You had an imaginary friend. Her name was Korra. She was as old as your cousin Lu Ten at 21. Lu Ten had died when you where 10. Korra had left much earlier, but at the same time hadn't left at all.
You where 16, on a quest looking for the Avatar. You had made a foolish decision and disrespected your father, dishonered him and yourself. He had given you a chance to redeem yourself, to get your honor back, and that was to find and capture the Avatar, and bring it to him. You never liked the Avatar. The Avatar wanted to stop the Fire Nation, to stop the spread of civilization, and to kill your grandfather, and later to kill your father. It also made you hear strange things, whispers that you where now sure wheren't real. But at the time you swear you almost heard Korra.
Finally, finally, you find him. You find him at the South Pole in a village that seems achingly familiar to you in the strangest ways. You see a girl with a necklace, that reminds you of someone. "Kanna" a voice whispers. It sounds almost like Korra.
Him, the Avatar, is an air nomad. If you couldn't tell by his clothes or his bald head, you could tell by the tattoos. He is 12. Something tells you he is quite young to be a master airbender. The girl with the necklace calls him Aang. You do not consider yourself good with names, but somehow the name sticks. Like you have heard it before.
You capture Aang. Something in the back of your mind tells you its not a good idea. You do not listen. Aang is the Avatar, and you must capture the Avatar to restore your honor and return home. You ignore the part of yourself, a part that feels achingly young, and you capture him.
Aang gets away. You are angry, but that small part of you is incredibly relieved. The confusion in you brain angers you all the more.
Stuff like this keeps happening. Everytime you choose to follow Aang, everytime you try to capture him, voices whisper inside your head. One of them sounds just like Korra, who you had thought had left you when you where 7. She doesn't really come back, not in the way where before you could almost reach out and touch her. But her voice is there. She is yelling at you to stop, that this isn't the right decision, that Aang is not who you think he is, that something isn't right here. You ignore her. The other voice is very, very new, and sounds very very young. Where Korra sounds angry, the other sounds sad. Hereing such a young voice striken with so much grief gets to you more than you show it. You ignore him too, but it is harder.
Kyoshi Island gets to you. Avatar Kyoshi's stature seems familiar in the strangest of ways, and so does the red make-up over the girls eyes. You have the phantom feeling that red smeared across your face. You try to forget this. In a way you do, but in another way you can never forget that feeling. It is like it used to be part of you, or almost so. You ignore it, like so many other things.
Korra yells even louder when you manage the capture the little water tribe girl. When your hold the necklace to the girl's neck, Korra yells "Kanna!" You know this is not the water tribe girls name. You can't remember her name, and every time Korra yells Kanna it sounds more and more right, but there is something off. The girl doesn't look quite right, and you've heard her brother and Aang say her name before, and Kanna was not it.
A few nights after, you have nightmares of prison. Somehow, you grip the bars hard enough that they move. The cold metal moves easily under your hands, and you move it too the side. It feels exactly like firebending, but at the same time not at all. You make it out of the cell, and you are weaker than you ever where before, and you hate that feeling. But at the same time, you are free. You are free, and you've never felt joy quite like this.
The next thing you know, something so hot that it feels cold shoots through you, ripping you apart. You see a body dressed in red. Things go black.
And you wake up, clutching your heart and panting. Slowly, your breathing steadies.
"Nephew?!" Uncle throws open the door.
You look up at him with wide eyes. The red of his clothes startles you, scares you, and you don't understand why. You are Fire Nation, Uncle is Fire Nation, there is nothing to be afraid of. Yet still, you are.
"I'm fine!" You growl out.
"I heard you scream." Uncle rushes into the room over to your side,"Did you have a nightmare. Do you want some tea?"
"I'm fine!" You state again,"I don't want your stupid tea!"
It was a nightmare, but somehow, for some reason, it's more vivid than that. It feels real. It feels like you had died.
Uncle frowns. "There is no shame in asking for help, Prince Zuko."
"There's nothing for you to help me on!" You yell, and toss yourself into bed. "Go to sleep!" You command him, turning away.
Uncle pulls the covers up for you, and then he leaves, wordlessly.
You lay in your bed, fuming, trying to go to sleep. Everytime you close your eyes, you feel metal under your hands, then the hot-cold overwhelming energy. You refuse to scream again, no matter how much you want to. No matter how painful it feels.
You do not forget that dream.
The sun rises. You feel a hand on your back, and you turn around, expecting Uncle to be there. You are ready to tell him to go away, that you're not lazy and that you're getting up. Instead of Uncle's familiar red, you see a flash of blue, and then nothing. For some reason, your mind supplies,"Korra."
You can't help but thinking, that perhaps that wasn't you who bent metal, who was killed by lightning in that dream. Perhaps that was Korra. The answer feels right. But you think again about how it felt like you. It being you also sounds right. It was Korra, but it was also you? Perhaps, you are the same?
That answer sounds so, so, right, but it feels so so wrong. If you used to be Korra, then that means-
If Korra bent metal, and she is a waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe, then that means-
If you used to be Korra, who can bend water and metal, water and *earth* (though you feel like she could bend fire too), then that means you must be-
If that is so, then who is Aang? Aang must be the Avatar, he is the last airbender. Not you.
The young voice whispers inside your mind,"They got it wrong. Aang is the last airbender, but he is not the Avatar, I am the airbending Avatar, and you are- "
You stop listening. It is the only thing you can do to keep your sanity.
You hunt Aang with all the more vigor. The young voice keeps being louder and louder. Korra is ignoring you, sorta. You know she is angry. You do not know why.
The young voice returns, and returns, and returns. He speaks more and more about not hunting Aang, about not capturing him, about leaving Aang alone, or more so keeping Aang safe. Aang is the last airbender, he must be protected. The young voice, who is named Lobsang also reminds you that eventually, you will need an airbender teacher.
Lies, you say. You are a firebender, you cannot airbend. You are not the- that person- so you cannot do both.
You dream that you are him, that you are Lobsang. There are soldiers all around you, all dressed in red. They are Fire Nation uniforms, if outdated. Something tells you that was a hundred years ago. There are Fire Nation soldiers, surrounded your people, and yourself. There is fire, all around, and there is smoke. You feel like you are burning alive due to the heat, and your lungs are burning with the smoke. The sky is a brilliant, vibrant, bloody red-orange. You look up, and see a comet. You recognize that comet, it is Sozin's comet. Fire Lord Sozin used it to wipe out the Air Nomads. You watch your people, your family, fall down one by one by one, burned to nothing but ashes. You turn around and you see a soldier, and your vision is filled with red. You burn.
You wake up.
In history, you had learned about the armies attack on the Air Nation army during Sozin's comet. Now you knew this was not true. The Air Nomads had no army. It wasn't just an attack, it was an ambush. It was slaughter.
There was only one airbender left in the world, and that was Aang. Part of you knew he needs to be protected. Lobsang agrees with you. Korra speaks to you again and agrees. You do not know what to do.
You want so much to go home. You want your country, you want your throne, you want your father not to think you're worthless. You want everything to return back to the way things used to be. To do that, you must capture the Avatar. That is, according to the world and Aang himself, Aang.
You know Aang is not the Avatar. He is an airbender yes, but he is not the Avatar. You haven't seen him bend other elements, or go into the Avatar state, and you seriously doubt Aang has Korra or Lobsang with him.
You know Aang is not the Avatar, and you know that no matter how much you search, you will not find the Avatar in anyone else. You know who the Avatar is, but at the same time, you refuse to admit it.
Still, when you go back to hunting Aang, you do not put your heart into it. And still, when Zhao captures Aang, you go to save him. You tell yourself, you're only stealing Aang from Zhao so you can capture him for yourself. You don't even believe your own lies.
When your ship blows up, you somehow feel so overwhelmed with power, and your vison goes white. When you open your eyes, you are completely unscratched, and ashen debree, some still on fire, surround you, falling down, and then your feet touch water. You fall into the water, and swiftly swim to the show. You turn around to see whats left of your ship. You can't believe you are completely unscratched.
"Zuko! Zuko!" You hear Uncle call, and turn around to face him.
Uncle's eyes go wide as he sees you, tears streaming from his face. He breaks into a wide smile, and you can't help but smiling back. "Nephew, you're alright."
You nod. You are fine. You where in the middle of the ship when it exploded, and yet you are fine. You don't know why.
Korra whispers in your ear,"That's the Avatar State. Isn't it cool?"
The Avatar State. You remember reading about it, about how the Avatar would become completely powerful, eyes going bright white with energy. You wonder what you looked like.
You remember the fact you where floating. You must have airbent. You can bend two elements. You entered the Avatar state.
It hits you suddenly. You already knew the truth about what you where, but you always felt like you where in some sort of denial. As if, Avatar Zuko was some sort of alternate form of yourself, some sort of dream.
You throw up.
Uncle is by your side immediately, trying to sooth you, asking whats wrong.
You manage to choke out the truth. Uncle's eyes go wide, and he doesn't say anymore.
You are the Avatar and you have no idea what to do.