Disclaimer: Avatar: The Last Airbender is the property of Nickelodeon, Mike and Brian. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the property of Joss Whedon. I claim nothing but the plot and any original characters. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: Dawn/Zuko moment that popped into my head.
He see’s her standing by the rail watching the sunrise. It’s the third time this week he’s found her up here on the watch deck, gazing over the water as the sun greets the world in a breathtaking tableau of burning orange and yellow.
Firebenders rise and set with the sun and it seemed the girl did now too.
She hasn’t always, but since her...discovery, she’s been waking earlier and earlier until she keeps the same clock as all the other benders of the ship. He could care less about her sleeping patterns but he has noticed her newly chosen viewing spot.
The watch deck is his
. His retreat to enjoy a moment of peace before his duties take hold and his mission consumes him. In those minutes between night and day he can forget things like honour and duty, forget scorning amber orbs that dog his waking steps and the gentler golden ones that haunt his dreams. For a moment he isn’t the banished Prince, he isn’t motherless and his father’s love is not conditional; he is just a boy watching the sunrise.
But his fantasy only works if he is alone, far away from reminders that he most certainly is not like other children. No boy has responsibilities like the ones he must bear, no normal boy’s life hinges on finding a myth, no boy’s honour hinges on a capturing a ghost.
How can he be this boy, if another gazed upon his scar and knew him to be their marked Prince?
With this girl...it's different. She doesn't know his story. She looks up at him, gazes at his face and sees nothing beyond the scar. She cannot remind him of something she does not know.
Her presence does nothing to disturb him, so he ignores her and she ignores him, neither speaks and it is almost as if she isn’t there.
Except he’s constantly aware that she is
But the sensation is not exactly unpleasant so he accepts the newest addition to his mornings with only slight bad grace.
She’s there before him today like she always is. He knows if he were there first she would not dare to interrupt. Her back faces him and he prefers it this way.
It’s easier to pretend someone isn’t there if you can’t see their face.
But today there is a hunch to her shoulders and he wishes to know what put it there, so he approaches the rail. He notes there is a sad set to her mouth and a lingering yearning in her eyes and she looks as if she has lost something, or maybe someone, and is only just realizing it might never be found.
He wonders the same thing he always does, when he bothers to notice her at all.Who is this girl?
She acts just as she seems; young, innocent and perhaps a little overindulged. But occasionally there are moments, like this, where she seems more. As if she has seen
more and lost
more than the spoiled child she is.
Zuko sees it and understands, probably better than most; he is the poster child for childhood trauma. And while he may be able to empathize, he cannot sympathise, because whatever she has undergone he knows it is nothing compared to himself.
What might have been a twinge of pity is swallowed by the rush of familiar anger mixed with a healthy portion of resentment. Her indulgence in self-pity is reminding him of all the things he came here to forget.
He turns to leave, his ritual ruined, when the girl finally notices him standing not two feet from her elbow. Blue eyes meet gold and all the yearning is gone, except, maybe, for a tiny flicker of heartache hidden behind a finely honed facade.
She says it uncertainly and he knows it’s him, not the unfamiliar words sounding so strange on her tongue, that causes her to hesitate. She stretches the vowels and the words seem to fall flat, but her mimicry is improving.
“Good morning,” he finally answers.
She deems this enough and turns back to the sun, which is now well on its way to reaching the sky, and he finds himself joining her. There is nothing waiting below except training and chores, so even if the spell is broken maybe he can still enjoy the sunrise.
They stand together and feel the warmth of the light bathe their face as the feeling of renewal and life burns through them.
He is content to stand in silence but the girl wishes to talk. Talking helps chase away the loneliness the memories have stirred.
“What is this?”
She’s like a sparrowkeet. All she does is repeat that same phrase.
“Just watch the sunrise.”
“Yes, it’s a sunrise, one that I’m going to miss if you keep asking pointless questions.”
“I know you can talk. You were less annoying when you were quiet.”
“I talk...no, ah...name? I name...sunrise. Dawn. Sunrise”
“...you have no idea what you’re saying, do you?”
“I-My...my name Dawn. My name sunrise.”
“Your name...Your name means sunrise?”
“Dawn means sunrise? Dawn,” he gestures to the brilliant orb peeking over the waves. “Is this?”
They finish watching and this time she thankfully stays quiet. But he can see the smile curling the corners of her lips as she leaves the tower and hears her whisper ‘sunrise.’
As he stares at the fully risen sun the word ‘Dawn’ falls from unconsciously from his lips, sounding just as foreign as the girl and not quite right.
But it’s close enough for now.