Summary: Zuko has a crush on Katara. Katara is amused (and perhaps terrified) by this, at least until she discovers that his feelings aren't as one-sided as she previously thought. Unfortunately, with him comes the presence of a power-hungry sister and a dangerous plot that could end all hope of the Fire Nation ever being defeated. Lies, destruction, and a few unknown weaknesses all play a treacherous role in shattering what's left of their fate…
A/N: Well, season two has officially made this AU, but I guess it sort of was before. Anyway, in my story, Zuko and (A)Zula are twins, not a year apart. The reasoning? Well, for one, I like the idea of them being twins, and two is that I need them to be for the plot.
Another reason it's AU is because Iroh died, and Zula—er, Azula's job is not capturing her brother, but taking his place in capturing the Avatar, even if it means working along side with her brother.
She and Zuko will both seem very OoC for a few chapters, but mind you, they aren't. There are good and legitimate reasons for the way they act, it's just you won't find out about it until later in the story.
Zuko still has his hair in my story. :)
This is going to be part of a series that will be my own little spin-off of what happens in the show. This is the first part of the series, but there will be at least four more 'books' so to speak.
Oh, and this turns angsty. I know it seems fluffy now, but trust me when I say it's going to turn very, very dark in a few chapters. I may also bump the rating up, but it depends on how psychotic I decide to make Azula. There will be issues in this fic that may or may not be appropriate for people for people under 13. I won't tell you what these are for fear of ruining the story, but just be wary.
That being said, enjoy the first chapter!
JakChapter One: Known Until Now
If that stupid Prince came within five feet of her ever again, she was going to kill him.
No joke, either. She would kill him, with her bare hands if she needed to, and then she would bring him back from the dead and kill him again, just for fun. He deserved it.
She had learned to ignore his day-to-day insults, all of them varying from the typical 'water peasant' to something artistically nasty about women in general. But today was the last straw—she would take no more from this man, this boy, even if she had to kill him.
Ever since she beat him at the North Pole two months ago, that stupid, idiotic boy kept harassing her. Rather than fight Aang, he had turned his attention towards her.
And she hated it.
Today would be the last straw. No more 'water peasant', no more 'silly girl', no more anything from the Prince. She would strangle him, kick him, drown him, hurt him—
"Someone's in a mood." Sokka whistled in her direction, commenting on her quickly worsening temper.
She threw a shoe at him.
"Hey, don't hit me!" Sokka complained, tossing the shoe back at her lightheartedly. "I didn't do anything wrong!"
She glared; true, Sokka hadn't done anything yet, but she knew it was coming.
He laughed. "Come here, baby sister." He said, motioning for her to sit beside him on the log. She complied, and felt her brother wrap his arm around her affectionately. "Now why don't you tell me what's gotten you in such a sour mood so I can try to make it better, m'kay?"
She smiled. "Help me kill a firebender?"
"Always." He answered. "Which one."
"Prince Zuko." She answered, and continued to sulk.
Sokka frowned. "What did he do this time, outside of the usual?"
"It doesn't matter!" She jumped up, her face red with anger. "I'm just sick of it! Can't he find someone else to pick on? Why is it always me! It's always 'stupid waterbender, can't even hit right' or 'shouldn't have expected a little barbarian like yourself to be able to dodge something like that' or—GRR! He infuriates me!"
Katara was so angry that she didn't even realize Sokka was laughing at her. She realized it soon enough, for whenever she stopped ranting, he continued laughing.
Still, he laughed. "Calm down, Katara. It will be alright."
She glared. "Alright! That stupid firebender is—it—"
Sokka smiled. "Picking on you?"
"Yes!" She growled, jumping up. "He's picking on me!"
She hated it, but the way Sokka was laughing at her made her feel silly about getting so upset about it.
"Stop laughing!" She scolded. She wished she had never told her brother—he was obviously only going to make things so much worse…
"Isn't it obvious?" Sokka giggled.
"No, it's not!" She frowned. "And what's obvious?" She added cautiously.
Sokka rolled his eyes. "I thought girls were supposed to be the relationship experts."
She twitched just slightly. "What relationship? There is no 'relationship' between Zuko and me!"
Sokka just continued snickering. "You haven't figured it out yet?"
"No! Now stop goofing around and tell me, jerk!"
Sokka gave one last hearty laugh before answering Katara's question. "He has a crush on you, you idiot."
Katara blinked, and then began to stutter. "He—I—you—what do you mean, he has a crush on me!" She spoke, shocked at what Sokka just told her. "You are insane. He—he doesn't have a crush on me! He picks on me! How is that a crush?"
Sokka sighed. "He's a guy. That's how we men-folk deal with our feelings."
All too swiftly, Katara could remember in insanely vivid detail the time spent of Kyoshi Islands, where Sokka kept picking on Suki…
"Oh Spirits," She whispered, sitting down suddenly. "You could be right."
"I'm always right." He said cockily. "Big brothers always are."
She began panicking (Zuko can't have a crush on me…he can't…Sokka has lost his mind…). Her mind began playing awful tricks on her. (How am I going to react around him…should I still fight him? Should I tell him I don't like him like that?) Insane and dangerous thoughts began to plague her. (Do I like him like that? No, don't be stupid, Katara—he's the bad guy…)
"I'm going for a walk." She said abruptly, jumping up from her seat on the log.
Sokka looked at her curiously. "Okay, but be back soon. It's almost dark out."
He never knew what danger his sister would find in that forest.
Maybe if I tell him I know about his crush on me, he'll stop picking on me. She thought optimistically, wrapping her arms around herself. But what if he tries to kiss me? What should I do then? Hit him. Okay, I have that figured out, but what if something goes wrong? I don't want to hurt him—
And why not? Her mind argued. He's your enemy.
But he's still a person. She thought wryly. And I'd—I'd hate to break his heart. I'd hate to break anyone's heart.
A sudden burst of wind broke Katara from her current thoughts. It's cold, she thought quietly. I should have brought my parka.
Then she caught sight of him; the current subject of her thoughts, and all other thoughts abandoned her.
He looked different, somehow. Gone was the gleaming red armor of his nation; instead he wore a plain black tank and matching pants. But it wasn't so much his clothes that seemed different, as it was his expression—a sort of melancholy sadness that surrounded him. It almost reminded Katara of guilt, but from what she had no idea.
He was kneeling by the river carefully, a stick in one hand as he gently moved the water back and forth, more caught up in his own thoughts than that of the river bank. He seemed…innocent, a word Katara never expected to use to describe him, and sad. Katara had never seen the Fire Prince use any other emotion outside anger, and for him to look so upset…
In a morbid sense of curiosity, Katara stepped forward, if only to try to see what he was so heartbroken about.
Oh crud. Katara thought aimlessly, as the Fire Prince turned his attention straight to her without a second of hesitation. Like all good, trained soldiers, he was on his feet in seconds—his gloomy aura replaced by his typical scowl in a heartbeat—at least, until he saw who it was.
"Oh," He said quietly, dropping his stance for just a moment. "It's you." He spit out as if she were poison and not the other way around. "I suppose you are here to fight, then."
"Not really." She surprised herself with her own honesty. "Not unless I have to."
"Good," He said slowly, completely dropping his stance and returning to his seat on the riverbank. "Because I had no intention of fighting. Not today, at least."
He curled his knees to his chest tightly, keeping his arms crossed on top of them as he stared into the water blankly.
"Aren't you going to ask me where the Avatar is?" Katara asked, as she sat a few good feet away from the Prince.
He did not even look up at her as he answered. "Some other day, perhaps." He spoke softly, almost gently, were it not for the desolate echo that had crowded his once-proud voice.
A wave of compassion struck her—stronger than she had ever felt before. His gold eyes seemed so downcast—it gave a bitter sense of remorse that made it seem as though the Fire Prince would never be happy again.
"Are you alright?" She spoke softly, barely above a whisper. For a second, she thought he did not hear her until he suddenly snapped.
"Why do you care!" He growled, his eyes narrowing at her darkly. Katara would have no doubt snapped back at him, were it not for the emotional pain he had hidden coldly, everywhere save his eyes.
"I don't know." She answered gently. "But you seem so upset—"
"I have every right to be upset!" He snarled at her, his voice filled with such bitterness that it made Katara wonder if he had ever spoken to anyone about his feelings.
An uncomfortable silence descended between the pair before he finally broke it, sitting down from his squatting position and began to rub his head hazily into his knees.
"My uncle passed away." He broke down before her softly. "I—I haven't had the chance to mourn him, properly, and—"
Guilt began to plague Katara like she had never known before. "And then I showed up," She said cautiously. "I'm sorry—I shouldn't have bothered you." She stood up swiftly, with the purest intentions of leaving Zuko to his grief, when she felt a rough, calloused hand grab her own.
"No," He spoke hazily, as if even he was unsure of what he was asking her. "Stay."
She gave him a curious look as he let go of her hand. He blushed.
"I—I need someone to talk to," He said, almost bashfully. "Anyone outside of my sister, and—"
"You have a sister?" Katara blurted out suddenly.
He gave her a rare, small smile. "Everyone says that. Is it so strange that I have a sister that no one believes it?"
She found herself blushing. "You just seem like the only-child type."
He frowned, contemplating what she said. "We're twins. Me and Azula—that's my sister—were practically raised pitted against each other." He told her quietly. "Mother and Uncle always looked after me, while Father, Grandmother, and Great-Aunt Zhi always favored Azula." He cuddled his legs tightly as if they were his only source of comfort.
"We were always made to compete. I don't think the family ever wanted us to get along, to tell you the truth." His face fell as he thought about what he was going to say next. "Now that Uncle is dead, I'm sort of stuck with her. I don't want to, but she needs me and I, unfortunately, need her, too."
He shook his head hastily as if he was trying to get rid of a sour taste in his mouth. "But that's a long story, and I don't feel like getting into all of it right now." He laughed quietly. "What about you? What are you doing out here, in the middle of nowhere, by yourself?"
She raised an eyebrow suspiciously. "That desperate to forget about your Uncle?"
Zuko scowled. "I either want to mourn him or find something to distract me. I don't multitask well."
"I can tell." She grinned.
He frowned. "Look, are you going to answer my question or not?" He asked hastily.
She smiled. "I was just walking…trying to clear my head, actually."
"What were you thinking about?"
You. "Nothing of particular importance. Just thinking."
He smiled. (I could get use to his smile.) "That kind of thinking leads to dangerous stuff, milady." He joked casually, as if he were speaking to an old friend rather than his enemy.
She smiled—a soft, almost kind smile, but one should never smile kindly towards their enemy—"Good thing I'm a dangerous sort of girl, huh?"
Another laugh. "All girls are dangerous."
She raised her eyebrow. "Oh, really?" She laughed, waving a hand before she splashed him with the cold water from the river.
It all went from there.
It amused Katara endlessly how much she enjoyed her time spent (practically all evening) in the company of her former enemy. Suddenly, the harsh and abrasive insults were gone, and replaced with warm laughter and rough playfulness.
They talked about anything and everything they could—from the weather ("Why is it so cold? It's almost spring." She said, shivering. "You're cold?" He asked sounding concerned. "Here, take my jacket—No, I don't need it—")
…to their families ("Sokka once stuffed 150 pieces of seal jerky in his mouth at one time." He laughed. "Oh, that's nothing. One time, while we were at this important dinner thing with all these people, Azula burped loudly in front of everyone in the whole court!")
…to freckles ("I have one on my left ankle," he lifted his pant leg and showed her the smallest of freckles. She giggled and told him that most of hers were on her stomach.)
It didn't stop her from feeling like she had just betrayed her best friend, though.
"It's late." She whispered quietly. "I…I need to go, my friends—"
"I'm not stopping you." He said stoutly, leaning back against tree, pulling out a knife and cutting away at a stick he was holding.
"I—" She started slowly, words failing her. "Will I ever see you again?"
"I imagine so." He spoke with the smallest hint of anger in his voice. "I'm still after your friend, you know."
Right, we're still enemies. "So we pretend none of this ever happened?" I kind of like you when you aren't hounding my friends and me…
He set his knife down quietly, an unearthly silence filling the bulk of the forest: "We don't have to." He whispered so low that she almost didn't hear him.
"We could meet in secret." He looked up at her, an odd glint of emotion in his eyes. "No one has to know. I mean, I—"" he looked lost for words. "I liked talking to you, Katara. I…you're fun, and you help distract me from…everything else that's going wrong in my life." He turned away, the smallest hint of red covering his face.
"We could meet in town. We'd blend right in with the crowd. You could get away from your friends for a little while, and I'll make up some excuse to my sister…"
"Okay," She spoke lowly, neither of them sure why they were talking so quietly while they were alone in the forest. "When should we meet?"
"Tomorrow, definitely." She nodded in agreement.
He paused, thinking about it for a second. "Sunset. We can meet here at sunset tomorrow."
"Alright." She smiled at him, pulling his jacket closer on her body. "I'll see you tomorrow, then."
She felt the smallest of kisses brush against her cheek. "Goodbye, Katara."
It wasn't until she was halfway to where their campsite was did she realize she had just agreed to go on a date with the Prince of the Fire Nation.
Sokka was right. He does have a crush on me. She thought as she felt heat rise to her face. And I think I like him back.
Read, review, enjoy! Next chapter...soon, I imagine. :)