The cold is the hardest part. Zuko/Aang, implied.
The cold is the hardest part. If not for the fire breath, Zuko wonders if he'd survive more than a few hours with his dignity intact. He's wearing clothes that are unheard of for a Fire Nation prince: piles and layers of shirts and padding, long pants and thick woolen socks, doubled inside his shoes.
It doesn't help much. The snow blows sideways, streaks of dull flurries in the moonlight. It stings his cheeks, sticks to his eyelashes, but he keeps going, driven by something greater than pain. His skin will be snow-burnt for weeks, but he doesn't have a choice ...
He just wants to see his face.
The Avatar. Aang. The one whom catching used to seem an easy task, once he was unveiled from his icy tomb, but over time -- humbling time -- Zuko is reduced to needing little more than a glimpse of him. A glance, a word, perhaps ...
Another blast of wind barrels into him and Zuko has to bite into his lip, hard, to keep from crying out in frustration. Of course, he'd be forced to walk right against it instead of feeling it at his back. Nothing has ever been easy for Zuko, but he keeps plowing ahead, steps shuffling one in front of the other, snow crunching underfoot.
He passes by an unmoving lump of clothing in the snow, lying above a pair of boots sticking half out from the ice. It's an unfortunate someone who was caught in the wastes, lying there frozen for who knows how long and not for the first time, Zuko realizes that life is fragile.
It's not a new realization, but Zuko understands it in his heart now as never before. This journey has taught him much; he's older in strange ways, even if he is still too young to stop being angry. Not that he cares about that.
Zuko likes his anger. It keeps him warm in a place the wind can't touch.
As does his thoughts of the Avatar. Aang shines like a beacon, always, since the moment Zuko saw the straight flame hovering over the ice floes, ascending into the endless sky. It was at that moment Zuko understood what desire was -- in more ways than one.
He had dreams after that, dreams he never told anyone, lest they tell him they were visions of things to come. Even Uncle would turn away from him in disgust if he knew, but ...
Dreams of touching the Avatar, grabbing Aang by the arms and slamming him up against an ice wall and pressing his lips to his; cold against fire, air feeding flames. Aang's older in these dreams -- hence the thought of visions -- but still shy and sweet and wise and Zuko is completely at his mercy.
The air around them smells like smoke and flowers. The crying sounds of lion seals fill the air and Aang won't stop tugging on his neck, pulling Zuko closer, whispering words about peace and balance, between soaring kisses.
In the dream Zuko almost invariably pulls away to growl something about triumph and Aang always laughs before taking his mouth again.
They love each other completely in this secret dream and Zuko always wakes up shaking and drenched in a shameful sweat. It takes him hours to push the memory away, to get onto the work at hand, but in some ways, it spurs him on to the search, this wondering if perhaps ...
Suddenly, the wind blows again, hitting him like a slap in the face, shaking him from his reverie. Tomorrow, he'll have time to rest and forget the pain and weariness of travel.
Tonight he'll have time to bury himself in dreams.
Now ... he hunts.
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