Title: Infinite Abyss
Rating: T (maybe M in later chapters)
Warning: Lime,but still PG enough.
Disclaimer: I own nothing except this plot, and a few packs of gum.
Most of the songs in this fic are by Kitchie Nadal. Her songs are one of the inspirations that made me do this story in the first place. Another is the wonderful authoress, Vicky So, whose songfics, Ho'Wan Island Carnival, Deathly: A Zutara songfic, and Captured! The Zutara Musical! are a real treat to read. I have many authors to pimp, but I'll do it in later chapters.
CHAPTER 1: Creature of Habit
Her cerulean eyes squinted at the bright sunlight as the wind whipped around her face, causing a windburn. She smiled vibrantly, the laughter and joy in her eyes outmatching any stars, moon, and sun in the cloudless sky at dusk. She breathed deeply the salty scent of the ocean, her lungs taking in more oxygen than what was necessary.
She had never felt so alive, so free, as she did at that moment, being able to see the vast ocean that was just under her feet; the waves lapping up on the side of the ship sprinkling little droplets of her element across her mocha face and blue tunic.
The teenage girl tried to keep it all in, enjoying the moment because she knew it wouldn't last. Nothing ever does, as far as she was concerned, she thought grimly, knowing that life was just a brief moment to be happy for a few seconds, then suffer for all eternity. Life was like that. Nothing is permanent. Lives, loves, friends, siblings…they all just vanish in an instant when it was time.
She knew that far too well. She lost everything that ever mattered to her in a matter of minutes…her mother first, then her father, her brother, her grandmother, her friends…. Death and destruction in every corner and then, she was taken away, with the promise that she will never come back. Little did she know for the next six years, she will be living like this, as a slave to the heir to the Fire Nation throne.
Her hands gripped tighter on the railing as the unwanted memories came flooding back to her brain like opium, drugging her senses, making her see horrible visions, clouding her brain, letting her recall the most horrible experiences in her life.
A gong rang through the ship, and the girl from the Southern Water Nation tribe sighed deeply. She turned from her spot on the railing and went up to the ship's hull, just in time to see two Firebenders bowing with each other—a mark of respect and gratitude after a long, hard training. She noticed that the older man with the moustache bowed lower than what was necessary; again, another mark of how much the middle-aged soldier deeply revered the young prince who turned out to be his sparring partner.
The slave girl plastered a smile on her face once she saw that her master was already approaching her. She picked up the fluffy towel from a crate nearby and waited patiently until her lord was sitting on the crate and already drinking from the water flask.
"How did your training go, my lord?" she asked politely as she wiped the sweat off his face, and his arms. She was just about to kneel down in front of him and mop up the moisture from his chest and stomach when he put down his flask and answered.
"I learned a few new techniques, and got quite a work-out. All in all, it went pretty well. No burns or cuts like last time."
"That is very good to hear, my lord." She stood behind him and was already working on drying his back.
"Why did you leave, Katara? You always loved to see me when I train."
"I'm afraid, my lord, that your present sparring partner…he…well…. I can't speak of it, my lord. I fear that I will cause some trouble," the girl called Katara answered. Fire Prince Zuko could feel a slight tremor in her hands as she moved behind him.
"What's wrong?" Zuko's face lost its humor and his brows were furrowed.
Katara hesitated—a bit too long and it got Zuko's nerves.
"Tell me, I order you to!"
Katara gulped and stammered, "He, well, he…was making advances on me a fortnight ago…during the Music Night. He was drunk, but what he said didn't please me all too much and I…could feel him watching me whenever I'm at his presence." She turned away in embarrassment as she waited for the furious diatribe from her master, telling her to grow up and be used to his soldiers making…fun…of her. It was no big deal, and she was just imagining things. But to her surprise, he scowled.
Zuko had always disliked Music Night, and would rather stay shut up in his quarters and meditate than endure a whole night of noise and drunken soldiers singing and playing the musical saw. He let Katara join in the festivities, but now, he had half a mind to forbid her from joining again.
"That bastard…and I was wondering why he kept on glancing your way when, as you termed it, you're in his presence. Don't worry, I'll talk to him. He won't bother you after I'm through with him."
"No…no, my lord!" Katara protested feebly, knowing that whatever she said won't affect anything once the stubborn prince has decided on something. "I do not wish to cause trouble!" She knew what her master would do, and it consisted of an excellent sparring partner and Firebender being thrown overboard for 'insubordination' against the Prince.
"You were always too compassionate, Katara. You take every injustice thrown at you like it was nothing! Have I taught you anything? Haven't all those trainings toughing you up to be my bodyguard and subordinate given you the cruelty and fierceness every good servant of mine should possess? What if somebody tries to kill me, will you just stand there and say that you do not wish to cause trouble for the poor man who tried to assassinate me to feed his children?" His voice rose angrily and the torches that lighted up the upper deck flared with his temper.
"No! NO!" Katara was appalled at the very thought of her lord killed and even more so at his suggestion that she would just step back and let the assassins take his life away. "I live to serve you, to protect you! I would die before anybody could go as far as to threaten you! I've shown my loyalty to you many times before! Why would I destroy it now?"
Her words calmed Zuko somewhat and he took again his flask and drank until not a drop was left. He stood up when Katara was finished with his body.
"Let's go back to my room."
Katara nodded dumbly, still shaken,and followed the Prince all the way to his quarters at the west side of the ship. With a snap of his fingers, he caused the lamps scattered around his bedroom to catch fire and glow brightly against their rice paper confines. The oil lamps created an eerie glow around the steel-walled space, something that Katara was too used to even notice sharply.
Zuko threw himself at the red sofa and Katara hurriedly went to the adjoining bathroom to prepare his bath. When the water was at the right temperature, she went back to the bedroom, only to see him asleep on the sofa, his head on his chest and his breathing slow and controlled. Katara loathed waking him when he was looking so peaceful but he needed to attend a meeting with the captain of the ship soon; they were running low on supplies and needed to dock.
Gently, she shook his shoulders and saw his eyelids flutter open.
"What? What time is it?" he asked, cricking his neck and standing up from his seat.
"Your bath's ready, my lord."
"Okay. Katara, come and bathe me. I'm much too tired to do it myself."
And so, Katara spent the next few minutes scrubbing and lathering Zuko with expensive soaps and perfumes. Thank heavens he had decency enough to wrap a towel around his private parts so Katara wouldn't feel too uncomfortable. When Katara had rinsed off the last bubble in his body, she took a towel from a nearby chair.
"You are done, my lord. Please step off the bathtub so that I may dry you off and I can put you in your armor afterwards."
A hand shot up from the tub and caught her wrist. In a second, Katara was in the tub with him, splashing water everywhere. Her clothes were wet and she could feel her chest straining through the thin, wet fabric. She tried to hide a blush when she noticed she was in his arms, her head at his shoulder and their legs intertwined.
"Stay here for a while; the water is so warm and soothing."
"But sir, these were my last dry clothes and my spareis still drying off. You also need to be in a meeting in a few minutes. We should go."
"I'll give you some of my old clothes and those geezers can wait until hell freezes over for me. So shut up and enjoy the moment. Besides, you stink. You really do need a bath," he snapped and Katara shut her mouth.
For a few minutes, they lay there on the tub, Katara taking pleasure in being this close to him, to fell his steady breathing against her ear. She felt too relaxed and then began humming a slow song.
Things I almost remember,
And a song someone sings,
Once upon a December
Someone holds me safe and warm,
Horses prance through a silver storm,
Figures dancing gracefully across my memory...
Far away, long ago,
Glowing dim as an ember
Things my heart used to know
Once upon a December
Someone holds me safe and warm,
Horses prance through a silver storm,
Figures dancing gracefully across my memory
Far away, long ago
Glowing dim as an ember,
Things my heart used to know,
Things it yearns to remember
And a song someone sings,
Once upon a December
When she stopped, she heard Zuko groan.
"Why did you stop singing? That was a really good song. Better than the noise my crew makes during music night. Where did you learn it?"
"My…mother used to sing it to me, when she told me of stories of a woman who was separated from her family and then, sees something that reminds her of home…. I think that story was my grandmother's own life story…."
Katara felt Zuko stiffening under her when she mentioned 'separated from her family' and she realized she must have made the faux pas of the century. Suddenly, Zuko let go of her and went out of the tub.
"Get out of that tub and dry off. You will accompany me to the meeting." He spoke authoritatively, and Katara knew they were back to the master-to-slave routine again. She sighed.
Katara scrambled off the marble bathtub and proceeded to wring her clothes and hair dry. Knowing that she would just ruin the bedroom rug when she just stomps in her dripping clothes, she stripped to her underwear and wrapped a towel around her naked body. The towel was too short and barely reached to her upper thighs. But it will have to do.
A pair of red trousers and shirt came flying her way when she came out of the bathroom.
"Here," said Zuko, who already had his pants and shirt on. "Put this on. It may be too large for you, but bear with it until your own clothes are dry."
"Thank you, sir." Katara hurriedly put the clothes on and with her hair still drenched with moisture, she helped him put on his armor.
"Go on, dry your hair for a bit. I'll wait."
Katara bowed to express her gratitude and went to the bathroom where she bended the water out of her hair and into the sink. Her hair wasn't completely dry, but after a couple of hurried finger-combing and some pins, she was able to pile her chestnut hair in a messy bun. It wasn't exactly the hairstyle of the week, but it will have to do; her master hated waiting too long.
"I am done, my lord," she said when she reappeared in front of him seconds later.
Zuko nodded and led the way to the bridge.
"Have you heard about it, Katara?" asked Zuko. The meeting with the captain was over and they were leaning on the railings of the deck, staring up at the moon and the sky dotted with stars.
"I do not know what you mean, sir."
"Surely you have heard even snippets of our conversation. You have some of the sharpest ears I know."
"It is not in my place to eavesdrop on your private discussions, my lord." It was a downright lie. She heard every word during that short tête-à-tête, not matter how much the captain tried to hush his voice in order to keep the message strictly between him and the prince.
Zuko sighed. "You are too much of the perfect servant sometimes. When it's necessary, drop it. We're alone now, and I told you to call me Zuko when we're alone."
"I cannot, my lord. There are guards nearby and they will think it treason for me to call you in such casual terms."
Zuko smirked. "Don't mind them, but then again, you calling me by my name is a rare treat I would rather have you doing when we're really alone and both of us in the height of…." His voice trailed lightly, sensually and Katara blushed when she realized what he meant.
"Anyway," his voice was back to its officious manner; she was right, the guards are too near, "somebody has spotted the avatar. He's supposed to be somewhere in the islands near us. We have to capture him for me to regain my honor."
"And I will be with you every step of the way, my lord."
Zuko stared at the naked girl beside him, her beautiful chestnut hair tousled around her body and the sheets, giving her privacy under the penetrating gaze of the prince. Her breaths were deep and she would sigh contentedly every few minutes, her chest heaving. Her long eyelashes fluttered to her cheeks that still had some flush in them. Zuko couldn't believe that the blush he caused more than half an hour ago would still retain in those lovely apples of her cheeks. He gave a silent chuckle as he stared at Katara, sleeping happily with a foolish grin on her face. He had gotten his 'rare treat' all right, and it was a treat to have her screaming, yelping, moaning and gasping his name in ecstasy when at the heights of their torrid lovemaking.
With a gentle stroke of the hand, he removed the stray hairs on her face and body, exposing her young beauty to his aroused amber eyes. He let a finger trail on her soft, smooth skin, seeing the smile on her face grow even wider.
"Stop it," she murmured sleepily, though he knew she was still in the realm of dreams. "That tickles, Sokka."
Sokka? He must be a friend of long ago, Zuko mused, but it caused him a pang to know that he was not the one in her dreams, but a stupid boy in her tribe. His face twisted in fury and he savagely took her in his arms, crushing her to him. Thankfully, she didn't wake up and instead, snuggled closer.
"I will stay with you forever, my lord," she muttered again. All the rage he felt at her thinking—dreaming—of another man other than him dissipated. His grip on her was tenderer and he began to caress her hair, loving its slippery feel beneath his fingertips.
For him, she was more than a slave or a concubine to warm his bed. She was his confidant, his lover, his…friend. He had never believed in the power of friendship, of love…those are for the weaklings. But being with her, this intimate, this close, all of his cynicism against the goodness of the world—or at least what's left of it—vanished. She was always there to talk to him, to listen to him, to hold him when he needed to be held, to shed a tear for him when no one else would cry, and to satisfy his needs, not only as a man but as a real, breathing human.
He pulled up the sheets higher around them and let the spirits take him to the same realm where Katara now lay. A world where everything could be heaven or hell, but he took comfort in the thought that no matter what happens, she would be there, sharing both his nightmares and dreams.
This is my first attempt at a serious story that has (even a little bit of) sex, dark humor, romance, tragedy, drama, and angst at the same time. My usual stories lack the sex and romance. Both are subjects I'm uncomfortable or unfamiliar with. But I need to grow up sometime and I hope that my writing has matured enough to make this story good enough. The song in this chapter (Once Upon a December) is from Anastasia, an animated movie owned and produced by Twentieth Century Fox. The title of the chapter is from Kitchie Nadal's song, Deliverance. Props to TCF and Kitchie Nadal! To know about Kitchie Nadal if you haven't heard of her, please go to my profile and click the link there. Please, REVIEW!