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|Soul on Fire|
September 16, 2012
The entire table turned to look at the Firelord. He had violently entered the house, breaking the door off its hinges, and he spoke with a deep rage directed toward the Avatar. Even though they had all become such close friends with Zuko, they all stood up ready to defend themselves and Aang. Sensing the agitation in the room, Aang raised his hands to his family. "Stop!" He had a very commanding voice when he needed it, and everyone at the dining table quickly settled themselves. Aang turned away from his family and looked to Zuko. "Alright. Let's talk."
Zuko walked aggressively towards Aang and grabbed him by the arm. As Zuko dragged him to another room in the house, Aang shot a look to his nervous family, his eyes telling them that everything was okay. They entered into the master bedroom that was reserved for the Avatar and his wife, but for right now, it would be the verbal battleground for the Firelord and the Avatar. As they entered the room, Zuko slammed the door behind him. Aang was first to speak, trying to lighten the mood. "Good to see you too, Zuko." Disregarding the comment, the Firelord still had a white hot fury in his eyes. He pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his shirt.
"What is the deal with this?" Zuko's voice boomed through the house, but nobody dared enter the room. Everyone knew that the Avatar and the Firelord needed to sort a few things out. Zuko continued his rave. "I should break your jaw right now for sending this! How could you possibly believe this to be appropriate?" Aang said nothing, just calmly watching his friend as he began to read the letter. "Unfortunately, it seems as though my time is passing, and before my time comes, I would like you to join the rest of the family for a vacation on Ember Island. I understand if your duties as Firelord keep you from coming. What does that even mean?"
In his rage, the Firelord burned he paper in his hand, elevating the temperature in the room. "You look fine! You're still the same stupid kid that you were all those years ago! I can't believe you would upset me like this for nothing! And what is all that about 'my duties as Firelord'? You think I wouldn't come? I thought we were friends!" Aang tried to get a word in to calm his friend. "We are friends." Zuko glared at him, the fire still in his eyes. "Shut up! We can't be that great of friends if you think I wouldn't come here when you needed me!" Zuko's voice seemed to crack from choking back a sob. But he quickly returned to his violent outrage. "We built a country together, we ended a war together, we traveled together, and you still think so little of me! Why wouldn't I come? Why wouldn't I want to be here for you?"
Aang realized Zuko wasn't truly angry with him. He just believed that Aang didn't think much of their friendship. Of course, the circumstances were quite the opposite. Aang cherished his friendship with Zuko and would have been heartbroken if he hadn't arrived. He tried a move that worked well with his other friends, trying to place a hand on the Firelord's shoulder. Zuko shrugged it off, carrying on with his fury. "Don't touch me, you bastard! You were there for me for my mother, there for me for my uncle..." Zuko couldn't hide the tears welling in his eyes now, but his voice still contained the burning passion that he held onto so well. "Why do you have to die?! Why don't you want me to be here for you?!" There was a break of silence. Aang wasn't sure if he would be able to get a word in, but with Zuko's current silent state, he would give it a try.
"Of course I wanted you here, Zuko. You're one of my closest friends." Zuko's eyes softened as he looked upon the Avatar. So many thoughts and emotions swirled in his mind, he didn't know what to say. "...Is it true? Are you dying?" Aang didn't know how to answer that, but when Zuko had looked at him in the eye, he knew it was true. Zuko began speaking in a calmer tone. "We've been friends for so long, we've done so much." Aang looked to his angered friend sympathetically. Zuko had issues of dealing with loss in the past and was always emotional. Yet he had never seen him as angered as he had now. Aang tried smiling to his friend. "It has been a long time, hasn't it? We changed the world together." Zuko put his back to the wall and slumped down in a seated position. Aang followed example and sat next to him. Zuko didn't look to his friend as he spoke. "I don't know how I'm going to go on without you by my side. Even in my worst days, when I was so unsure, I had you there just in case I needed you."
Aang attempted to put his hand on Zuko's shoulder once again, this time not met with conflict. "You were always a great leader, and you always had the best intentions for the world at heart. You don't need me to be a great Firelord." Zuko now looked to the Avatar. "But I need you as my friend." Again, the two had to sit in silence. Zuko had become very close with Aang throughout their lifetime. They had a tense relationship at first, but they grew to depend on one another throughout both their political careers and their personal lives. Aang wanted to ease his friends mind, but it was difficult. He had to think of the right thing to say. "Remember when Katara was pregnant with Kya?" Zuko looked at Aang with a confused expression. "Yea. Why?" Aang smiled remembering the memory. "And when Katara went into labor?" Now Zuko recalled the memory he was speaking of. He couldn't help but chuckle a bit. "Yea, I remember." Aang went on with his story.
"We were all in the middle of a council meeting-"
Zuko continued the story as he began to recall the events taking place. "And suddenly Katara looks like she's in enormous pain. I was sitting next to you and you next to her. Trying to be subtle, she leans in to whisper to you-"
Aang picked up the story again. "I think the baby is coming. So, like any rational person-"
"You scream at the top of your lungs in the middle of a meeting, you're having the baby! What do we do? We need to go right now!"
Aang laughed at Zuko's impersonation. "I tried to be calm for her, but we were both freaking out. I ran outside to call a carriage and ran back in to come get her. Then you, me and Katara all got in and sped off to the healer."
Zuko chuckled once more. "I remember that carriage ride. Katara clutched your hand and you were breaking the bones in mine." Aang put a hand sheepishly behind his head. "I was nervous! I never had a baby before." Zuko rolled his eyes. "That much was for sure. We finally got to the healer and you were pacing outside the room Katara was in like a mad man. You kept asking a nurse if you were allowed in until finally she yelled at you to sit down." It was true that Aang was a bit of a wreck at the birth of his first child. "Remember what you said to me while we were waiting outside that room?"
Zuko's face became a bit stern at the recollection. "You told me that you didn't know if you could handle being a father, that you were afraid. I told you that it was okay to be afraid, you could handle anything, and that your friends would always have your back." Zuko averted his gaze from the Avatar. Aang took the opportunity to console his friend. "I know you're afraid now, but that's alright. You're one of the toughest people I know. You have dealt the worst parts of life at a young age, taken them in stride, and went on to do amazing things. You can handle a lot. And if it becomes too much," He put a hand on Zuko's shoulder again, "you have all our friends to help you. And in spirit, I'll always be by your side." Zuko let out a deep breath, his face no longer twisted in anger, looking straight ahead.
They each said nothing. Some friendships didn't need words to let one another know that everything was okay. Aang had that with Toph, Sokka, Katara, even Zuko. This was a moment where things didn't need to be said for them to each know that everything was settled. After a little while, Zuko turned to Aang. "Have you said your goodbye's to everyone else already?" Aang had a solemn look on his face as he shook his head. "Not everyone. I still haven't talked to my wife or kids. They're pretty upset, but this trip helped." Aang let out a deep breath. "I don't know how I'm going to say goodbye to them, how they'll handle it...this is a rough situation." Zuko now placed his hand on his friend. "Hey, they're tough kids, and they will be okay. And Katara is still tough enough to crack our heads together." Aang laughed at his last statement. "That's my wife. So strong and determined. She'd take on the Avatar and the Firelord and not even flinch." Zuko chuckled in turn.
Aang had a question for the Firelord. "Hey, if you don't have to be anywhere, would you like to have dinner with all of us?" Zuko glared at Aang in a friendly way as he gave him that boyish grin of his, and then smiled. "I'd love too." Aang stood up with his friend, then began walking to the door exiting the bedroom as he said, "It's good to have you with us, Sifu Hotman." Zuko didn't as much as chuckle at his old nickname. All that came from his mouth was, "Don't push it."
Zuko was always one of the more complex characters of the series, so I felt that dedicating a full chapter to him would be appropriate.
Poor guy, though. He just wants Aang to stick around with him.
I felt the story they shared was interesting. Katara's pregnancy must have been a bit overwhelming for Aang, but Zuko being older and wiser would be able to help him through it.
This chapter is probably one of my favorite so far, just because of the fact that Zuko's emotions overpowered the whole thing.
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