Summary: It's amazing what you'll do when you're afraid. zutara angst, not fluffy, not happy. Character insanity inside, as well as character death abound

A/N: My excuse: hard to write humor when on an angst brigade. Thus, I present angst. Not my forte, but I try. What can I say? I'm a humorist by nature. Characters are a bit OoC, but that's to be expected when I write them.

Fear

It's amazing what you'll do when you're afraid.

Suddenly, nothing else matters---it's just you and your fear, and conquering that fear can damn you. You'll sacrifice everything, anything--your pride, your honor, your dignity, just to be free of this fear that haunts you so badly.

Zuko prides himself on only being afraid twice. Once, when he got his scar, and any mortal man in his shoes would have been just as afraid as he was.

The second time is now, with her ice blade against his throat, and no mercy can be found in her cold blue eyes. He's known her well-enough now to know she isn't kidding and will not let go. She's changed from the little waterbender he use to chase. Where is that little girl he held, tied to a tree, threatening her in order to receive information about the Avatar? Amazingly, that doesn't seem to matter much anymore. But still he wonders what happened to that girl he barely knew.

She died. A cruel voice answers, and he knows who's voice it is. He's been hearing it in his head for almost three years now, with the Avatar's death and failure to take his father with him, and the war growing from battle to chaos, now that Zula was in charge.

What a sorry-ass way to go, he thinks, as he feels her ice blade come to closer contact to his skin.

XXX

She almost does it.

His breath is so warm, and he is so near, and perhaps that is why she holds the blade so close to him. She's learned to hate the warmth, any warmth, because it comes from fire—fire that burns and hurts and kills so badly. Fire that killed her mother. Fire that destroyed Aang. Fire that left Sokka to a fate worse than death.

Fire that left her alone for far too long.

When she saw the Prince again, she attacked. Isolation is bad for you, she thinks, because she would have never had the guts to attack him had she been with friends. She use to think that all matters could be resolved without violence. Now, she knew better.

The Prince had not been given a moments notice before he was pounced by the half-crazed waterbender. He fought back, true, and he held his own for a long time. But it was night, the moon was full, and her bloodlust was not fulfilled. It was nice, fighting a familiar face instead of the unknown fire demons she usually fought off. It made it all the more real, all the more personal.

I'll kill you, she thinks. I'll kill you and all your damn firebenders like you.

She almost kills him.

Almost.

XXX

He holds it out, and she stops.

He found it in the mud after a harsh rain and picked it up, never knowing why, and carried it in his pocket like he use to. He never thought he would see this waterbender ever again, and he kept as a souvenir and a silly trinket, just to remember the mere scent of someone he knew, even barely. Now, the thing might just save his life.

Go figure.

"W-where did you?" She asks, holding the old, blue necklace that belonged to her so-long dead mother. Her ice blade melts, and his mind reels. Attack. His mind argues. Now, while she's distracted. But he doesn't, and instead, answers her question.

"I found it in the mud after the final battle." He answers honestly, watching in mild amusement at the wide array of emotions that play across her face. There are so many memories connected with that necklace, so many tragedies and happiness and life and death…

She had not even realized it was missing.

She sits down, ignorant of the world around her. "What have I done?" Oh, God, what had she done?

She looked to her hands, and all she could see was blood.

XXX

It should not have been the Prince there, picking up the pieces when the waterbender's sanity finally broke. It should have been Aang, or Sokka, or her Mother. But it was not, and it was the Prince. He did not have to, but he did. He did not know why he did, all he knew was that he was tired. Tired of fighting and running and death and destruction. She was not the only person to lose someone during the war. Every day he mourned his Uncle a little more, until every piece of his soul threatened to die along with the dead man.

He should not have been the person putting the waterbender back together, and yet, here he was, and he could not think of a place he would rather be.

XXX

:End:

A/N: Yeah, it's short and angsty and crazy, but I can't help it. I'll start working on chapter four of Unmatchmakers this weekend, but I can't start it yet. I know what I want to write, it's just the process of doing so.


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Jak