares at her looking for any sign of life, for any signs of anything really. He takes in the summer browned hue of her skin and the set of her mouth. It's desperate, this search of his, and finally his eyes lock onto her own.

Blue. Her eyes have always been blue. Startling, shocking blue, blue that has never existed before except for in the gorgeous perfect summer days of his youth right after a massive thunderstorm cleared the skies. So blue, sky blue, perfect gorgeous summer sky blue. He knew that before, didn't he? (Why didn't he compliment her when he had the chance, before she was meant to be?)

Maybe he's searching for things in her eyes that were never there. Maybe that's his problem. He thought he saw love when really, all he saw was her all encompassing compassion. Maybe he mistook that for love. Maybe compassion-not-love is why she seems so not there now, so devoid of all life. Maybe.

"I…" she begins to say, licking her lips. Nerves or is it just that the heat of the Earth Kingdom summer is getting to her? He stares into her eyes harder, willing anything to come from her lips, anything at all. An explanation, an apology, or even a giggle. Anything.

A brief flare of life in the blue of her eyes, the set of her mouth, the tilt of her eyebrows, the sweep of her hair. He steps forward, invades her personal space. He's so fucking desperate now that he feels the fool, but he wants to bask her the fire of her spirit, wants to know she's alive and he's alive and for this single moment they are together. Her eyes flick upward to meet his dead on, this close he can see the flecks of grey-silver-moonshine in the blue, so beautiful, so alive. (But not his, never his.)

"Yes?" It's a question that hangs in the air like so many unspoken things.

"Y-you know I can't do this," she gestures her hand in the space between them. Her face seems to plead with him to understand, to let this go before she must say more. And he would let it be so, he would, but he can't, because the very reason he'd let it go is the very reason he can't which is that he…he…

"I love him," she says. Her lips remain parted, gleaming faintly with her spit under the glow of the lanterns, and she should not look so beautiful. "I love him," she repeats, as if trying to make the statement truer. She looks defiant but pleading. 'Just let it go, let it go, gently down the stream of lost memories.'

His fingers grip her wrist and he pulls it, tugging her hand up to rest soft warm palm and long elegant fingers over the red scar that will forever mar his chest. She saved his life, once upon a time. She looked at him with blue eyes and offered salvation. He'd not taken it, too unworthy, too broken, not the knight she needed. Yet it was all that had kept him from going mad. And for that, for that salvation, he would do anything for her.

Even let her go.

"Do you truly love him?" he whispers. "Would you have me let you go?"

Her eyes slip away from his. Her breath catches in her throat. "I can't do anything but love him. I can't. There's so many things that you just don't understand. That you can't understand. I've been his since the first day."

"You're not property."

"There are lights in the Swamp. Lights that move and dance, always moving further away. The locals, they call them the strangest thing."


"It's a will-o'-the-wisp. Fool's fire." Her eyes dare to look at him now. It is his turn for his breathe to catch. He laughs harshly, a chuckling sound that is more dead than alive. Because he was always nothing but a fool, chasing her down. She's the most beautiful woman in the world but so much more than that, fire and flame and laughter, the sparks that lit the greater flame, what kept him going onward, what brought him back from the brink of death so many times, what kept him sane.

"I understand."

"No, you don't. You…you are my fool's fire, Zuko." Earnest, sweet, blue eyes, shaky smile.

(And that is all, he will never let her go.)