Book One: Spirit Blessings (Some Restrictions Apply)
Uncle told him to be patient. That no one had seen the Avatar in a hundred years, and Zuko couldn't expect to find him in a week, two weeks, three, a month. That perhaps his father meant this more as a meditative journey, a chance to reflect upon himself—
And then they saw the light shooting up from the ice pack, from ground to sky like a candle-beacon lit just for him.
Uncle told him not to get his hopes up. That it might be the celestial lights—
And then signal flares went off, and Zuko saw a spry (old man?) airbender carrying a (girl? sack of potato-chokes?) carrying a blue-wrapped something down from the ship in extravagant leaps.
Uncle told him they shouldn't crash the ship straight into the Southern Water Tribe's village. That these things were not polite for a (banished) ( temporarily banished) prince of the Fire Nation to do, and he should certainly reconsider leading the attack himself, he was only twelve—
Zuko was starting to doubt his uncle's advice.
2: Lieutenant Jee
The prince was practicing his Commander Voice on the assembled men, and Jee hoped that 'shouting loudly' wasn't what the boy would settle on for the duration of their voyage.
"When we hit that shore—" the prince roared (very impressive lungs for a kid who'd been near comatose when the General had brought him aboard) (very literal statement of intent, too.) "—are you paying attention, Lieutenant?"
"Sir, yes sir!" It had taken Jee a few years longer than most to realize that was the only answer commanders wanted to hear. It had taken the twelve-year-old prince less than twenty-four hours to demand it, and for the first eighteen the boy had been in a drug haze. (And Jee had found him stumbling in an empty corridor while his uncle was sleeping, and guided him back to bed with a hand on his shoulder and half-amused words, and had another six blissful hours to think that the kid looked a lot like his own nephew and not the teething tigerdillo he really was.)
"You'd better be! When we hit that shore—"
The ship crashed straight through a small snowbank. In retrospect, it was the village wall.
The angry kid's ponytail was stupid, and he couldn't duck a boomerang to save himself a concussion, and he broke Sokka's spear in four places and hit him on the head with it like some kind of preemptive karmic revenge. Because, you know. Boomerang. To the head. Did Sokka mention the concussion?
But the important parts to focus on were the ponytail (which was stupid) and boomerang (which was effective), because it was either that or think too hard about how his Gran-Gran had just packed him and his little sister off to assault a Fire navy ship led by, apparently, a twelve-year-old. With a stupid ponytail. Who'd just kidnapped another twelve-year old. Who was bald. And did not have a concussion.
In a kinder world, Sokka would wake up on the ice with a bleeding head wound and an angry elephant-walrus bearing down on him and that's why his head hurt, just a regular old life-and-death situation out on the tundra, and none of this… this.
A man of the tribe can dream.