Fanfiction Fridays: There is Always Time for Pai Sho by Etienne_Bessette

“You work too hard, my nephew,” Iroh rumbles behind him, and Zuko can smell the lingering rich scent of the roasted duck he’d had for dinner, and he can hear the polished clack of pai sho tiles rolling between Iroh’s fingers. “Come with us,” he says. “It is so rare that we stay at port overnight; you should not miss this opportunity.”

“I’m fine, Uncle,” Zuko says, and snaps into the next form of the firebending set he’s been practicing for the past week. “And I don’t have time for breaks. The Avatar has had decades to train.”

Iroh sighs, as he always does when they argue like this. “Zuko, an evening spent on shore will not hurt you. Who knows? The rest could do you good! Leave you refreshed and stronger!”

“Or out of practice. I’m staying here,” Zuko snaps, and then curses, because he’s lost his concentration. His foot has slipped and slid over the treacherous deck too far out, like a soldier breaking rank—isolated, unbalanced, and vulnerable. Zuko snarls and stalks five paces back to his starting point. He tries again from the beginning.

There is no sound from Iroh, and when Zuko next looks, he is gone.

In the interests of continuing to celebrate Asexy April, this week I’ve found an Avatar: The Last Airbender fic that was written for Asexuality Awareness Week back in 2011 for all of you.

Their relationship in one image.

Their relationship in one image.

The Prince Zuko we meet at the beginning of the show is a tense, overstressed teenager with more daddy issues than Tony Stark and fewer healthy outlets—which is saying something—and that’s the Zuko author Etienne_Bessette has captured for us. The story begins with Uncle Iroh interrupting one of Zuko’s intense training sessions. Zuko takes it the wrong way when Iroh suggests his temper might be improved by some “pleasant company”.

Zuko interprets Iroh’s words to mean what his crew always means: Zuko would be less tense if he got laid.

Zuko, in true Zuko fashion, lashes out at Iroh. Yes, he is frustrated, but it’s unrelated to a lack of sex—he’s never felt a desire for sex, and that’s not what has him uptight. Of course, that’s not what Iroh meant at all, and he knows there’s nothing wrong with Zuko (at least not where sexuality is concerned). All he’s interested in is a friendly game of pai sho.

This fic is more of a character study of Zuko than anything else, and I think Etienne_Bessette does an excellent job of providing us with an in-character inner monologue from everyone’s favorite honor-obsessed firebender. And while it does present Zuko as asexual, his asexuality isn’t presented in a preachy way, and it’s not the main source of his anxiety. (Which is, of course, his honor and the Avatar, as is only right and proper.) In a fic written specifically for an ace awareness event, I wouldn’t have looked askance if the author had taken the opportunity to be a bit more preachy within the fic itself, but I definitely prefer stories that are less issue-centered and more character based, so this was right up my alley.

This is a particularly brief fic at less than 1500 words, so it’s definitely worth checking out. You can read it here at the AO3.

Do you want to play a game?

Do you want to play a game?

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