Title: Not Dreams, But Dreams

Author: The Bookworm's Magician

Beta: Esther-Channah

Rating: K+

Character/s: Zuko

Pairing/s: None

Spoilers: The Storm

Summary: What is the difference between a dream… and a nightmare?

Disclaimer: I don't own this, I never have and I never will.

AN: Hope you like it!

"'Nevertheless, you will fly from here," he gasped. 'This is the Island where Dreams come true.'… 'Do you hear what I say? This is where dreams – dreams, do you understand – come to life, come real. Not daydreams, dreams.' There was about half a minute's silence and then, with a great clatter of armor, the whole crew were tumbling down the main hatch as quick as they could and flinging themselves on the oars to row as they had never rowed before… For it had taken everyone just that half-minute to remember certain dreams they had – dreams that make you afraid of going to sleep again – and to realize what it would mean to land on a country where dreams come true."

- The Dark Island, Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Not Dreams, But Dreams

"Zuko!" Zuko turns around in surprise. He's been wandering the halls of the palace for a while now, and he'd thought that he was alone. He lifts his eyebrows in surprise when he sees who it is.

"Azula! What are you doing in here? I thought that you were practicing your Firebending." She nods gleefully.

"I was, but it's boring by myself! Come practice with me!" She grabs his hand and starts dragging him down the hall. He sighs, but goes willingly enough, and soon they are racing each other down the hall.

"Come on, Zuzu! Keep up with me!"

Zuko runs faster, trying to keep up with Azula as she runs through the ever-twisting corridors. He stops, though, as he bursts through a door and into bright, burning sunlight. He throws a hand over his eyes and when he lowers it, he gasps, because he recognizes where he is.

The crowd roars as his father straightens and turns to face him. Zuko looks around anxiously for Azula. Hadn't he been following her? He spots her sitting in the stands next to his uncle, an insane, cruel grin upon her face. His attention is drawn back to his father as the Fire Lord gets into his stance.

Zuko quickly drops to his knees and into a bow, not daring (or wanting) to face his father in combat. He can almost feel his father's sneer when he speaks.

"Stand up, Zuko! You have insulted me, and you will face me in Agni Kai!"

"No, Father! I am sorry, Father! I did not mean to insult you, Father! I am sorry!"

"Sorry? You are a weakling, Zuko, and you always have been! Stand up and face me like a man, like a Fire Nation prince; not like the pathetic child you are!"

"No! I will not fight you, Father! I submit to you; I surrender! I apologize for my insult! I am sorry!" Zuko doesn't move, as he feels his father move to stand in front of him.

"So you still won't fight me, hm? Well then, I'll just have to teach you a lesson! Look at me!" Startled, Zuko looks up at his father, tears streaming down his face.

His last sight is of his father, raising a fist covered in flame—and then all he can see is darkness… and in the darkness, there is nothing left but pain

Iroh was finishing up his rounds for the night. He'd been playing Pai Sho with some of the men (the few left who weren't scared to face him across the board), so he was completing them later than usual. He had checked on all of the crew's quarters, and he only had one cabin left before he, too, could go to bed. He halted before his nephew's door and quietly opened it.

He stepped through and, just as quietly, closed it after himself. He waited for his eyes to adjust, listening in contentment to his nephew's steady breathing. After he could see again, he stepped forward to stand by the bed. He stared down at his nephew's sleeping form, drinking in the sight of him, healthy and whole.

Suddenly, Zuko's brow furrowed, his breathing became heavy, and he began to toss and turn. He started to murmur under his breath.

"No… No… Father, please… Please, Father, don't… I'm sorry!" With that, Zuko, jolted awake. He sat up quickly, his face covered with tears. Then he noticed Iroh. "Uncle, what are you doing in here?"

The confusion on Zuko's face tore at Iroh's heart. He carefully sat down on the edge of the bed, and quickly gathered Zuko into a hug. Zuko tensed, unused to receiving hugs. He cautiously brought his arms up around Iroh.

Iroh rubbed Zuko's back and soon Zuko had relaxed into the hug. The comfort of a familiar person, along with the late hour, soon lured him back into sleep. Iroh eased Zuko back onto the bed, feeling his heart break, as his nephew's face stayed pinched even in sleep. He cursed his brother silently as he left the room.

…The End…