Hello, Zuko Here

A/N: Hello, The Temporal Penguin here. Be kind please, this is my first Avatar story.

"Hello, Zuko here," started the scarred true Prince of the Fire Nation. His audience, the badger frog simply looked at him with beady eyes.

Unmindful of that, the nervous, and generally conflicted, prince stuttered along with his little speech which he was preparing as a presentation to sell to the Avatar, as he offered his services as a firebending Master. He rubbed the back of his head as he spoke, "But I guess you probably already know me... sort of. Uh...so, the thing is," he continued hesitantly, "I have a lot of firebending experience."

It was something, that, despite all his trials and tribulations, he was confident of, and proud about, so here his voice grew a bit stronger as he went on, "I'm considered to be pretty good at it."

Then his past history with the people he was approaching reared its head again and he wilted in embarrassment. "Well, you've seen me... you know, when I was attacking you? Uh, yeah...I guess I should apologize for that. But anyway, I'm good now," he declared decisively, his inner conflict having resolved itself during the eclipse as he realised and learnt what his Uncle Iroh had been trying to teach him all along – not only about firebending, but about balance, about Zuko himself, the world, and about Zuko's place in it. "I mean, I thought I was good before, but now I realize I was bad." Talking about his struggles was not natural to the person who valued his honour, and that apart, talking about his feelings and emotions was rather cringe-worthy for the young man.

"Ugh, but anyway... I think it's time I joined your group, and taught the Avatar firebending," he finished, sincerely, if lamely.

The badger frog gave him decidedly less attention, probably less than the Avatar and his friends would give (they would at least be wary of him), even when his (exiled and probably disowned) Royal Highness demanded an answer, as it hopped away. Zuko slumped down to the ground. It didn't seem like a good idea at all, but that was all he had anyway. It was his destiny.

He hadn't even taken into account the assassin he had sent after the Avatar. Nor the several attempts by the Fire Nation and himself on the Avatar and his group, and their persecution of the other nations. That attempt was doomed to fail.

Well, at least the flying bison liked him.

"How was I supposed to know it wasn't a threat?" Zuko yelled out to the forest.

He had, as a matter of fact, stuck around to hear – because people always speak more when the topic of their discussion is not around. The earthbender girl, Toph, had spoken for him teaching the Avatar, drawing a grudging admission from Aang that the Blue Spirit – Zuko's alter-ego – had saved him from Zhao. Well, she hadn't exactly spoken in his favour, but she nonetheless had considered the practical aspects of the situation they found themselves in.

Later the same night, she had come to speak to him off her own accord, apparently. How though was Zuko to know that it was not one of the people Azula, his dear sister, was sure to have set after him, or some wild predator? He had reacted as any person would in the wild. Firebending was just an extra thing up his sleeve at that moment.

And as a blind girl who relied on the feel of the vibrations in the ground, having burnt feet was as close to complete sensory failure for the little earthbender as it could be. His attempts to stop her and to apologise were in vain, as the girl crawled away faster than a badger mole on a rampage under the mountains.

"Why am I so bad at being good?" he cried out in frustration. He got no answer.

The Fire Nation Assassin's inadvertent suicide with his rather visible attempts to dissuade the assassin – named Sparky-Sparky Boom Man as well as Combustion Man by that Southern Water Tribe peasant boy – at least bought him some time to try to persuade the Avatar's group to accept him as the Avatar's Firebending Master.

The Avatar himself had a bit to say at first. "I can't believe I'm saying this... but thanks Zuko."

Sokka, the Water Tribe boy interrupted with a little bragging, "Hey, and what about me? I did the boomerang thing!"

Zuko threw him a disgruntled glare as he went on, "Listen, I know I didn't explain myself very well yesterday. I've been through a lot in the past few years, and it's been hard. But I'm realizing that I had to go through all those things to learn the truth. I thought I had lost my honour, and that somehow my father could return it to me. But I know now that no one can give you your honour. It's something you earn for yourself, by choosing to do what's right. All I want now is to play my part in ending this war. And I know my destiny is to help you restore balance to the world."

He could see the Avatar's face softening a bit as he judged Zuko to be sincere. But it wasn't him alone whom Zuko had to convince. His friends had been very steadfast and had stuck with the Avatar through everything. Unlike him, who had abandoned Uncle Iroh at the first instance where it seemed like he would regain his father's acceptance, the Avatar would choose his friends' and their trust every single time. So he addressed the one who had advocated his offer to the group, the little Blind Bandit.

"I'm sorry for what I did to you," he apologised with a bow. "It was an accident. Fire can be dangerous and wild. So as a firebender, I need to be more careful and control my bending so I don't hurt people unintentionally."

He saw the glimmer of empathy and understanding in Aang's face. As it that irrespective of their age, the natures of the four elements superimposed themselves upon the Avatar and made him or her more accepting and understanding, or at least willing to give others a fair chance?

The Avatar's words put paid to that. Aang had experiences similar to his own. Maybe the Avatar was just as human as them all.

"I think you are supposed to be my firebending teacher. When I first tried to learn firebending, I burned Katara. And after that, I never wanted to firebend again. But now I know you understand how easy it is to hurt the people you love. I'd like you to teach me."

For Zuko, it may have spoken of the boy's regret about his past actions, but for himself, it brought forth a wave of empathy as he realised that the burning fire in the words he had thrown at Uncle Iroh, the only person to have loved him as his own apart from Zuko's mother, were just as hurtful. As the wise man had once said about Zuko's destiny once upon a time, when Zuko believed it to be his destiny to capture the Avatar and redeem himself, "You know Prince Zuko, destiny is a funny thing. You never know how things are going to work out. But if you keep an open mind and an open heart, I promise you will find your own destiny someday."

Zuko was about to rejoice within his limited means of expression apart from anger, when Aang temporised with the rider about his friends agreeing. While Toph and Sokka agreed to let him join, the latter a bit grudgingly, Katara didn't seem impressed at all.

Zuko could see from Aang's inquisitive expression that the entire decision hinged on her agreement.

And in that moment, he found that he and the Avatar weren't so different. The Avatar wanted to redeem himself, and his honour. Where Zuko had thought his honour lay in the Fire Nation, the Avatar thought his duty lay in defeating the Fire Lord, and redeeming himself for the hundred years during which he had been absent, as well as, more recently, for the failed invasion on Eclipse Day. Honour was important to both. Both had hurt people they were closest to, had realised their importance in their life, and therefore to a large extent deferred to those people. Both were still finding their feet in the world. Both were just young people fighting a War that should never have been – a war that should have ended between his great-grandfathers.

His great-grandfathers! That was it! He needed some inspiration, something to convince them, and the information his Uncle Iroh had left him would as usual end up being useful in more ways and times which he could scarcely imagine.

"Look," he pitched in. "I want to end this family feud that's being plaguing my family for so long too. And this way I get to help my great-grandfather! In fact, I get to teach my great-grandfather!"

There was pin-drop silence as this pronouncement left everyone fairly flabbergasted.

Sokka, as usual, had a bad reaction to the things he couldn't properly digest. He hopped between the people, pointing at them, uttering only a few pronouns and words. "You! He! Great-grandfather! Twelve years old!"

"As usual, Sokka can't speak properly," Katara started, "but I agree. Aang is twelve. How can you be his great-grandson?"

"I'm a hundred and twelve, but the point stands," Aang supplied.

"As if that helps Aang," Toph scolded.

"Wait! Would you at least let me speak?" shouted Zuko angrily as this devolved into petty squabbles about ages. "My great-grandfather was Avatar Roku. He was reincarnated as Aang. Same person, same spirit, therefore, Aang – well, not Aang, but Roku – is my great-grandfather. This war was between him and his best friend, my other great-grandfather..."

"Sozin," completed Aang.

"Not helping, Aang," cried out Katara in frustration.

"But he is right," Aang protested innocently. "Roku showed me that himself!"


Apparently, they quite forgot the other creatures around. Appa roared-growled or something of that sort, deafeningly, before giving Zuko another slobbery lick.

"So, let me get this straight. You are Avatar Roku's great-grandson, but Aang is Roku's reincarnation, so he is your great-grandfather in a way, but is not, but you want to help him end the war started by your other great-grandfather Sozin, whose comet, by the way, is returning at the end of the summer. They were best friends, and you want to be our friend, bringing things full circle as you restore. Am I right?"

Sokka's rather complete summary did surprise Zuko, but it was correct in its essentials.


"Well, I don't know, but I can understand you being conflicted and having all the light and dark within you and what-not. I think I would be crazy too." He yelled in pain as Toph punched him, even as his sister scolded him for his rather insensitive remarks – but remarkably, the same ones that Uncle Iroh had made. "What? I am right! No wonder he is a little crazy, and his sister is too! She is crazier, though." The little winged Lemur-bat, Momo, chirped at Sokka. "See, even Momo agrees with me!"

Zuko couldn't help but clutch at his forehead in irritation.

"So will you let me help?"

Katara gave the Prince and the Avatar an odd look, before curtly nodding.

Aang and Zuko exchanged a look. They were never going to live this down.