Category:Avatar: The Last Airbender
Rating: M for dark themes, violence, and semi-explicit M/M sex.
A/N: This story attempts to re-imagine what Aang and Zuko's relationship would have been like if the series after The Blue Spirit had never happened. I did this as realistically as I could, sticking to themes and ideas that were established in the later seasons. I hope you enjoy it, especially if Zukaang is your thing! If it's not, then you probably want to mosy on along to another story.
Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to Avatar: The Last Airbender or its characters. I gain no profit from writing or posting this work of fiction.
The world burned, and once again, Aang was not there to save it.
The Northern Water Tribe fell first, he was told. The waterbenders did their best to defend their arctic home, but their numbers were so few and the Fire Nation soldiers were so many. It didn't take much for their beautifully sculpted ice architecture to melt into nothing but water and steam.
Ba Sing Se fell last. Aang was told of how its once-impenetrable wall, scorched from flames, crumbled to rubble as the metal tanks of the Fire Nation plowed through it. Without Aang to help stop the Fire Nation armies, the capital of the Earth Kingdom traded its majestic green and gold flags for tapestries of black and scarlet. Now Fire Lord Ozai ruled from Earth King Kuei's throne, and there was no one strong enough to oppose him.
Aang heard nothing of what became of his friends. Whether Sokka and Katara died from fever or by fighting the Fire Nation, or if they were still out there, trying to think of a way to rescue him - he had no idea.
All news of the outside world filtered in to Aang from the soldiers who talked amongst themselves while guarding the door to his cell. Sometimes General Zhao came in to brag about his latest victory in battle, or about his latest promotion. Sometimes Zhao came in simply to antagonize the Avatar, to remind Aang that the there was no escape, that the airbender would grow old and die in this metal cell. Zhao liked to remind Aang that the airbender would be the last of his kind.
At some point, Aang stopped listening.
There were no windows in his metal prison, so it was impossible to tell one day from the next. The only way Aang could keep track of time was by counting the meals he was fed. The meals were brought to him carefully, in light wooden bowls and with dull metal spoons. Nothing heavy or sharp was brought into the Avatar's cell, nothing that could be airbent into a weapon. As if Aang even had any energy left to bend.
Aang was brought two meals a day.
He was one thousand, four hundred and five meals in.
Almost four years. Aang had been locked away for almost four years, and when he thought about how much time had passed, it made him sick.
But the worst part of his captivity, worse than the metal shackles biting at his wrists and ankles, worse than the constant, dull pangs of hunger that ached in his stomach, worse still than the silence that surrounded him at all times, driving his mind into madness: the worst part of it all was that the world thought Aang had disappeared again. Everyone assumed that Aang had run away when they needed him most. Maybe even Sokka and Katara believed he was a coward who turned his back on the world.
"But I didn't," Aang used to weep. He used to repeat it, over and over, as if the world could hear him if he only said it enough. Those three words were the only ones he spoke before he gave into the silence and stopped talking.
The door to the Avatar's cell opened, flooding the dark metal room with light from the hallway lanterns. One thousand four hundred and six, Aang's mind chanted. The door shut with a decisive clang.
The room didn't remain dark for long. With a wooshing sound, Aang's cell was suddenly awash with a bright orange glow; the soldier who entered had lit the lanterns of the two pillars, the only fixtures in the cell. Not every soldier lit them. Some liked to leave Aang in darkness.
"I brought you dinner," the soldier said.
Aang said nothing. He had said nothing for a thousand meals, and he wasn't about to break that habit for this wet-behind-the-ears infantry grunt.
"Here, aren't you hungry?"
The airbender opened his eyes a bit to see a wooden spoon laden with cold rice soup held in front of him. His stomach growled, just a bit, at the smell of it. Aang watched the spoon approach, bridging the distant between guard and prisoner until it pressed gently against the airbender's lips.
What could he do?
Aang had tried refusing food once. For a week, he had refused to eat or drink. The world had better odds of being saved if he died and was reborn, he figured. Waiting for a child to grow up would take less time than waiting for a young man to die of old age, but Zhao understood that, too. And Zhao, who was promoted to General for his capture of the Avatar, wasn't about to lose his prized possession. When Zhao had heard of Aang's hunger strike, he sent a troop of soldiers to deal with the problem.
It took six soldiers to force-feed the Avatar. Three to guard the door, two to pry the Aang's mouth open, one to shove the gruel in, and another to hold Aang's mouth closed until he swallowed either the food or his own bile. Either way, Zhao figured, it kept the Avatar alive.
So now, resigned, Aang took a sip of the soup offered him.
"I see the years haven't been kind to you, either."
Aang ignored the soldier and finished the rest of the cold spoonful. It took only a moment for the soldier to refill the spoon and offer another to him.
"I made a mistake, Avatar."
Aang emptied the second spoonful, and dutifully, the soldier filled it up. But this time, the soldier brought the spoon to his own lips first, to blow on it until a small trail of steam rose up from it. "I'm sorry," the soldier murmured.
Finally, Aang's eyes flew open. That voice. Aang knew that voice. He hadn't heard it in years, but there was no mistaking the low rasp, the quiet consonants. Aang lifted his head, bringing his gaze from the soldier's steel-toed boots up to the soldier's chest plate, higher still to the soldier's helmet.
Slowly, the soldier removed the steel faceplate that marked a member of the Fire Nation infantry, revealing pale skin and a dark scar beneath.
"Prince Zuko," Aang gasped, but the words came out rough and barely audible.
Zuko smiled wryly. "Not a prince anymore," he replied as he held the spoon out to Aang. "Phoenix King Ozai no longer has a son."
Aang swallowed the now-warm rice soup. His heart was pounding in his chest - he probably shouldn't have been so elated to see his former enemy standing in his jail cell, but for whatever reason, he was. He was happy. It made him feel dizzy and confused, but happy.
Try as he might, Aang couldn't put those feelings into words, so instead he focused on the easiest question"Phoenix King?"
"That's what my father calls himself now," Zuko frowned, scooping up more soup and blowing on it to warm it up. "Phoenix King, ruler of the world."
Aang's head reeled. "And you… what happened to you?"
Zuko ignored the airbender for a moment, pretending instead to focus on heating up another spoonful of soup. When it was apparent that Aang would not cooperate unless given an answer, Zuko sighed and gave in. "When my father took the throne of Phoenix King, he disowned me completely and crowned my sister Fire Lord. Now I'm just another traitor. Another enemy of the Phoenix King. Like you."
The airbender's mind worked to process the new information it had been bombarded with, but it couldn't. There were so many things Aang wanted to ask. Did Zuko know what happened to Katara and Sokka? Were his friends still fighting Ozai's armies? Was there any resistance left at all? But the only question that escaped Aang's tongue, was: "Are you here to kill me?"
Zuko froze midway through bringing the spoon to Aang's mouth, as if he'd been suddenly struck by ice that froze him solid. With a deep frown, he spoke slowly, "I'm not here to kill you."
"Then are you here to free me?"
The firebender shook his head. "I can't. Zhao's tripled the guards at this stronghold to make sure you never escape. If we tried, I'd be killed and you'd be captured again before we even made it out of the tower."
Aang let his head drop back down as he squeezed his eyes shut. Zuko's words sank like stones in the pit of his stomach. Spirits, Aang was such a fool for even allowing himself to think, even for a moment, that there was any hope that he could get out of here, that Zuko would help, that Aang could be free again –
Aang opened his eyes. The toes of Zuko's metal boots swam into view.
"I'm sorry," Zuko repeated, letting his arms fall to his side. "I made a mistake. I never should have tried to capture you. I should have been helping you. I should have helped you to defeat my father, and now… now it's too late."
Aang opened his mouth. He didn't know what he was going to say, but he knew the words would come to him in a moment, if he just –
A sharp rapping sounded from the other side of the metal door. "Soldier, are you done in there?"
Zuko's posture changed from defeated to defensive in a fraction of a second. "Yes," Zuko called, rushing to put his faceplate back on. And just like that, Zuko disappeared behind the emotionless metal mask, becoming just another Fire Nation soldier.
"Did the Avatar eat everything? General Zhao wants to make sure he's been eating enough," the voice on the other side of the door asked.
"It's fine," Zuko answered, walking towards the door. "I'm coming out."
A hiss sounded as the heavy bolts of the cell door unlocked.
"I'll be back," Zuko whispered, his voice hidden by the grating sound of metal against metal. "I promise."
Light from the hallway lit up the room, stinging Aang's eyes. Squinting, the airbender watched as the shadow of the former prince stepped into the blinding whiteness, pausing for a moment to bend the fire out from the pillars. Then the silhouette disappeared as darkness flooded the cell again.
Aang let his head drop back down. Zuko was alive. And Zuko wasn't on the Fire Nation's side, which meant that he was on Aang's side, kind of. The airbender felt something swirl inside him, an emotion he had long forgotten. It seemed almost foreign now; it had been so long since Aang had felt anything but pain and fear and defeat. But it was there. Once again, Aang had hope.
Night passed. At least, Aang thought it was night, since he distinctively remembered Zuko using the word "dinner" to describe the meal the firebender had brought him. So when the giant metal door hissed again, Aang knew it was morning.
The airbender's head shot up at the sound of the door unlocking. The cell door was made up of a foot of solid metal, and it must have weighed hundreds of pounds. It took great effort to shoulder the door's weight to open it, a fact which had never bothered Aang before, but now it drove him crazy. The seconds seemed to stretch on forever as he watched the door intently, watching for the shadow of Zuko - but what if it wasn't Zuko this time? What if it was some other soldier? What if Zuko got transferred to some other military complex overnight, what if Aang never saw him again, what if –
"Breakfast," a familiar voice greeted.
The sound of it almost made Aang want to cry.
Zuko shut the door behind him, pausing a moment to press his ear against the metal to listen for any approaching footsteps. When he was satisfied that there was no one coming, Zuko shot two quick jets of flames to the twin pillars, lighting the room once again in a flickering orange and red glow.
Carefully, Zuko took off his faceplate, and this time, he removed his helmet, too. Greedily, Aang took in all of Zuko's features; it had been so long since he'd seen a face other than Zhao's.
Zuko's hair had grown considerably since Aang last saw the prince. Instead of wearing it shaven with just the crown of his hair tied back in a high ponytail, Zuko had grown the rest of his hair out and now pulled it all back in a small topknot. However, his face was much unchanged - maybe his jaw was a little wider and maybe his eyes were a little sharper - effects, Aang supposed, of growing from a teenager to a young man.
But of everything there was to see, it was the sight of Zuko's scar that elicited the most reaction from Aang. Once, the sight of that scar had been a sign that meant danger was approaching; now the sight of it actually calmed the airbender's frayed nerves.
"You made it back," Aang cried out in relief.
"I don't think they realize who I am," Zuko whispered, holding a finger up to his lips to indicate that Aang should do the same. "I managed to get you a real rice bowl this time. There's some jasmine tea here, too."
Zuko brought the bowl of steaming rice over, and Aang's stomach growled audibly at the smell of it. To his delight, Aang discovered that it wasn't just a rice bowl: upon the bed of rice was a sprinkling of sesame seeds and dried seaweed. Zuko held a chunk of rice out for Aang, and greedily, Aang took it. He had almost forgotten what real food tasted like. It was so delicious tears stung at his eyes as he chewed.
"How did you get here?" Aang gurgled over a mouthful of rice. "To Pohuai Stronghold, I mean."
Zuko shrugged and scooped up another chunk of rice with the pair of chopsticks he was holding. "My father stripped me of my birthright, but not of my citizenship. I'm still a firebender of the Fire Nation, so I joined the army. I was transferred here from Ba Sing Se, but I had no idea this is where they were holding you until I got here."
Aang nodded enthusiastically, paying as much attention to Zuko's words as he was the food he was consuming voraciously. After another huge bite of rice, Zuko offered up a small wooden cup with tea steaming inside of it. Aang's eyelids fluttered as the teacup reached his lips - it had been so long since he'd tasted anything other than rice gruel and stale water. The tea tasted like heaven.
With gusto, the airbender swallowed the entire cup's worth in one go. He was shaking now, excitement racing through his veins, making him giddy and dumb. Aang had company. Aang had company. And for the first time in years, this company wasn't taunting him, or hurting him, or forcefully shaving his head so Zhao could gloat always that he had the Avatar prisoner, not just any boy. For the first time in years, Aang's company was kind to him.
There was still so much Aang wanted to know, but there was one question that rose in him louder than all others. "Do you know where my friends are?"
Zuko frowned, his mouth forming into a thin line. "You mean the Water Tribe siblings you were traveling with?"
"Yes!" Aang shouted. "And my sky bison Appa - and the little lemur, Momo - do you know where they are?"
"Keep it down," Zuko hissed, but Aang only made an indignant squawking sound in response. Cringing from the too-loud noise, Zuko hunched over to set the teacup on the metal floor below them. "I'm sorry," the firebender sighed as he stood up slowly, "I don't know where they are."
Aang's eyebrows furrowed together as he studied Zuko's face. He tried to discern whether or not the firebender was telling the truth - but Zuko had turned away from Aang, so all the airbender could see was the former prince's set mouth, his dark scar, and the unreadable slanted eye the scar surrounded.
"You're lying," Aang ventured, trying to sound as confident as he could. Maybe if he bluffed, he could pull the truth out of Zuko. "Where are they? Are they alive?"
The firebender sighed again, and this time Zuko closed his eyes, as if he'd suddenly been stricken with a massive headache. "I don't know. The last I heard of your friends, they were engaged in a battle with the Yu Yan Archers."
"You mean those crazy guys with the red face paint?"
With his eyes still closed, Zuko nodded.
"Those were the guys who captured me," Aang said quietly, his voice turning from steady and confident to uncertain and trembling. "If they captured me, then they could have captured them, or worse, they could have…"
Aang couldn't finish his sentence.
"I'm sorry," Zuko murmured, and it sounded like he actually meant it. "I wish I knew what happened to your friends."
Aang didn't reply. Instead, he closed his eyes and swallowed. Desperately, the airbender tried to clear his mind of all thought, trying to shut out the world, trying to shut out the terrible fate that must have befallen his friends.
After a tense moment, Zuko broke the silence. "Here, I brought a surprise for you." The firebender reached into the chest plate of his armor, and when he pulled his arm out, a small fruit tart followed. "I wanted to get you more than one, but the food here at Pohuai is strictly rationed."
The smell of the fruit tart drifted over to Aang. He could smell the baked sugar, the sweet frosting, and the tart smell of cherries. Normally, it would have been enough to make Aang's mouth water, but not this time. The news of his friends had left a sour taste in his mouth, and even the sweet-smelling dessert wasn't enough to take it away.
Zuko scowled indignantly. "Don't you want it? I thought you'd be happy."
"I'm sorry," Aang mumbled, "I'm just not hungry any more."
The firebender's scowl darkened. Zuko's eyes flashed with anger for a moment, offended by the Avatar's refusal - then, as if it the former prince no longer had the fuel to feed that anger, it faded. "Never mind. I'll bring you another one later."
The firebender began to sigh angrily, when abruptly, he jerked his head towards the cell door. Aang's eyes followed Zuko's gaze, expecting to see, well, something, but there was nothing there. He was just about to ask Zuko what the matter was, when suddenly, his ears picked out the faintest sound of footsteps echoing on steel floors.
"I have to go," Zuko said urgently, gathering the empty bowl and teacup. "I don't know if I'll be able to make it back tonight, but I'll try to come tomorrow." He shot the Avatar a furtive glance before replacing his metal mask. "Hang in there."
With a hiss, a creak, and a groan, the cell door was open and Zuko was gone. With him went the pillar fires, and once again, Aang was plunged into total darkness.
Zuko didn't make it back for Aang's evening meal. The old rice gruel seemed exceptionally disgusting compared to the seasoned rice bowl and jasmine tea the airbender had consumed only hours before. Still, Aang forced it down. He didn't want to arouse any suspicions about the new soldier who was bringing the Avatar his meals. Aang couldn't risk getting Zuko into trouble. Zuko was the closest thing to a friend that Aang had left - the only thing that Aang had left.
The word echoed in Aang's head like a mantra. Tomorrow. Zuko said he'd try to make it back tomorrow. He promised.
Aang shut his eyes, and images of the former prince's face floated in his mind. Zuko wasn't so bad, Aang thought to himself drowsily. Maybe they could have been friends if the war hadn't started. Maybe in a different place, a different time. A different lifetime.
The Avatar drifted off to sleep.
The hissing sound of air was what woke him. Aang's eyes flew open and immediately locked onto the door, searching for the familiar form of the firebending prince, searching, searching, hoping, praying –
"Breakfast," Zuko muttered through the faceplate, his voice distorted and hollow from the metal.
"You're back," Aang exhaled.
Zuko ignored the airbender as he walked over, carrying a whole tray full of food this time. Aang spotted rice rolls with thinly sliced fish and fire flakes, a small side dish of spiced cabbage and radishes, and another small bowl of wheat noodles.
Aang's mouth watered. "That smells amazing," he moaned.
"Good, because you have no idea what I had to do to sneak this out of the kitchen," the former prince snapped. In a huff, Zuko stripped off his faceplate and helmet and was about to toss them to the ground when he thought better of it. The prince set them down soundlessly instead.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Aang chanted, unable to pry his eyes from the steaming tray.
And was Aang imagining it, or was Zuko smiling? The sight of it startled the airbender enough to draw his attention away from the food. It was the first time Aang had ever seen happiness on the prince's face; Aang was used to seeing only scowls and indifference, but the smile actually didn't seem strange on Zuko at all. Instead, it almost suited the prince more than any grimace did.
"I didn't think about how I'd feed you all of this," Zuko mused to himself, his expression darkening as he considered the new problem the tray imposed. "If I have to feed this to you myself, it's going to take all morning."
"You could always take my shackles off," Aang suggested, emphasizing his point by shaking his wrists to jingle the metal chains that bound them.
Zuko frowned. "I don't have the keys for that. Only Zhao does. Well here, maybe I can loosen them a little…"
Aang had to hold back cheers of encouragement as the firebender inspected the pillars the chains connected to. For a short while, Zuko looked up at the dragons carved into the pillars' surface, before he moved on to the chains that bound Aang's arms. Every now and then, Zuko fiddled with the chains, making them dance and clang together. After another moment of consideration, Zuko disappeared out of Aang's line of sight, and no matter how hard Aang craned his neck, he couldn't see what the former prince was up to.
There was an awful lot of banging going on back there. It was as if their roles had been reversed; suddenly Zuko didn't seem to care about how much noise he made, and now Aang really, really did.
"Hey, I appreciate this and all, but maybe you should keep it down," Aang offered.
Instead of replying, Zuko banged something harder.
"Got it," Zuko's voice called, and immediately, the chain binding Aang's right arm went slack in a rush of jangling chains.
With no taut chain pulling it tight above his head, Aang's arm came crashing down, too. The airbender stared at his arm for a moment, unable to comprehend this new development in his imprisonment - and then he circled his wrist. "Oh," Aang moaned, savoring the feeling of being able to use his right arm again. He could actually move it now - he could swing it in a full arc, bring it down parallel to his side, or lift it straight up with his fingers reaching for the sky.
"Hold on," the firebender grunted, "I'm working on the other one."
In another rush of clanging, Aang's left arm came plummeting down.
"Oh, man," Aang groaned, hugging his arms to his chest. "That is so much better."
Zuko reappeared in the Avatar's field of vision. "Sorry I can't do more. That's as long as the chains will go."
"It's okay. It's more than okay. I haven't been able to move my arms in four years!"
Even though Aang had tried to keep his tone light and cheerful, a dark look surfaced on the firebender's face. Aang didn't know what it meant, and frankly, as selfish as it was, he couldn't manage to care. Having mobility in his arms again was the only thing he could think about.
"Well, at least now you can sit down," Zuko sighed.
Oh. Aang hadn't thought about that. The reason Aang stayed upright at all times was that his arms had been keeping him that way by being bound so tightly. But now that the chains were looser, Aang had enough length to actually sit. Delighted at the new discovery, Aang quickly fell to the floor, crossing his legs and purring in contentment.
Zuko said nothing, but he sat down as well, positioning himself directly in front of the airbender. "You can feed yourself, too," he muttered, pushing the tray into Aang's reach.
Aang ignored the bitter tone in Zuko's voice and immediately reached for the chopsticks. He began grabbing a bite of everything on the tray, and didn't come up for air until all of the rice rolls and noodles were gone.
At some point during the Avatar gorging himself, Zuko had adopted an amused expression. "I wasn't sure if you'd eat the fish rolls," the prince admitted, "I heard you were a vegetarian."
Aang looked up, his face stricken. "I am," he said dumbly. In his wild hunger, he had completely forgotten.
"Oh." Zuko shifted uncomfortably. He tried to think of something to say that could console the Avatar - anything to wipe that wounded puppy-dog look off Aang's face. "Well, I'm sure the monks would forgive you this one time."
Still pained, Aang thought about it. Well, Zuko was probably right. Plus, everyone was allowed to make mistakes, as long as you learned from them, right? With his conscious suddenly clear again, Aang went back to the business of eating. It didn't take the airbender much longer to finish everything on the tray. When all the food was gone, he took greedy gulps of the jasmine tea to finish the meal off.
For a long while, the two benders sat in silence. Aang didn't think he could talk even if he wanted to - his head was swimming with warm thoughts of satisfaction. He wished he could have stayed like that forever - satisfied, a full belly, and with a new, if reluctant, friend by his side. Slowly, Aang's thoughts swam from food to Zuko, and Aang cocked his head as considered the firebender.
"Why are you doing this?" he asked, more out of curiosity than suspicion. "You'd get in trouble if they found out you were bringing me actual meals."
The almost imperceptible smile that had been sitting on Zuko's lips was quickly replaced by a deep frown. "I know that."
"I don't have to explain myself to you!" Zuko snapped.
Aang held his hands up - and the fact that he could hold his hands up was not lost on him - in an attempt to show Zuko he meant no harm. "I was just wondering. Earlier, you said you were sorry. You said you made a mistake?"
Zuko's breathing slowed, just a little. "I did. I'm trying to make up for it now."
The airbender tilted his head to the other side. "By feeding me?"
Immediately, Aang realized that had been the wrong thing to say. He didn't mean to trivialize Zuko's efforts, or to make it sound like he wasn't unappreciative, but Aang could tell by the way the firebender's shoulders tensed that Zuko had taken it the wrong way.
"I know feeding you doesn't make up for letting the Fire Nation lock you away," the prince seethed between gritted teeth. "I know that by bringing you fancy foods, I'm not erasing the era of pain that my father started - the era of war that I perpetuated by chasing you - but now I'm trying to do the right thing."
Aang remained silent, his grey eyes fixed on the firebender's golden ones.
"I'm sorry if feeding you isn't enough," Zuko sneered. "Next time I won't bother."
"Zuko, that's not what I meant," Aang started.
Ignoring the airbender, Zuko pushed himself off the floor, turning to leave.
"I'm sorry!" Aang shouted, "Zuko, I'm sorry, okay?"
Desperate, Aang reached a hand out to grab the firebender's armor, a last-ditch effort to stop the firebender from leaving - but with a harsh clang, the Avatar's hand jerked to a stop, foiled by chains pulled tight.
The sharp clang of metal drew Zuko's attention down to Aang's wrist. Zuko's golden eyes fixated on the shackle that bound it, but Aang couldn't read the expression that crossed the firebender's face.
Aang could have hit himself. He was so dumb! He hadn't meant to antagonize Zuko, not at all - but now his stupid mouth had run off again, and Zuko was going to leave. Aang would be left all alone, all alone and worse off, since now he knew the face of compassion. The absence of that kindness would be so much harder to bear.
But Zuko didn't leave. Instead, Zuko wrapped his own fingers around Aang's wrist. Gently, Zuko caressed the bruised skin beneath the metal shackle with a twisted expression Aang couldn't quite place.
"I'll be back," Zuko murmured, giving Aang's hand the smallest of squeezes. "I have to reset your chains now so the guards won't think something's up. Sorry." Zuko pulled his hand away and Aang grasped feebly at the space where it had just been.
"I'll forgive you when you come back," the airbender breathed.
A tiny chuckle like a scoff escaped the firebender as he disappeared out of Aang's vision. With a low groaning of metal, the chains on Aang's right arm went tight again, pulling the airbender back up to standing. But Aang didn't fight it like he had the first time the chains had been tightened on him. This time, the airbender sighed and relaxed his muscles, giving Zuko no resistance at all as the prince pulled the chains taut.
Once Aang was suspended, Zuko gathered his helmet and faceplate. "I'll be back as soon as I can," the firebender said, sliding the helmet back onto his head.
"How soon is that?" Aang asked, trying not to sound too desperate.
Absently, Zuko's fingers caressed the design of the faceplate. "I don't know," he sighed at last. "It's getting hard to come here without arousing suspicion in the other soldiers, but I should be able to bring you dinner tomorrow."
Aang nodded, his eyes fixated on Zuko's face. He wanted to take as much of the sight in before the prince's features were obscured completely by that awful, soulless mask.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," Zuko repeated quietly before extinguishing the pillar fires. Then, with a final groan of the heavy cell door, Zuko was gone.