Zuko was glad that the tension in the group was dissipating at least a little bit.
Due to his excursion with Sokka, the boy seemed to trust him way more now. Maybe because the boy helped him get his father out of the highest security prison in a fire nation. Or because he was actually trying to be a decent person. One of the two.
Toph seemed to enjoy Zuko's company. It was refreshing to have someone blunt in the group, because Zuko wasn't used to all this touchy-feely bullshit that Aang seemed to promote. Toph and Zuko talked a surprising amount, the two becoming unlikely friends.
Aang was...well, their dynamic was weird, to say the least. The boy was a pacifist, first of all, which is way different from the people Zuko grew up with. Second of all, Aang seemed to think every person in the world had good in them. It was like the boy was on a mission to become friends with everyone, including Zuko. On the other hand, it was a weird change for Zuko. He had spent his whole life thinking the Avatar was someone who had to be eliminated, and now Zuko was...kind of friends with the kid.
Hakoda, of course, seemed to have mixed feelings about him. Zuko felt the same way about the man. Zuko hasn't had the greatest encounters with father figures. Like at all. But then, he saw how Hakoda interacted with his own kids. He seemed interested in their stories, their ideas, and their opinions. He asked them for advice, along with giving them his own. He had no issues admitting when he was wrong, and didn't seem to get angry when other people pointed out his faults.
Logically, Zuko knew the man wouldn't hurt him. Hakoda had never give any indication of hostile intent towards Zuko, even asking him to help out sometimes. Rationally, Zuko knew this. But he still couldn't help but flinch whenever the man raised his hand to wave at Zuko, or when they were discussing plans for the future and Katara spoke against him.
Suki and him were...surprisingly good friends. She didn't really hold too much ill intent towards him, even though he literally burned down their village. Of course, at first, things were a little tense between them. But then Zuko helped her escape from the prison, which seemed to lessen the tension. She even asked to spar with him every once in a while, which was refreshing. She was a very skilled warrior, and made Zuko happy that he had a chance to practice his skills.
Katara still hated him. Surprise surprise. He didn't blame her, of course. She had every right to be angry at him, it was just frustrating. Zuko had been really trying to help out, to prove his alliance, but whenever it came to him she turned a blind eye. It seems like she's trying her hardest to ignore everything Zuko has done for them since they got there. Yes, he understood war had taken something from her family, but war had taken something from all of them. To her it seemed like the actions of the whole fire nation were Zuko's fault.
Zuko was startled out of his musings by Sokka, who had yelled his name. Jumping out of bed, Zuko ran to where he heard Sokka's voice, swords at the ready.
He was met with the sight of Aang, Katara, Toph, Suki, Hakoda, and Sokka standing around a...glowing rock? What?
Glaring at Sokka, who was laughing at his bed head, he tilted his head, confused. "What's going on?" Zuko asked, setting the swords gently onto the ground.
Aang met his question enthusiastically. "Well, I just got back from earthbending training with Toph, when we noticed this glowy rock stone thing sitting here! So we got the others." Well, that didn't answer Zuko's question at all. Still just as confused as he was before, Zuko wormed his way into the circle to look at the rock.
"O..kay? Why is this rock important?" Aang bounced up and down on his toes, the sight of his enthusiasm making Zuko nauseous. Who had that much energy all the time? Didn't he ever need to recharge or something?
"As soon as I approached the rock, I heard Avatar Roku's voice in my head. He said we all have to touch the rock at the same time, and it will show us something important." There were..so many issues with that statement.
Hold up, did he just say Avatar Roku? Like his grandfather? Whatever, weirder things have happened.
Sokka rolled his eyes at the sky, grinning. "So, what are we waiting for! On one, okay?" Met with nods around the circle (sans Zuko, because seriously, did anyone have any common sense here?) Sokka started counting down.
Suddenly Zuko, along with everyone else, was sucked into a warp of some sorts.
And then everything was black.
When Zuko opened his eyes, he was standing next to everyone else, and they were all looking at the scene in front of him. Sucking in a gasp, everyone brought their attention to him.
"T-That's my mother. Holding me. I was just born. Why are we watching this? What's going on?"
Everyone looked just as confused as him, and within seconds everyone was talking over each other, theories about why they were here being thrown left and right. Suddenly, the scene in front of them moved, and everyone quieted.
"Ursa smiled softly at her son, gently rocking him back and forth. Ozai was pacing back and forth, alternating between frowning and glaring at Zuko. 'My son was just born, and he's already a dissapointment.'
Ursa glared at Ozai, grinding her teeth together. 'Just because he was born in the middle of the night, during winter, doesn't mean he's a disappointment. He's your son, how could you say that?' She hissed, her expression relaxing when Zuko tugged on her sleeve, seemingly trying to comfort her. Ozai stood still for a second.
'He isn't blessed by Agni. The sages say he doesn't have the spark. Why shouldn't I kill him right now, and save our family the embarrassment of having a cursed son?' His voice raised at the end to the point of yelling, which caused Ursa to flinch, and look at him with wide eyes.
'Please Ozai, please. For me.' Ozai's expression softened the slightest, before snapping back to a stone cold facade. 'Fine.'
Ursa looked at him hopefully. 'Would you like to hold him?' Ozai nodded, and Ursa gently handed Zuko into Ozai's arms.
Bringing Zuko up to face level, Ozai whispered something that Ursa couldn't decipher.
'You're lucky you're alive. Remember that.'
Zuko just looked up, big eyes looking into Ozai's own."
Thrown out of the memory/moment, Zuko looked around. Most of them were gaping at the memory, while Aang looked genuinely upset and offended on Zuko's behalf. Hakoda looked affronted and angered, most likely wondering how anyone could say that to their child.
"Man, I knew Ozai was an asshole, but like, that's a whole new level." Sokka said, and Hakoda didn't even scold him for his language. Katara's face seemed sad and angered for a moment, before she met Zuko's eyes and her expression changed back to cold and annoyed.
Toph though, laughed in happiness. Everyone turned to her, confused. "I could see that! Like, with my eyes!" Smiling, Katara patted her on the shoulder. "That's great Toph!" Nodding, Toph's smile wiped off of her face when she looked at Zuko, who just turned away awkwardly.
"Um, I think we might be watching my memories. Don't ask me why, because I honestly have no idea." Suki nodded, as did most of the others. Before anyone could say anything else, Aang excitedly pointed at the screen, all previous offense gone.
"Another scene is happening!"
"Zuko was two years old now. He was standing next to a bed, with Ursa laying on it holding another child. This time, though, Ozai was grinning. In the background, the sun had just finished rising.
'Mommy! Zula?' Ursa nodded, smiling softly at her son. Holding Azula out to him, Zuko looked over her curiously, reaching his hand out to touch her head. Azula let him, babbling while he did.
A fire sage entered the room, kneeling before Ozai. 'My lord, she has been blessed by Agni. I foresee that she will be an amazing bender, exceeding her predecessors in skill.' Ozai nodded, looking something like happy at the fire sages words.
Mirroring the first scene, Ursa held Azula out for Ozai to hold, pulling her away from Zuko.
Gently holding Azula, Ozai smiled down at the child.
Zuko looked at the scene with a newfound revelation.
"So that's where it came from." Sokka looked at Zuko, confusion painting his face. "That's where what came from? Azula's love for your dad? I'm pretty sure that's not possible, considering there's no way she remembered that."
Suki slapped Sokka on the back of the head, and Zuko rolled his eyes. "No, my father always used to tell me that Azula was born lucky and I was lucky to be born." Aang gasped in anger, which was something Zuko had never seen before.
Actually, he didn't think he had ever seen Aang truly angry, besides the Northern water tribe thing, but that didn't really count because that wasn't really Aang. It seemed like Aang was angry now, but Zuko didn't really understand why.
AsHakoda was muttering to himself, and Zuko couldn't pick up much other than "Horrible father...How could someone say that..."
Shrugging, Zuko turned back to the scene, which had changed. Taking a deep breath, Zuko leaned forward and tapped on Hakoda's shoulder, the man's head jerking up. Zuko held in a wince, because he was pretty sure he heard Hakoda's neck crack.
"Zuko was six years old.
Looking through a window, Zuko watched as Azula trained with a firebending teacher, Jianyu. Of course, they were only walking through forms, as neither children could produce fire yet. As a four year old, Azula was surprisingly balanced and graceful, effortlessly following Jianyu's forms.
As she ran through the last form and thrust her hand out, a tiny flame burst out of her hands. Jianyu gasped, rushing to inform Ozai, who at the time was in his office, doing paperwork. Immediately, Zuko watched as Ozai rushed outside, demanding Azula to show him. Running through the form again, Azula produced flame again, bigger this time.
Smiling, Zuko congratulated Azula as soon as she entered the house. Azula grinned toothily up at Zuko, producing a tiny flame in her palm. 'Zuzu, I can make fire like father! Can you believe it?'
Zuko shook his head, laughing joyfully. 'That's amazing Lala! I'm so proud of you!'
Suddenly, with thudding footsteps, Ozai entered the room. All joy was gone, as the two siblings attentively watched their father. 'It is indeed great, however, it is nothing to be proud of yet. It is simply the basics. Azula, practice is over for the day. Go work on your studies.'
Azula nodded, waving goodbye to Zuko and running out of the room. When Azula left, Ozai turned his attention to Zuko. 'Have you managed to produce a flame yet?' Zuko shamefully shook his head, biting his lip and looking down.
Ozai tisked, frowning. Surging forward, Ozai gripped Zuko's upper arm tightly. Slowly heating up his hand, Ozai made sure Zuko felt his grip. When Zuko whimpered from the pain, Ozai glared at him.
'What a disappointment. Let this be a reminder, Zuko, of what happens when you fail. Azula was born lucky. You were lucky to be born. Never forget that.' Letting go of Zuko, Ozai turned on his heel and walked out of the room.
Tears rushing to his eyes, Zuko looked at the handprint shaped burn on his forearm. Biting his lip, Zuko aggressively wiped his tears away.
'Maybe..' Zuko mumbled. 'maybe if I get better at firebending father won't think of me as a dissapointment.'
A few days later, Zuko made his first flame."
Zuko looked down, refusing to meet anyone's eyes. Surprisingly, the person who approached him first was Toph, who gently put her hand on his shoulder. Katara turned to look at Zuko, a troubled look on her face.
"Did that scar?" Zuko shook his head. "It's just a blemish now."
Katara nodded, and it was scarily silent.
No one had anything to say.
"Zuko was seven years old.
A small smile on his face, Zuko was following his mother, the two walking down the hallway together. Ursa was gentle and caring, but most of all, she was graceful. Zuko was always jealous that Azula inherited their mother's gracefulness. Azula could make any traditional dance look graceful, while Zuko stumbled over his own feet.
Continuing to walk behind his mother, Zuko grinned as they entered the garden. Grabbing Zuko's hand, Ursa walked with him towards the pond, sitting down in the grass. Zuko followed her lead, eagerly looking up at his mom.
Out of her pocket, Ursa pulled a piece of bread, tearing it in half and handing part of it to Zuko. Quietly, the two tore the bread into crumbs, throwing them towards the turtleducks. Putting a crumb in his palm, Zuko opened it and brought it lower to the water, watching with interest as one of the turtleducks slowly approached his hand, gently pecking at the crumb.
'Momma, do you think I'm a disappointment?' Ursa sharply turned to look at Zuko, grabbing his shoulders and pulling him so that he was facing her.
'Listen here Zuko. Don't listen to your father, okay? He's wrong. You have one of the kindest and most gentle soul i've ever seen. My child, you have a destiny that will change the fate of the world. Don't lose sight of yourself.'
Zuko's face lit up brightly, and he nodded enthusiastically. 'Okay momma!' Zuko, similar to most children, was unable to focus on something for very long. Within a few seconds, he had turned his attention back to the turtleducks. 'Look!' He pointed enthusiastically. 'This one is letting me pet him!'
Ursa's face held a gentle smile. 'Gentleness makes more friends than anger.'
Suki was cooing at Zuko. "Who knew the prince of the Fire Nation made such a cute kid? I just want to pinch those cheeks." Zuko scoffed, face turning bright red. "I am not cute." Suki rolled her eyes, turning to Sokka for support.
Sokka's eyes switched between Zuko and the memory. "You did make a pretty cute kid, jerkbender." Zuko just sighed, rolling his eyes. Really, these people were insane or something. Zuko, cute? He wasn't cute.
Katara pitched in, joining in on the teasing. "You were such a cutie pie." Zuko turned his gaze towards Katara, who looked kind of conflicted. It seemed she hadn't yet changed her view of Zuko, but Zuko had a feeling she was getting there.
Hakoda smiled gently at Zuko. "Your mother seems like a wonderful person." Zuko nodded, face turning somber again.
Hakoda didn't have time to comfort Zuko before they were tossed into the next memory.
"Zuko was eight years old now.
He was running in a field giggling, seemingly chasing after someone. 'Lu ten, that's not fair! How am I supposed to catch you when you're so much bigger than me.' Zuko yelled, pouting cutely. A taller man entered the scene, sneaking up on Zuko and picking him up, lifting Zuko above his head and spinning the boy around. Zuko giggled, squirming around.
Lu Ten set him down, ruffling his hair. 'Look who it is Zuko!' Looking up, Zuko saw Uncle Iroh walking towards them, smiling.
'I-roh!' Zuko yelled, bouncing up and down on his toes. 'Can you tell me the story about the Earth Kingdom again?'
Grinning, Iroh patted his knee, where Zuko sat down, looking up at Iroh with a hopeful expression. Gesturing to the spot next to him, Iroh smiled at Lu Ten, who took a seat next to his father.
'Once upon a time...'
A month later, Zuko got the news that Lu Ten had died in war.
Sniffling, Zuko ran up to his room, burying his face into his pillow, shoulders shaking with sobs. Azula ran up after him, standing in his doorway, looking at him with disdain.
'Why are you crying Zuzu?' Unlike the last scene, the nickname was said with a cruel tone, insultingly. 'We all knew he was going to die anyways. Crying is a sign of weakness.' She said, rolling her eyes.
Ozai now stood in the doorway, staring down at Zuko with a burning gaze. 'No meals tomorrow. Crying is a weakness. Sadness is a weakness. You must learn the consequences of your actions. Weakness is not tolerated in this family. You would do well to learn that.'
Hours after Ozai had left, and Zuko had run out of tears, Ursa walked into the room, sitting on the edge of the bed. 'Come here baby. It's okay to cry, you know. I miss him too. Shush, shush. It'll be alright.'
With his head buried in his mother's chest, Zuko fell asleep.
When Zuko woke up, fire lord Azulon was dead, and Ursa was nowhere to be seen."
Feeling tears well up in his eyes, Zuko wiped them away, ignoring the aching in his chest. Seeing Lu Ten, even if it was in a memory, was hard. Longing hit him. Zuko wanted so badly for one of Lu Ten's bear hugs, or for one of his famous hot chocolate's.
Sokka made his way next to Zuko, glaring at the scene. Leaning forward, Sokka made it so that his mouth was right near Zuko's ear. "It's manly, to cry, you know?"
Zuko didn't answer, but Sokka stayed there anyways, making sure that Zuko could feel his hand on his back, as a sign of silent support and friendship. Hakoda nodded in agreement with Sokka, proud of his son comforting his friend.
Walking up to Zuko, Hakoda offered a tight smile towards the boy. "Lu Ten was your cousin? You two seemed really close." Zuko nodded, sighing. "We were. He was more of my family than Azula was, to be honest."
"I'm sorry for your loss. This war has taken something from everyone, it seems." Hakoda murmured. Zuko seemingly relaxed a tiny bit, looking up at Hakoda.
"I..heard about your wife. I'm sorry your family had to lose someone, too." Hakoda shook his head, smiling at Zuko. "Not your fault. You shouldn't be blamed for things you couldn't control." Aang, who had been oddly silent this whole time, strainingly smiled at Zuko.
"Maybe once we get back to the regular world, you could tell us that Earth Kingdom story!" Zuko wetly chuckled, nodding.
"Zuko was ten years old now.
Standing outside, Zuko was copying Jianyu's movements, attempting to be precise. As soon as Ozai walked onto the field, Zuko stumbled a little bit. Quickly resuming his form, Zuko tried to ignore the glare Ozai was pointing at Zuko.
Seemingly unable to properly resume his form, Ozai sighed at his disappointment of a son. 'Jianyu, you are resolved from your duties for today.' Jianyu bowed in thanks, before rushing away.
Zuko was left warily looking at Ozai. 'Zuko, Azula managed to master this form a year ago.' Zuko glared at Ozai, a surge of adrenaline running through him.
'I'm a disappointment, I know. I'm lucky to be born, I know.' As fast as the rush of adrenaline came, it quickly left. Zuko cowered, terrified of Ozai, who had stood up to his full height. 'Was that disrespect?'
Ozai's voice was dangerously quiet. Zuko didn't respond, and Ozai kicked the boy, steel toe catching ribs. Biting his lip, Zuko tried his hardest not to make a sound. Sound was weakness. Weakness meant more punishment. Weakness wasn't accepted in this family. Zuko wasn't weak.
Ozai continued to kick Zuko, face emotionless. Zuko stood up after every single kick, only to be knocked down again. As Zuko stood up againm, Ozai smiled in satisfaction. Creating a flame in his palm, Ozai looked right into Zuko's eyes, as he was bringing his hand to Zuko's chest.
'Remember what happens when you fail, Zuko.'
Ozai brought his hand to Zuko's chest.
Zuko didn't scream."
Katara felt sick. How could a father do that to their child? She didn't know.
Looking at Zuko, Katara just had to ask. "Did that happen often?" She questioned, immediately regretting it when Zuko flinched.
"Yeah." Zuko muttered, his voice hoarse. Toph sighed in disappointment, leaning into Zuko, who obviously wasn't expecting Toph to cuddle him. "See, now that's just a shitty thing to do." Everyone nodded in agreement, glaring at either the screen or the ground.
"I mean, I kind of deserved it didn't I?" An outcry of 'no' responded to his (mostly) rhetorical question. Hakoda looked at Zuko, gently putting a firm hand on his arm. "No one deserves that Zuko. No one."
Zuko tilted his head. Sounded like a load of bullshit to him, but whatever.
"Zuko was twelve years old.
He was standing in a yard, next to two other boys wearing fire nation school clothing. 'So Zuko,' Zai aksed. 'have you ever kissed a girl?' Blushing, Zuko shook his head. Zai laughed at him, rolling his eyes.
'That's kind of pathetic, Zuko. Hey!' Zai leaned in, looking around before whispering to Zuko. 'I dare you to kiss Mei. Unless you're too chicken?' Zuko was filled with a hot rush of anger, glaring at Zai.
'Of course I'm not chicken!' Lee, who was also watching the whole interaction, gave a comforting smile towards Zuko. 'We know you aren't Zuko.' Zuko smiled gratefully at him, blushing a little bit. Zai just rolled his eyes, looking at Zuko.
'Well, if you aren't chicken, then go do it!' Face red, Zuko stomped over to the other side of the yard, where Mai and Ty Lee were standing. Walking up to Mei, Zuko tapped on her shoulder. She turned around to face him, blushing.
'Mai, can I kiss you? It's for a stupid dare.' Her expression fell a little bit, but she nodded anyways. Zuko pressed his lips to hers, and he was confused.
After a few more seconds of kissing, Zuko pulled away, barely even looking at Mai before stomping back to Zai and Lee. Zai was grinning at him, while Lee just looked uncomfortable. 'So,' Zai said. 'how was it?'
Zuko just shrugged. He didn't see why people liked to kiss girls. Was it normal for it to feel wrong, or was it just him? Was there something wrong with him? He hoped not. 'It was fine, I guess.'
Zai seemed disappointed in Zuko's answer, walking away. Then it was just Zuko and Lee. The other boy looked shyly at Zuko, before pointing to a large tree overlooking the yard. It was secluded from everything else. 'Do you want to go there with me?' Zuko nodded, grinning at Lee. 'I'll race you there!'
The two sprinted towards the tree, both panting and out of breath by the time they got there. Giggling, the two sat down so their backs were against the tree. Lee smiled at Zuko, who smiled back.
'Zuko, how did the kiss actually feel? I could tell you were lying so Zai would get out of your face or whatever, but I won't judge you. Promise.' Zuko looked at Lee in surprise, before sighing and turning so he was facing the other boy. 'It felt wrong, to be honest.' Lee nodded, seeming to understand what Zuko meant.
'Well, do you wanna try kissing me?' After a second of hesitation, Zuko nodded, looking around. 'What if someone sees?" Zuko whispered, and Lee just smiled at him. 'No one can see us right now, we're facing away from the field.'
Nodding, Zuko leaned forward and shut his eyes as Lee placed his lips onto Zuko's. Was this how kissing was supposed to feel? Zuko felt butterflies in his stomach, sinking into the kiss. His whole body felt tingly and warm.
This felt right.
Lee pulled away, smiling. 'How did that feel?' Zuko smiled back at him, heart still hammering in his chest. 'That felt right.' The two sat in silence for a second, before Lee stood up. 'It's getting kind of late. I should probably go home.' Nodding, Zuko waved Lee goodbye. As soon as Lee left, Zuko brought his hand up to his tingling lips, feeling them stretch into a smile. He was torn out of his musings by Azula, who was standing in front of him, smiling cruelly.
'I saw everything, Zuzu. Just when I thought you couldn't be more of a dissapointment.' Zuko warily looked up at Azula, taking in a shuddering breath. 'What do you want?' Azula took another step closer to Zuko. 'I won't tell father. But, you have to be my test subject, okay? No fighting back.'
Sighing, Zuko shut his eyes and nodded.
He didn't see Lee again."
Zuko looked around, expecting to see disgusted or disappointed faces. Everyone just looked sad and angry though. Hesitating for a second, Zuko spoke up.
"You guys don't think it's...weird, that I'm like that?" Aang vehemently shook his head. "The monks said love was between two souls. They didn't care about gender or sexuality. You loved whoever felt right to your soul."
Katara smiled softly at Aang. "That's a very sweet concept, Aang. The water tribe didn't care very much." Hakoda and Sokka nodded in agreement.
"I actually used to date Bato." Katara and Sokka both turned to look at their dad, wearing matching shocked expressions. Zuko and Toph laughed a little bit. Hakoda just rolled his eyes at his kids, fondly smiling at them.
Suki just shrugged. "It's the same on Kiyoshi." Toph shook her head, grinning at Zuko. "If I thought it was weird I would be kind of a hypocrite, wouldn't I?" Zuko's eyes widened in surprise.
"You too?" Toph nodded. "Not exactly. I like both." Zuko nodded in understanding, smiling a little bit. As nice as it was to be surrounded by people who were like him, it was still a little weird being so open about this kind of thing. Years of biased teaching and propaganda didn't go away after a couple minutes.
"Zuko was thirteen years old.
He was standing in a hallway, watching as generals entered the meeting room. Walking up to the guard, Zuko tapped his shoulder. 'Can I please be let inside?' The guard shook his head sternly, shooing Zuko away.
Catching a glimpse of Iroh, Zuko walked over to him. 'Uncle, can I please go to the war meeting with you? If I am to be the future leader of this nation, I should know what's going on, shouldn't I?'
Sighing, Iroh gave in, telling Zuko he absolutely was not allowed to speak. So Zuko took a seat in the shadows, ignoring the glances being sent his way by the other generals. As the war meeting started, Zuko paid apt attention to the words being said.
Suddenly, General Kaizo spoke up. 'The 41st has a bunch of new recruits, earthbenders. We could send them to the front lines.' Zuko's eyes widened. They wanted to send innocent people, with no fighting experience, to the front lines. All the other general's were laughing, except for Iroh. They thought it was funny?
Zuko couldn't allow that. Standing up, Zuko couldn't help himself. There was no way he would allow innocent people to die. He had to stand up for them.
He should have stayed seated.
'You have disrespected me, Prince Zuko.' The title was spat out with venom, hatred behind the words. 'I challenge you to an Agni Kai.'
With no other choice, Zuko accepted.
He spent the next days training extra hard, spending every waking hour practicing formations and stamina. Soon, it came time for the Agni Kai. Taking a deep breath, Zuko walked out onto the platform, expecting to be met with General Kaizo.
He did not expect for his father to step out of the curtains. Zuko had misunderstood, by disrespecting the General, he had disrespected the firelord himself. Zuko's heart was in his throat. He was thirteen.
He could not defeat the fire lord. He could not fight his father.
Collapsing down to his knees, Zuko did something he had never done before. He begged. 'Please father, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to act disrespectful father, please.' The large crowd of people stared horrifically at Ozai. They did not like their lord. They were too afraid to say anything though.
Azula was smiling. Iroh looked away.
Ozai brought his hand out, and Zuko looked up into his father's face. 'Please father, I am your loyal son.' As Ozai brought his hand down to Zuko's eye, he said words Zuko will never forget.
'You will learn respect, and suffering will be your teacher.'
Ozai brought his hand down.
Turning away, Ozai was wearing a sickening smile on his face. 'Zuko, you are banished. You are only allowed back here with your honor if you capture the avatar. And remember, you were lucky to be born.'
Through one of his eyes, Zuko watched as his father turned his back on his son.
Shutting his eyes, Zuko travelled to the land of darkness.
He was tired."
Turning to the side, Sokka retched. Suki gently rubbed his back, looking worriedly at Zuko. Katara and Aang looked equally nauseous. Hakoda and Toph looked angry, while Zuko looked...sad. Hakoda couldn't stop himself at this point, surging forward and embracing Zuko in a hug.
"I'm sorry. What he did was disgusting. You didn't deserve that. You stood up for innocent people. No father should do that to their son." Zuko felt a noise build up in his throat, and he buried his head into Hakoda's chest.
Everyone else joined in on the hug, including Sokka, who was feeling better.
"So..." Toph said, turning to Zuko and grinning. "shitty parents squad?" Zuko laughed and nodded, high fiving the hand she was holding up. "Shitty parents squad."
They were torn out of their little moment when their surroundings melted away. Suddenly, they were all back to the real world, standing around the glowing rock. Gasping in a breath, Zuko looked around to make sure everyone else was in one piece.
Before they got the chance to separate and process what happened, Avatar Roku appeared in front of them. Aang waved cheerfully at him. "Can everyone else see this?" Everyone nodded, and Zuko openly gaped.
Roku floated towards Zuko, gently smiling at him. "Hello, grandson." Everyone else gasped, not expecting that of all things to come out of the Avatar's mouth. "I am very proud of you. And everyone else, I hope you have seen the struggles my grandson had to go through. He has had to leave his whole home behind. Please act as his new family. I'm trusting you."
Roku faded away, and Zuko blushed as he processed his words.
Everyone ran over, tackling Zuko down to the ground. Letting out an "oof" Zuko looked down, only to be met with a group of people intent on cuddling him to death. After a couple hours of cuddling, they eventually broke away.
As it came time for dinner, Zuko lit the fire place, watching as people were talking and laughing around the fireplace. Katara had the food cooking above the fire, and she was also sitting down, telling her dad something.
Aang tapped Zuko on the shoulder, grinning. Everyone turned their attention towards the two boys, interested in seeing how the interaction was going to go.
"Could you tell us the Earth Kingdom story?"
Sighing, Zuko rolled his eyes before gesturing everyone to come closer.
"Alright, fine. Once upon a time..."