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Fanfic / Fractures (ATLA)

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Fractures is an Alternate Universe Fan Fic of Avatar: The Last Airbender on Archive of Our Own by fledgling author EvieNyxnote .

The premise is that Zuko realizes his destiny much earlier. As in, as soon as he wakes up in the palace after his Agni Kai and is told he is banished. Unfortunately, he's never been a patient one. So he storms right up to Ozai and tells him what he's going to do. And gets locked up for over three years. Then, one day, he's being pulled out and told he's the new Fire Lord.


The author also has a Tumblr page where they blog about this fanfic and answer any questions that readers ask. It can be accessed here.

This fic contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Ozai, as in canon, and taken Up to Eleven with his numerous torture sessions carried out against his own son. He is even an abusive uncle, trying (and thankfully failing) to have Lu Ten assassinated.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: Iroh isn’t a Parental Substitute to Zuko and in fact barely knows him because he’s been out of contact with the royal family since the Siege of Ba Sing Se. Although it's revealed that Koh actually stole Iroh's memories of Zuko, which is why he can't feel close to his nephew.
  • Adaptational Job Change: Downplayed with Zhao. In canon, he was introduced as a commander of the Fire Navy before later being promoted to admiral by Ozai. Here, he was already an admiral by the time Aang awoke from the iceberg.
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  • The Alcatraz: The Boiling Rock. With Zuko not having been able to join the Gaang in this AU, Suki, Hakoda, Mai and Ty Lee remain imprisoned there until after the end of the war.
  • All There in the Manual: The author also wrote a short story set in the Fractures-verse which centers around Piandao's relationship with Zuko. It can be read here.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: The common folk in the Fire Nation’s capital cheer when they hear news of Ozai’s defeat.
  • Barefoot Captives: Kya is just barefoot and clad in dirty prison rags during her imprisonment, just as the rest of the Southern Waterbenders were. Though Pim, Zuko's seamstress, is not able to find any shoes for Kya to wear, she is able to give her a clean shirt and a fresh pair of pants to wear upon being freed from The Water's Wail.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Hurting Zuko in front of his caretakers is not a good idea. Suki found that out the hard way when Pim jabs her hand with a needle.
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    • When one of the Earth King's advisors calls Toph a traitor after it's discovered that she helped Azula escape, Aang loses his temper and briefly enters the Avatar State while Suddenly Shouting that Toph is not a traitor.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: In regards to removing Azula's bending, Iroh was correct in his observation that it would only be a matter of time before Azula was able to escape from her prison and she had already injured around two hundred guards by that point. That being said, Toph later notes that taking away Azula's bending only made her mental deterioration worse.
  • Break the Cutie: Zuko, primarily. The canon broken cuties also count to a lesser extent (Aang, Katara and Sokka).
  • Brought Down to Normal: Zuko lost his firebending at some point during his imprisonment, seemingly from being cut off from the sun for so long. Aang takes away Ozai's and Azula's bending.
  • Child Soldiers:
    • The Gaang, as well as Azula, Mai and Ty Lee.
    • Zuko learns that a number of teenagers have been drafted into the army and quickly puts a stop to it.
  • Childhood Friend Romance:
  • Closest Thing We Got: Ozai took the palace doctors with him during the end of his campaign, meaning that Kya closest they have on hand to a professional healer.
  • Composite Character: Zhao takes on some of canon Zuko's role in Season 1 as the one who discovers the Avatar had returned and burns down Kyoshi Island.
  • Curse: As punishment for trying to kill the moon, Zhao is cursed by Tui and La so that every night his body becomes soaked by water.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The canon tragic backstories apply, with the exception of Zuko though (who goes through so much more hell here).
  • A Day in the Limelight: There are multiple interlude chapters dispersed throughout the fic that explore the backstories and POVs of someone other than Zuko.
    • Chapter 6 is about Keeli's past as a servant growing up in the Fire Nation Royal Palace, and her Childhood Friend Romance with Lu Ten.
    • Chapter 9 begins by covering Hakoda's entire backstory, then does a Perspective Flip of his and Suki's introduction to Fire Lord Zuko.
    • Chapter 12 is told from Sokka's POV and covers the immediate aftermath of Aang defeating Ozai.
    • Chapter 16 focuses on Ozai from inside his prison cell in Ba Sing Se as he reminisces about his life choices and schemes to retake his throne.
    • Chapter 22 is told from Toph's POV as she grows uncomfortable with Aang removing Azula's bending and believes Iroh and her friends are wrong to assume Zuko is evil like his father. This culminates in her choice to break Azula free from prison and go on the run with Piandao.
    • Chapter 24 covers Iroh's past with his wife and son, his time in the Spirit World, and his role in helping the Avatar defeat Ozai. The chapter then shows his perspective as the Gaang discover Toph has freed Azula and run away.
    • Chapter 27 is about Lu Ten, going over his life growing up as the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation, his romance with Keeli, how he faked his death during the Siege of Ba Sing Se, his time living under a new identity, and eventually his reunion with Zuko.
    • Chapter 30 is about Aang and shows his thoughts as he recaps everything that has happened since the day Katara and Sokka freed him from the iceberg.
  • Death by Adaptation: Ursa's lover Ikem was killed roughly a decade before the start of the series.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Boasting to his father that he's going to help the Avatar overthrow him? Zuko's immediately thrown in a dungeon.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Chapter 19 sets up Admiral Zhao as one now that Ozai’s depowered and imprisoned. Zhao is completely against Zuko’s rule and plans to restore Ozai’s bending through methods he learned from the Spirit Library.
  • Dramatic Irony: When the Gaang first learns about Zuko from Ozai and Iroh, they assume that he’s evil like his father.
    • When Toph brings up the possibility that Zuko is still the kind boy that Iroh remembered him as, Iroh sadly dismisses that idea and states that Zuko is likely already corrupted by Ozai.
    • The White Lotus theorizes that Zuko was being privately trained by Ozai and worry that Zuko is comparable in strength to his father by this point.
      Jeong Jeong: We have no idea how strong and able-bodied this new Fire Lord is. Rumor has it that he has been privately trained by Ozai for the past three years. Who knows how powerful he could be now?
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Upon hearing that Zuko is scarred, wheelchair-bound, and frighteningly thin, the Gaang and White Lotus assume it's an Obfuscating Disability.
  • Dropping the Bombshell: When Iroh tells a defeated and depowered Ozai that it's over and he's lost, Ozai replies with an unsettling grin that he has two children. This causes Iroh to remember that Zuko exists and shocks the Gaang with the revelation that Ozai has a son.
  • invokedDude, Not Funny!: Some of the Gaang made jokes about Azula having lost her bending thanks to Aang. When Toph visits Azula, she realizes how horribly damaging losing her bending was and quietly thinks that the princess needs help, not mockery.
  • Escaped from Hell: Unlike in canon, Admiral Zhao was able to escape the Spirit World after being Dragged Into Hell by the Ocean Spirit thanks to some "spirit magic" he learned from Wan Shi Tong's library.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Azula boasting about burning down the Earth Kingdom when Sozin's Comet arrives is what prompts Ty Lee and Mai to pull a Heel–Face Turn and attack her.
  • Everyone Can See It: Katara and Aang's blossoming romance.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: In the Chaunli interlude, the titular innkeeper took in an injured man named Fengge after finding him wandering through the desert. Due to his kind heart, Chaunli allowed Fengge to stay at his inn for free, provided him with dry clothing, and did everything he could to help him recover from his wounds. Unfortunately for Chaunli, "Fengge" is none other than Admiral Zhao, who stabs him in the throat with a knife after he overhears Zhao talking with some Fire Nation soldiers about his plan to restore Ozai's firebending.
  • For Want of a Nail: Because Zuko never met the Gaang, Sokka never learned where his father was being kept prisoner. As a result, Hakoda and Suki remained imprisoned at the Boiling Rock for the entirety of the war.
  • From Bad to Worse: After Kya helps Zuko recover from an assassination attempt, the end of the chapter reveals that Jet and the Freedom Fighters are headed to the Fire Nation to kill him. Then two chapters later, Zhao is also revealed to be alive and is planning on using the knowledge from the Spirit Library to restore Ozai’s bending. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Zuko then gets poisoned during dinner.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Mai and Ty Lee commit this and attack Azula after hearing her bragging about burning down the Earth Kingdom.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Zhao’s fate following the Siege of the North. He goes from being an admiral in command of the world’s most powerful navy to a nobody hiding out in some random inn near a desert. He’s even forced to wear a mix of Earth Kingdom and sandbender clothes to blend in, both cultures that he views as "inferior".
  • Imagine Spot: When Sokka first learns about Zuko's existence from Iroh, he tries to picture in his head what Azula's older brother would look like. He ends up with mental image of a gender-bent Azula with a more muscular body.
  • In Spite of a Nail:
    • Mai and Ty Lee still turned against Azula and end up imprisoned at the Boiling Rock.
    • Kyoshi Island was still burned down by the Fire Nation after they found Aang there, though Zhao was the one who led the attack instead of Zuko.
    • While traveling through the Fire Nation, the Gaang still had to deal with Combustion Man, who had been hired by Azula instead of Zuko.
  • Internal Reveal: While tending to Zuko's stab injury in Chapter 15, Kya, Hakoda, Suki, Mai and Ty Lee finally find out just how badly Zuko has been damaged, and Kya, Ty Lee and Mai hear the story of where he had been for three years.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Iroh has this regarding Zuko. During his trip to the Spirit World, Koh the Face Stealer took Iroh's memories regarding Zuko.
  • Locked Out of the Loop:
    • Much to Zuko's surprise, Azula had no idea what Ozai was doing to him.
    • This version of Iroh wasn't present during Zuko's Agni Kai, so he has no idea that Zuko had his face burned by Ozai.
  • Mama Bear: Kya gave herself up for her daughter, as in canon, but was actually literally taken away by the Southern Raiders and imprisoned, rather than killed. But upon being freed, she deduces Zuko's predicament through a few simple questions and is well on her way to becoming a surrogate mother for him.
    • Chapter 14 has Kya scolding Hakoda for being too harsh and judgmental with Zuko.
    • Suki finds out the hard way in Chapter 10 that Zuko's caretakers can be this, when Pim jabs her hand with a needle after one too many sharp remarks against the Fire Lord.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Ozai is an absolute master of manipulating others into doing what he wants. With just a single sentence, he tricks Iroh and the Gaang into believing that Zuko is loyal to him and turns them against his son. He also allowed a rumor to go around that Zuko was being privately mentored by him, causing Azula to get jealous of her father's "favoritism" towards her brother and making her into an even bigger "Well Done, Daughter!" Gal than in canon.
  • Mundane Luxury: Played for Drama. After spending three years in a dungeon, Zuko can't comfortably sleep on a bed nor eat most foods as his body has long since adjusted to making do without.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Zuko is unfailingly polite to his servants, always making requests rather than issuing orders. Also, when riding a carriage through the capital, Zuko throws money to various commoners they pass.
  • No Social Skills: As a result of being isolated from almost any social contact for the last three years, Zuko has trouble communicating to others. He’s prone to stuttering and avoids making eye contact.
  • Prefers Rocks to Pillows: Having spent three years sleeping on a cold stone floor, Zuko can't get comfortable on a bed, let alone one meant for royalty. Instead he sleeps on a sheet on the floor and uses the thinnest pillow he can find.
  • Remember the New Guy?: In-universe, the Gaang is shocked by the news that Azula had an older brother and Sokka questions why no one in the Fire Nation had ever mentioned Zuko previously.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: In the Toph Interlude, Toph and Piandao break Azula out of prison to get her the psychiatric help she so obviously and desperately needs.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Zuko has all the hallmarks, such as possessing multiple trauma buttons, difficulty adjusting to everyday life, nightmares, and at one point just not being able to bring himself to speak for an entire day.
  • Shipper on Deck: Sokka for Katara and Aang.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • To many a reader's surprise and elation, Lu Ten and Kya are revealed to be alive. Lu Ten survived the assassination attempt ordered by Ozai, and Kya was imprisoned in the Fire Nation prison for waterbenders.
    • As of Chapter 17, Jet is revealed to have survived the events of the show as well.
    • Chapter 19 reveals that somehow Admiral Zhao survived the Siege of the North. Word of God says that he was dragged by La into the Spirit World and escaped through unknown means.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • When Zuko was first banished by his father, Zuko declared that not only would he not stop the Avatar, but that he'd instead help him overthrow Ozai and end the war. In response, Ozai immediately has him imprisoned for treason.
    • After spending three years locked in a cell and tortured daily, Zuko is severely traumatized. He can barely eat or sleep, suffers frequent nightmares, and needs a wheelchair to get around.
    • A number of Zuko's generals don't respect or trust him as he's an obvious invalid with none of the strength of personality his father possessed. At least one is outright planning on finding a way to restore Ozai to the throne. Even Zuko's former friends Mai and Ty Lee are wary of him as they don't know where he's been for the last three years.
    • While well-meaning, Zuko also isn't trusted by anyone outside of Fire Nation as they only know him as Ozai's son and the newest Fire Lord. Most of his attempts to deal with them are met by hostility.
    • When Lu Ten reveals themselves to have been alive for the past several years and living in the Fire Nation capital as a commoner, Zuko outright refuses to believe his cousin is who they say they are. If he did, Zuko would be forced to acknowledge that they knew he was suffering for the last three years and did nothing to help.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Toph spends her interlude realizing how mentally screwed up Azula is and that being imprisoned and depowered is only making her worse.
  • Tailor-Made Prison: The Fire Nation prison for waterbenders, named "The Water's Wail". Zuko is disturbed by the name, and even more disturbed to find Kya as the sole prisoner inside.
  • Taught by Experience: Zuko's servants are often able to help him with his trauma due to experience with somewhat similar cases, such as helping him sleep by singing to him like their children or recognizing that Zuko likely won't speak all day due to a former soldier friend who used to do the same.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Zuko is scarred by his father. When he awakens, he tells his father that he is now going to find the Avatar and fight alongside him. Ozai imprisons Zuko for this, and routinely visits the prison to torture him. After three years of imprisonment, Zuko is finally freed when the war ends... and is then told that he's now in charge of the Fire Nation as the new Fire Lord. And multiple people on both sides either hate his guts, or are suspicious of him.
  • Trouble Entendre: When Azula protested not being allowed to take part in her father's planned genocide of the Earth Kingdom, Ozai asked her if she'd rather be like her brother. In other words, he was subtly threatening to subject Azula to the same Cold-Blooded Torture that he put Zuko through without her even realizing it.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour:
    • Azula and her psychopathic tendencies, full stop. Which is somehow topped by Aang and his friends agreeing that she should be stripped of her bending and actually following through with it.
    • Which is all somehow topped by Ozai's backstory, where he murdered one of the teenage palace servants at the tender age of 11.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Chapter 19 ends with Zhao cruelly murdering the innkeeper who gave him bed and board for free out of the kindness of his heart.
  • War Is Hell: Hammered home effectively each chapter with descriptions of how each character feels and has been affected by the war.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Mai and Ty Lee with Azula.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In-Universe example with Zuko. As far as everyone in the Fire Nation is concerned, he just up and disappeared three years ago with no mention as to where or why.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Taken Up to Eleven by Ozai. Maiming and scarring Zuko on the face wasn't enough. After imprisoning his son, he routinely visits the capital city prison just to torture him into submission.
  • Young and in Charge: On the same day that a 16-year-old Zuko is released from prison after three years incarcerated, he is crowned Fire Lord following the defeats of Ozai and Azula. Now he's responsible for trying to rebuild and reconcile his nation with the rest of the world.