Avatar: The Last Airbender
The Moon Spirit takes an inexplicable interest Zuko, and he isn't quite sure why.
A birthday fic for suzukiblu
The first time he meets the Moon Spirit, it’s two days after he’s parted ways with Uncle, and Zuko’s never felt so alone in his life.
It’s late, and he lies on his back on hard Earth Kingdom dirt and stares at the moon. Splitting up was the right thing to do, the smart thing to do, but it doesn’t change the fact that the night is far too quiet without an old man’s snores.
So stupid and childish, but Zuko misses him anyway and wishes he didn’t.
He’s adrift and hunted and hunting, bone-tired and desperate for sleep he can’t seem to find because Uncle isn’t there.
Zuko closes his eyes and tries not to think.
He isn’t alone.
There’s no sound, no movement to give it away, but somehow he knows. He isn’t alone, he might have to fight, and Zuko can’t pretend he isn’t grateful for the excuse to move, to act. One breath, the next and he’s on his feet with swords in hand and thinking, don’t give yourself away.
The clearing is empty save shadows and moonlight, but Zuko doesn’t let his guard down. There’s someone there, the feeling of other almost tangible. He turns again, scans the shadows and briefly doubts, wonders if it’s just exhaustion and paranoia.
"You can put your weapons away. I’m not going to hurt you."
Zuko whirls and there’s a girl, all flowing hair and white light where there wasn’t one before. He doesn’t lower his weapons because he knows better than most that girls are usually more dangerous than they look. "Who are you? What do you want?"
The girl smiles and tilts her head, looking not the least concerned by his swords. That sets off alarms in his head and Zuko takes a half step back, shoulders stiff and grip tight. "My name is Yue."
He waits a beat but she does not elaborate, and he nearly snaps at her when it clicks. He’s seen her before, once, but he’d had other things to worry about then. How was she here? Why? And hadn’t Uncle said-
"You’re the Moon Spirit." Zuko looks at her, really looks, and he realizes that if he turns his head just so he can see right through her. He drops his arms, the tips of his swords touching earth. They seem kind of pointless, now.
The girl, Yue, smiles again and the expression is a little sad, a little distant. "I am."
Zuko’s thoughts spin. Why is she here? What does she want? She is the Avatar’s friend, Water Tribe, a spirit, the moon, so what could she possibly want with him? He doesn’t understand. "Why are you here?"
She looks at him with earnest blue eyes. "To tell you that I believe in you."
The words are so simple, so very matter-of-fact that they make no sense at all. "Is this some kind of joke?" he snaps, angry that she said it, angry that he wants to believe it. "You know nothing about me!"
"I know more than you think," she tells him, and the sadness is back so stark and so deep that in the face of it Zuko can’t be angry. Tired, yes, and so confused, but not angry.
"I don’t understand," he says, and he’s sure it’s the truest thing that’s ever passed his lips. The spirit is, if not an enemy, certainly not a friend, and Zuko can’t figure it out.
"You have so many roads before you," she says, holding up a hand, fingers splayed. "So many choices, and the ones you make will have a far-reaching impact. For good or ill." Her fingers curl into a fist and drop back to her side. "There will be times when you’re alone and it will all seem so insurmountable, when no one will believe in you and you won’t believe in yourself. So I wanted you to know that even when no one else does, I have faith in you."
"Because I do."
In the morning Zuko convinces himself it was just a dream.
* * *
The second time Zuko meets the Moon Spirit, it’s the night after Jet was taken by the Dai Li and the streets of Ba Sing Se are empty.
He’s alone one moment and the next she’s walking beside him, and Zuko starts so badly he nearly trips over his own feet.
Yue laughs, hand over her mouth and eyes crinkling at the edges.
Too shocked to take offense, Zuko jabs a finger at her accusingly. "You were a dream!" he says, and he realizes how stupid it sounds the moment he does.
She smiles. "I wasn’t."
Zuko stares at her, the Moon Spirit standing in the middle of the street in Ba Sing Se, and feels a little trapped. "Why are you here?" he asks, the question an echo of their first meeting.
The spirit clasps her hands behind her back and says, "Do I need a reason?"
"Yes!" Zuko explodes, throwing up his hands and wondering when the world went crazy. "You’re a spirit. Spirits don’t just- just stop in to chat." Hello, how are you? Unseasonably warm weather for this time of year and Zuko just doesn’t get it.
"Is that so?" she says with a smile, and Zuko realizes belatedly how incredibly presumptuous it is to tell a spirit her business, but it just makes no sense.
I have faith in you, she’d said, the words just as much a puzzle now as they were then. Why should the Moon Spirit think anything of him at all? "What do you want?"
The smile doesn’t change at all, but becomes something melancholy all the same. "I want a lot of things," she says, and Zuko knows there’s more behind those words than he’ll ever understand. "But from you," she holds out her hand, palm up. "I think I’d just like company."
He tells himself that he takes her hand because she’s a spirit, and it’s usually wise to do what they ask. In truth he takes it because he wants to, and her hand is cool and smooth and surprisingly solid in his own. It feels a little wrong, like cheating, for a firebender to touch the moon. "Why me?" he asks, because he has to know.
* * *
The third time Zuko meets the Moon Spirit, it’s in the palace gardens and he wears his guilt like a mantle.
She doesn’t speak, and neither does he. They stand there watching each other, just watching, and Zuko is the first to crack. "I guess your faith was misplaced," he says bitterly, each word like knives in his throat.
She reaches out and folds him into an embrace he does not deserve but needs all the same. "That remains to be seen."
* * *
The fourth time he meets the Moon Spirit is the night they return from the Sun Warrior ruins, and Zuko’s just too full of it all to sleep.
So he walks instead while the others dream, first the temple, then the forest, and he’s not surprised when he finds Yue among the trees. She’s silent but smiling and Zuko can’t help but smile back.
"How did you know?" he asks. How did you know I’d make the right choice? How could you see it so long before I could?
"I didn’t," she says, reaching out and placing cool fingertips on his cheek, feather light. "But I had faith."
Zuko lets out a long, slow breath, placing his hand over hers, a little surprised when she doesn’t pull away. Their first meeting seems like so long ago now, and Zuko can’t help but wonder if he would have made the right choice if not for her. He likes to think so, but he can’t be sure.
He still doesn’t understand why she comes to him, but it matters less now than it used to. "Thank you, for that."
She accepts his thanks with a flicker of lips and a bow of the head. She pulls her hand away from his and looks up at the sky, eyes distant and head cocked, as though listening to something he cannot hear. "I don’t think you’ll see me again," she says, and there is regret in her words.
Zuko understands, as much as he can. He understands, but he doesn’t have to like it. There are a hundred thoughts in his head. I wish it could have been different, thank you for being what I needed when I didn’t know I needed it, promise me this isn’t the last time I’ll see you. What he says is, "Stay the night?"
Yue looks at him with bright blue eyes and hesitates, and Zuko thinks she’s going to say no. Instead she steps forward, winds her arms around his neck and kisses him. He doesn’t expect it, stands there like an idiot for a beat before he pulls her close. The kiss is sad and soft and not quite chaste, full of maybes and might-have-been’s and never-will-be’s.
She fits in his arms like she was made for them, two halves of a whole and Zuko can’t help but think in another life but he doesn’t say it out loud because he’s seen enough sadness on her face for a lifetime.
In the morning she’s gone, and Zuko knows it wasn’t a dream.