This one shot fic is part of an anthology series I’ve written over at fanfiction.net called Crown Prince Chronicles that focuses on Zuko and his relationships with other characters from the series and all are as cannon as I can make them and I try to stick with the same Y7 to PG rating the show had. I’ve decided to start posting some of the best ones here as well for people’s enjoyment. This fic is basically a “missing moment” from the series. And since Airspeed Prime wanted to see something with Zuko and Aang I decided to post this one first.
Set shortly after Team Avatar makes their base on Ember Island.
Zuko hadn’t expected to be back at Ember Island so soon after his last visit. But fate was funny that way. The Firelord’s old rundown summer palace was the last place anyone would come looking for them. Not even Azula would come back here. Too depressing, she called it and he’d agreed. Yet, here he was, and with the very last people he’d expected.
His old room was covered in a good seven year sheet of dust. Zuko hadn’t made it this far the last time he’d ventured inside. The bed he’d sat his travelling bag on was the size of a younger child’s, not an adult’s. He doubted he could sleep comfortably in it unless he curled up on his side. There was no way he could stretch out lengthwise without his feet hanging over the edge. He was too tall now, no longer a boy to be controlled, to obey without question for fear of the consequences in order to gain approval from a father who would never give it, because any love had been burned out of Ozai’s heart a long time ago. He was a man who knew the truth now, who made his own decisions and followed he own heart, never again to live a lie!
It rarely rained on Ember Island. Zuko had gotten used to camping and would sleep outside anyway with the others around the fire√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√ā¬¶his new friends. Had it really been only a month ago he’d been here with his sister, his girlfriend, and Ty Lee? Sunning on the beach, playing kuai ball, crashing that party. Now his sister wanted to kill him and the other two were in jail for helping him. How quickly things could change. Zuko vowed that after his sister and father were defeated, the first thing he would do was set Mai and Ty Lee free.
Zuko didn’t plan on using this room any more than he had to and he’d already waited long enough to unpack. He found a hook to hang his dao swords on and placed his picture of Uncle Iroh on the just as dusty vanity. He tried brushing some of the sandy film away only to have his hands coated in it which he was forced to wipe off on his tunic in disgust. Zuko reached back in his bag for the next item when a voice in the doorway called out startling him, causing him to clutch the object in his hand tighter.
“So Sifu Hotman, when’s the grand tour?” Aang’s cheerful voice rang out behind him. Zuko winced at the hated nickname, though part of him enjoyed being addressed as sifu, a respected teacher of firebending and to the Avatar no less, but he would never admit it.
“There is no tour!” Zuko snapped, not bothering to turn around. “Take whatever rooms you want. I don’t care! But you might want to steer clear of the bedroom next door and the royal suite at the end of the hall. Those belonged to Azula and Ozai. Try the guest rooms in the east wing.”
“Thanks. I’ll go tell the others.”
Though his footsteps were light, Zuko could sense Aang leaving as he felt the moving away of his inner heat that all master firebenders could sense within a person. Zuko looked down at the object in his bag that dug into his palm as he realized exactly what he held.
“Aang, wait! I have something to show you.”
The mass of body heat in the corridor halted and moved back in Zuko’s direction, still making no audible sound as he walked back. Zuko finally turned to face Aang, still keeping the object hidden just inside his bag for suspense.
“Well?” Aang asked with a curious expression while trying to peer inside, “What is it?”
Zuko froze for a moment, suddenly not sure how to proceed. He never thought these things through. He took a deep breath, threw caution to the wind, and held up the object for Aang to see.
Aang’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped. “That’s Roku’s hairpiece!” He stared even as Zuko offered for him to touch it. Aang reached out a tentative hand as if to make contact with it would make its very presence vanish like a ghostly heirloom from the spirit world. However, as his hand closed around it feeling its solid red and gold metal, he had to admit it was very much real.
“It also belonged to my great grandfather Sozin. He gave it to Avatar Roku a long time ago, before the war, back when they were still friends.” Zuko kept his voice level though he watched Aang’s fascination with deep interest.
“Yes, I remember,” Aang traced the flame pattern on the hairpiece still in amazement. Memories of his past life washed over him, bits and pieces from visions of Roku and his time in the spirit world. Aang looked up at Zuko, gray eyes searched gold ones questioningly. “How did you get this?” Aang demanded in almost a whisper. His eyes went back to the hairpiece again, still marveling at its sudden reappearance.
Zuko shrugged. “It’s a family heirloom. The symbol of the crown prince. Why wouldn’t it find its way back to the heir? I really don’t know how Uncle found it or for how long he’d been keeping it, but he gave it to me saying it was my legacy√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√ā¬¶of both my great grandfathers.”
There was a moment of silent dawning before Aang spluttered and Zuko gave a satisfied ear-splitting grin, a sight rare enough on the prince to nearly cause alarm in and of itself.
“WHAT! B-But that means Roku -”
“And you’re his -”
Aang let out a long whistle and breathed a deep sigh that went though his entire body. “Destiny is strange.”
“Tell me about it. I guess that’s why there’s always been this weird connection between us, even though I had no idea what that meant until recently. It’s nothing to be ashamed of though, you are 112 great grandp-”
“Don’t call me that!” Aang stamped a foot that caused a swirl of dust around his ankles.
“Fine. It’ll be our secret,” Zuko said with surprisingly little resistance, but he smiled long enough until Aang felt compelled to join in with a small one of his own.
“Thanks. It’s not that I’m ashamed we’re related or anything.” Aang tried to avoid the prince’s gaze. “It’s just√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√ā¬¶”
“The others would never let us hear the end of it,” Zuko affirmed without question.
A moment of awkward silence passed now that the secret was out in the open. Neither looked at the other, both relieved, but also not sure what to do next. Aang traced a foot back and forth in the dust, stirring up small clouds in the process. Zuko sneezed, sniffled, and glared. Aang shrugged in apology.
“It’s yours if you want it,” Zuko motioned to the hairpiece Aang still held, “even though you won’t have much use for it this lifetime.”
As if to prove his point, Aang ran a hand over his bald head. “No, you keep it. It’s just as much yours as mine. In fact,” Aang’s eyes lit up with a sudden idea, “you should try it on, Zuko. Allow me!”
Zuko opened his mouth, but any words of protest were drowned out by the sudden upward rush of air around his neck and face. Aang commanded the wind pulling firmly but not too tightly against the prince’s hair gathering it up and folding it over at the crown of his skull. Aang paused a second to look around. Then another gust of air carried over a red ribbon from near the top of Zuko’s travel bag. It wrapped around the newly formed topknot a few times with a flutter and tied itself off. The ancestral hairpiece of the crown prince of the Fire Nation flew upward out of the Avatar’s hand. Zuko felt the cold metal settle perfectly over the ribbon. The finishing gentle whoosh and klink of the horizontal needle through holes and hair secured everything in its final proper place. It all happened so fast that Zuko was still a little stunned as Aang took a step back to admire his handiwork.
“Wow!” It was Aang’s turn for a face-splitting grin and a thumbs up. “It suits you.”
Zuko’s only response was to scowl, not believing him. Aang wasn’t deterred though. He sent another wind to open the window and blew the majority of the dust off the vanity mirror and countertop outside, carefully guiding its path around Zuko to avoid another sneezing fit.
“See for yourself,” Aang presented the newly cleaned surface with a wave.
Zuko slowly turned to face the mirror, not certain what he expected or even wanted to see. Him and reflective surfaces didn’t get along so well, ever since that fateful Agni Ki, but he did as Aang instructed anyway humoring his ancestor√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√ā¬¶and stared. It shouldn’t have looked much different than the first time he’d seen himself in topknot and armor again after his return home from his banishment.
The royal hairdressers had positively despaired at what they had to work with when they’d first laid eyes upon his hair’s short, shaggy, length. Azula’s taunts that he might as well not show his face in public until it grew out again for sheer decency’s sake certainly hadn’t helped. There was much pulling, prodding, aching, and swearing (from both prince and servants on that one) to the point he was surprised he wasn’t bald the way his roots hurt to the point of numbness. The tough skin next to the hair around his scar stretched so tight it made his teeth clench not to cry out in pain. Somehow, the hairdressers had just managed to coax a decent topknot out of his stubborn locks.
So this shouldn’t have been any better…but it felt completely different. His scalp felt relaxed yet ever hair looked perfectly in place. Roku’s hairpiece wasn’t the smaller flame-shaped ornament he’d worn before that matched his sister’s, it towered as a sign of his royalty, the true heir, not just as Firelord, but a dual legacy. For the first time, Zuko truly saw his mother’s features in his own, and from her, his great grandfather’s. His golden eyes were his father’s, but their shape was Roku’s. His facial structure was is father’s, but the gentleness of his features (even half scarred) deemed too soft by some, including Ozai himself, was also Roku’s. But Zuko’s smile was his own. If anything, it resembled Iroh’s smile, the one who had known his heritage all along. Even the casual clothes he now wore couldn’t hide his dual birthright.
“Wow!” the crown prince echoed at the sight of his own reflection. “Thank you,” he said to Aang.
“Don’t mention it.” After a moment, Aang added. “The others will be wondering where we are.”
“You go ahead. Tell them I’ll join you a little later.”
With a light stirring of dust and wind, Aang left. Zuko wasn’t sure how much time passed as he stared in the mirror, maybe an hour by his reckoning, but no one came looking for him in that time, at Aang’s encouragement no doubt. But it was almost time for dinner. With a sigh, Zuko took one last look, preserving the image in his mind. He closed his eyes and removed the long pin, slid off Roku’s hairpiece, and tugged the red ribbon out. He shook his hair free as it tumbled down loose to fall over his eyes and brush the back of his collar again. Repacking his bag and gathering his swords, Zuko decided he preferred a room in the east wing after all.
Korra opened the rectangular box emblazoned with the seal of the Fire Nation’s royal family. The box and its contents had been gifted to her the day she had been named Avatar. Inside was not only a hairpiece worn by her past life as Avatar Roku but small portraits of some of his descendents and a special letter from one of them.
To the next Avatar,
Always remember that fire is the heartbeat of life. In mastering my element, know you must learn to balance passion with self control. Though you are born of the Water Tribe, never fear your opposite. Respect fire and it shall bend to your will. If you even need to return to the source Ran and Shao of Sun Island will guide you.
I pray that my legacy was one of peace. In the past, you have been my ancestor and my best friend. Perhaps we are destined to meet again someday in a future life of my own. Always trust your own heart. Never give up without a fight. Never forget who you are!
And when all looks bleakest, never underestimate the relaxing power of a good pot of tea.
One who found his destiny fighting by your side,
Sifu of Avatar Aang
Great Grandson of Avatar Roku
Korra had read that note many times since that day. Every time it gave her comfort and strength, though she didn’t get what the old Firelord thought was so great about tea. Her own firebending teacher was a descendant of Zuko’s royal line. Korra’s sifu had instructed her in the true ways and origins of the element. She knew the secrets of The Dancing Dragon, as well as both proper making and redirection of lightning. It hadn’t been easy being her natural opposite, but she had mastered fire.
Now Korra practiced airbending using techniques Sifu Tenzin had instructed her in. He said it helped to practice on the little things as well as the big ones. So she did√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√ā¬¶when he wasn’t around. She had to keep up appearances after all. Korra felt quite pleased with herself as she finished settling her heirloom hairpiece on top of her head with a windy flourish. She paused to smile in the mirror at herself, pleased with her handiwork and for an instant could swear she saw her past lives smiling back at her. Then she hurried off to join Sifu Tenzin for dinner, praying this time there’d be some meat. She’d scream if it was all vegetables yet again. Avatar she may be, but Korra was still her own person.