Under a Sapphire Sky

Chapter Twenty

By: Refe

Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Air bender. They belong to their respective creators, owners, licensees.

The door opened reluctantly as a mild creaking noise filled the large room. A head topped with unruly brown hair cautiously peeked into the bedroom. Lanterns hanging around the room illuminated it well enough. The green walls were bare, save for a few scrolls on either side of the massive bed. It was located deep within the safety of the Earth King's palace and lacked any windows. There was only one way in and out.

Sprawled on the bed, arms wrapped around a large pillow as blank eyes stared at the door, Jet could see Katara's figure partially buried beneath piles of blankets. He could almost taste her confusion and grief in the air as he leaned against the door, pushing it open the rest of the way.

The smell of a hearty stew came from the bowl in front of him, despite the stone bowl's lid. Aang had sent someone to buy food for the recovering human from some upper-tier restaurant. Before they returned with the meal, Jet watched as Zuko stalked out of the palace with a scowl on his face. Jet waved him over, intent on updating him on the investigation's status.

After several stoic comments, Zuko said that he would was going to meet with Azula for a moment and to send Katara's food to her room when it arrived. The non-bender's eyes had widened and he let out a breath of relief, happily asking Zuko how she was doing. His answer was a dark look from his best friend and fellow hunter, followed by a sharp reply that she was apparently well enough to argue with him.

Jet never had a chance to ask any other questions. The black-haired leader of the hunting party walked away, seething beneath his otherwise calm exterior. When the delivery of food arrived, Jet volunteered to take it to her, curious as to how she was feeling and why exactly Zuko was angry.

"Katara?" he called out hesitantly. He walked across the room, easily balancing the tray with the steaming bowl in front of him as he approached the bed. "I heard you're hungry." he began, offering her a warm smile.

"I don't feel like eating, Jet," Katara mumbled. She turned her face away and buried it in a pillow. "Just leave it on the table…"

Frowning, Jet placed the tray on the table beside her bed and then sat down beside her. "You haven't eaten in days, Katara. You need to eat."

"I'll eat later," she insisted stubbornly, her voice still muffled by the pillow. Her fingers clung to it as she shut her eyes tightly. She waited to feel Jet's weight lift off the side of the bed, a sign that he was leaving, but it never came. Silently, she turned to look at him, slightly red eyes shone with annoyance. "Did they make you come to make sure I ate?"

"I was just ordered to bring your food to you," Jet answered calmly. "But I wanted to see how you're doing. You gave us a scare. Zuko especially. He wouldn't leave your side the entire time until we forced him to get some rest."

Guilt twisted her stomach, making her feel sick. "He told me," she grumbled. Jet tilted his head to the side, studying her face as if trying to read her thoughts.

"What else did he say to you that made you both so upset?" Her eyes darted up, surprised that he knew. Then again, all he had to do was look at her. She had no doubt she looked miserable. Refusing to eat didn't help either. Jet moved back as Katara shifted on the bed. She rolled over on her back and then began to push herself up into a seated position once more.

He raised his hands, offering his help, only to have her shake her head and continue to struggle on her own. As she settled back against the pillows behind her, she released a heavy breath and lowered her eyes. "It wasn't Zuko who said something."

For a moment, Jet was relieved. He had been afraid that Zuko had taken back his decision and decided to leave Katara behind. The attitude he held earlier was far too reminiscent of his attitude in the beginning, when he denied his bond with Katara. However, if it wasn't Zuko's stubbornness that was making him and Katara miserable, Jet wondered what else it could be.

He frowned slightly as he looked at Katara. "What did you tell him?"

His voice was warm and encouraging. As if promising her that he wouldn't judge her no matter how horrible her words were. Still, she hesitated. Everyone knew about her connection to Zuko and everyone seemed happy about it. Zuko had even said it was the greatest honor a psychic vampire could attain. Hearing that, she couldn't help but be nervous about Jet's reaction.

Her lips pursed as her eyebrows furrowed in thought. "I told him that I wanted to find a waterbending master." she began carefully.

"That's it?" Jet raised an eyebrow. He had expected something more. "That's why he's mad?"

"Alone," Katara concluded. She raised her eyes to gauge Jet's reaction. The blood vampire remained seated at her side, his face a mixture of surprise and concern.

"Alone," he repeated carefully. Katara nodded her head slightly. Jet took in a deep breath and released it as he leaned back against his arms. He glanced over at Katara. "You do understand what that sounds like, don't you?"

She closed her eyes and nodded her head shamefully. "It sounds as if I'm leaving him."

"And are you?" Jet asked seriously.

"Not forever," Katara answered truthfully. She leaned back tiredly against the cushions. "I'm not abandoning Zuko. I don't want to leave him and never come back. I just want to get some proper training. I've never had a master teach me, Jet. Everyone used to say that I'm talented and that I'm an excellent bender, but I still have more to learn."

"Zuko can get you a waterbending master, you know," Jet said as he leaned forward. He rested his arms on his knees as he looked over at her. "With his rank in the clans, he can get you the best waterbending master available."

Katara shook her head. "It isn't just about finding a master, Jet. This bloodbending thing…it's strong and I don't want to hurt Zuko or anyone with it."

The vampire let out another heavy breath as he mulled over her words. He looked at her unsurely. "Have you told Zuko?"

"I tried, but all he can hear is that I'm leaving him," the waterbender said exasperatedly. "He doesn't want me to leave."

"Don't you think he has good reason?" Jet countered. "He almost watched you die, Katara. After what you both went through to get to where you were, he almost lost you. He was terrified. Then you wake up and tell him you want to leave by yourself…"

"But I want to come back to him," Katara insisted. "He doesn't understand that!"

Jet let out a tired sigh. "He just wants to stay with you to keep you safe."

"But I want to keep him safe, too!" Katara exclaimed. She looked at Jet with a pained expression across her face. "Why can't anyone understand that? Everyone understood why Zuko left me with Aang while the rest of you went with the Dai Li. Even I understand he reasons! But no one understands that I want to keep him safe, too! Even if it's to be safe from me!"

"Katara…" Jet frowned slightly. "Why would he need to be safe from you?"

Katara looked at him with intense eyes. "Didn't you see what I did to Long Feng? Do you think he drew his sword away from my neck or purpose or stopped it from slicing at Zuko himself? I did that, Jet! I stopped him with my bending and I've done it to Zuko, too!"

"It was just a one limb, Katara-"

"And if I get stronger?" she asked sharply. "What if I do something that ends up hurting him? I don't want to hurt him, Jet."

The hunter lowered his head, contemplating. He looked down at his hands. Years had gone into conditioning them to wield his weapons as skillfully as he could. He supposed it was the same for natural gifts like bending. "You know that to Zuko…to any of us, you aren't a risk or threat," Jet told her reasonably. He looked at her pleading face. "Zuko and I didn't become great swordsmen alone. Azula didn't generate lightning alone. Aang didn't master his Avatar state alone, either. All of us were dangerous with untapped and unguided potential…"

Katara watched as he trailed off. He stood up and brushed off his pants. "Jet?" she asked curiously.

He walked back to the table and lifted the lid off the bowl of stew. He carefully placed the lid on the table before lifting the tray. "Personally, I think it would be better for you to stay with Zuko. You'll have the world's best bending teachers at your fingertips and he – no, all of us, will be there if you need anything else," Jet stated as he placed the tray over her lap. He took her hand and placed a small porcelain spoon in it. His eyes met hers one last time. "But it's your decision and you have to decide what is best for you. Just know that whatever you decide will affect everyone around you, whether you want it to or not."

Katara looked down at the steaming bowl in front of her. He released her hand and Katara slowly placed the spoon at the edge of the bowl. Her fingers tightened around the spoon and she looked up. "When does the boat leave..." Her voice trailed off as she heard the door close. She looked up. Jet had left her alone.

"Excuse me…" She approached the friendliest looking vampires she could find as she stepped out of the heart of the palace. The inner sanctums where she had been resting were all but vacant, except for the two guards that had been at standing at her door.

Katara had been surprised to find them there. She hadn't even seen them as she walked out and would've remained completely ignorant had one of them not spoken up to ask if she needed assistance anywhere. Her heart had shot up to her throat as she whirled around, nearly falling backwards as she lost her balance.

The guards were immediately at her side, helping her stand as they surveyed her for any injuries. They were hunters, one of them explained. 'Young Master Zuko' had assigned them to guard her room. Katara nodded understandingly, and then asked them where he was.

As she wandered through the many halls and rooms of the Earth Kingdom palace, frustration and regret welled up within her. They had asked her if she needed an escort to the caves. Zuko was doing personal rounds of the caves to survey the work the other hunters had done. Rather than accept the assistance they offered her, Katara shook her head and politely declined them. She needed time to think before she saw him. Time to go over her thoughts and practiced words.

After wandering through empty halls and doors, she finally heard some voices. Following them, she saw a large open doorway leading into the court yard. She could make out the clear silver moon in the dark sky as millions of little lights twinkled above the city beyond the foreboding walls. As she stepped through the threshold, she could feel the chill night air against her skin as she welcomed the refreshing feeling it brought.

"Yes, young miss?" a female vampire gave her a small bow of her head before offering a warm smile. "May we help you?"

"I am looking for an entrance into the caves below the city," Katara told them. "I was informed that Zuko is there and would like to speak to him."

"Young Master Zuko is currently doing his rounds," the vampire beside the female one informed her. His eyebrows furrowed. "He could be in any of the caves right now. Would you like to wait for him?"

"Its fine, I can take her," a voice said past the duo. Katara looked up as Toph reached the top of the stairs. "How are you feeling, Sweetness?"

Katara smiled slightly. She gave a small bow to the vampires that assisted her and tugged her robe tighter around her before walking towards the waiting lycanthrope. "I'm feeling better. I got some rest and ate."

"You smell fine," Toph said as her blank eyes squinted. She sniffed the air around Katara briefly and nodded, satisfied. "You seem nervous."

"I just have to talk to Zuko for a bit," Katara answered meekly. Toph shrugged and turned around.

"Follow me. I'll bring you down there and then leave you to talk," Toph told her. Katara nodded and followed the earthbender down the long flight of stairs. They reached the open courtyard below and Toph pointed out the tunnel where they had emerged from days earlier. "We're going down another way," she explained as she led Katara past it.

They arrived in front of an open manhole. The metal grating at the top had been removed and set aside. Makeshift stone steps had been bended out of the stone sides. Carefully, Katara made her way down. She kept her hand on the wall, feeling her way around as she walked into the darkness. When they reached the bottom, Toph took her hand, telling her to stay close, as there had been no need for any lanterns in the caves.

After what seemed like hours walking through the dark tunnels, they finally stepped into a small cave. Glowing turquoise crystals that littered the underground areas jutted out at all angles, allowing Katara to adjust her eyes and see.

"Toph…Katara…what are you two doing down here?" Her attention shifted from adjusting her eyes to the sound of the familiar voice coming from the red-clad figure in the corner.

"She wanted to speak to you," Toph answered before Katara could even think of an excuse. The blind earthbender released Katara's hand and stepped back. "I'll leave you two alone to chat."

Katara turned around, her hand raised as if to ask Toph to stay, but found that nothing left her mouth. Behind her she heard a small cough echo in an attempt to get her attention. Drawing her hand back against her chest, she turned slowly towards Zuko, looking at him warily. He raised an eyebrow as he crossed his arms over his chest, meeting her gaze passively.

"What did you want to speak about?" His voice was formal and contained no warmth. She suddenly felt embarrassed just standing in front of him.

Katara shifted awkwardly where she stood. Her eyes lowered, unable to meet his. Her mind drew a blank. The words that she had practiced saying earlier vanished and all she could do was stare helplessly at the ground beneath his feet. Where would she begin? An apology? Should I apologize first?

As he watched her fidget, his lips tightened into a frown. She had come all the way down there to waste his time? Didn't she know that he still had a job to do? Scowling, he shook his head and uncrossed his arms. "I don't have time to waste, Katara, so if you're not going to say a word, you should go back to the palace and hide your things before Aang takes it upon himself to pack them for you and bring them down to the ship," he spat out, annoyed. Across from him, Katara tried to suppress her cringe. He was angry at her and she didn't blame him. Gathering her courage, she took a step forward.

"I did have something to tell you," Katara frowned as she lifted her head. "I just don't know where to begin," she explained. She cursed her voice for trembling.

"A simple goodbye will suffice," Zuko retorted sharply. Katara could feel his words stab her heart. "I don't want to hear a long explanation. You already told me your reasons. If you want to leave, that's fine with me." His arms fell to his sides as he diverted his eyes. The thought of her leaving seemed to hurt him more than anger him.

Katara stared at him with red, puffy eyes. His venomous words had cut through her easily and she wondered if he realized that. Her hands clenched at her sides as her lip trembled. "Do you want me to leave?" she gasped out painfully.

He turned to look at her, anger evident in his eyes as he scowled. "Of course not!" he answered her, as if it were the most obvious answer. "You're the one who wants to leave me!"

"I don't want to leave you; not the way you think!" Katara rambled. Zuko raised an eyebrow and then shot her a glare.

"So, there is another way you've come up with to leave me?" he snapped.

"No!" Katara shook her head. She grit her teeth as she slammed her fist against the side of a crystal. She looked up at him desperately. "It's not that simple, Zuko! I don't want to leave you, but I don't want to hurt you, either! All I'm asking for is a few years to go off on my own and try to control my bending!"

"You can control your bending with me!" Zuko stressed. It almost seemed as if he were begging her.

"I don't want you to get hurt!" she added as she took a step forward. "I'm scared, Zuko!" she exclaimed. "I'm afraid that the turning won't go well. I'm afraid that I won't be able to control my bending. I'm afraid that I'll hurt you because of it!"

"We're mates, Katara! You're not going to hurt me!" Zuko insisted.

"Is that how you felt when you kept this from me!?" Katara shouted. Zuko drew his head back sharply. His mouth closed as Katara took another step forward. "When you realized what we were and kept it to yourself, is that really how you felt?" she demanded tearfully.

Zuko stood rooted in place, his eyes glazed over as memories of their time together flashed through his mind. At first, he had been in denial. He had adhered to his honor code of duty before self. He had tried to force himself to believe that ignoring the bond was for the best, but after that night with her, everything had changed.

He had been so close to turning her. If her brother hadn't disturbed them, she would already be a vampire. At the same time, she had been wounded because of issues happening in his life that she was suddenly a part of. She was exposed to the Dai Li and their rogue vampire-slaying agenda because of him. He knew what perils he put in front of her if he turned her. That had been his fear.

That he, in some way, would hurt her…perhaps even put her directly in death's way.

Then when she clung to him, yelling and screaming that she wouldn't let go of him without a fight. Nothing would keep her away, she had told him. Nothing.

His eyes lowered and met hers. Her uncontrolled bending was now in the way, but he didn't put that barrier up. She did. His hands rose. They shook as they clamped down on her shoulders. Darkened gold eyes bore into her clear blue ones.

"What do you want from me, Katara?" he asked solemnly. "You told me that nothing would keep you away, not the walls of Ba Sing Se, not even myself. This time, you're the one who wants to stay away…and I won't force you to stay if you don't want to."

"I don't want to stay away," Katara replied softly. "I want to leave by myself in order to train, but I'm not saying that I won't come back. A country, an ocean, even time won't stop me from coming back to you once I can control this well enough," she whispered as her hands gripped the fabric over his chest.

Zuko's eyes narrowed as he studied her sincere face. "What do you want me to do? Just let you go? Alone and unturned? I left you alone for a few weeks and when I found you, you were about to be killed by a rampaging vampire," he reminded her bitterly.

Katara shook her head and leaned her forehead against his shoulder. She closed her eyes as she buried her face against his chest, relishing the warmth that came from his body. She bit her lip to keep from crying as she tried to figure out what she really was asking for.

He stood stiffly in front of her, waiting for her answer. His hands remained at her shoulders, but he didn't push her away. Then he heard her voice against his chest. It was muffled, but he could still hear her quiet request.

"I'm asking you for more time." He closed his eyes as her words reached his ears. "I'm asking you to give me more time, is that possible?"

Part of him wanted to tell her no. That he had waited a hundred years, a hundred lonely years in retrospect, for her to come along and make his life whole. He had spent agonizing nights battling with himself on whether or not to give in to what was happening between them. Then spent more nights in fear of losing her. Now, she wanted him to wait longer?

The selfish part of him wanted to tell her that it would hurt them both. That somewhere inside, they would both ache for each other and she'd only cause them more suffering. "I don't want to hurt you…"

Perhaps if he was more selfish and stubborn, he would've told her what was going through his mind as his arms wrapped around her trembling shoulders. Maybe he would've demanded her to stay or allowed her to go and just secretly followed her. His eyes closed as he buried his face in her hair.

Unfortunately for him, he wasn't. If time was what she wanted, he would give it to her. The pain of waiting paled in comparison to the unadulterated pleasure that awaited him when it ended.

"I waited for you for a hundred years…" he whispered as he pressed his lips against her head. "I would wait a hundred more."

A whimper escaped her lips as she pulled away from him. Whether in thanks or relief, she wasn't sure, but she didn't care. His acceptance out weighed anything other than happiness. Her hands rose and cupped his face in front of her. She leaned upwards, eagerly sealing a silent promise with her lips as he gathered her against him.

Was this their goodbye? Their last moments together before an unknown amount of time apart? Katara ignored the questions her mind was asking and focused only on him. She responded earnestly, pressing her body against his as his hands wandered along the sides of her body and down the swell of her hips. He could feel the thin sleeping robe beneath the silken outer one. Wondrously, his hands roamed over her body, mentally outlining her figure.

She wasn't wearing her usual clothes. Her worn blue garments had been washed and put away before she had even woken up. Instead of soft, cured animal skin, smooth cold silk wrapped around her body. A moan escaped her lips as his hands broke through the first layer of clothing and slid across her flat abdomen. Silk robes were also much easier to remove than thick fur coats.

Short, hot breathes panted against his lips as rough hands slid up the sides of her body. Nothing but her sleeping robe separated his exploring fingertips from her flushed skin. He could feel the heat of her body against his mouth as he trailed kisses down the side of her face. His tongue traced the line of her jugular. He could smell her sweet blood pounding for him as her body leaned heavily against his.

Tan fingers curled into his hair, painfully digging into his scalp as she rode the pleasurable sensations experienced hands brought down upon her body. His lips could only hiss as she ground her hips against him. Roughly, her fingers grasped his thick hair and she pulled his head back. Swollen lips found his as her body crumbled against him.

She was falling. She knew she was, but she didn't care. She couldn't let go, not when it felt so good. Her back crashed against something hard and cold. A crystal? She hadn't even noticed that she had been standing in front of one. Recklessly, she continued her assault on his mouth, only allowing him to pull away when she needed to breathe.

His body pinned her against the glowing mineral, returning her attentions with equal fervor as his hands pushed the fabric of her robe higher and higher, exposing toned brown legs to the cool cave air. A firm hand rose, grasping the soft, bare flesh of her backside. A sharp gasp escaped from her lips as her fingers released their tight hold on his hair.

Her head fell back against the glowing crystal as she arched her back towards him. His grip hurt, but just like the rest of his actions, it also felt painfully good. She welcomed it without further complaint. Soft, encouraging whispers were gently blown in her ear as his hand kneaded her exposed flesh slowly. She was writhing further and further upwards, against the solid glowing material at her back. All she could do was struggle to breathe as his firm body crushed hers; on one side cold crystal, on the other, heated flesh.

Half-lidded eyes glanced upwards briefly, watching her emotions dance across her face as her lips formed silent words between her shallow gasps of air. Beads of sweat began to collect at her temples as a rapid heartbeat slammed against him. Golden eyes lowered as his free hand finally untied the chord that held the front of her robe closed. A sliver of soft, welcoming brown skin greeted him as his hand reached between the robe's folds and pulled them apart. Silently, he traced an invisible line from the soft skin below her navel, to the unprotected valley just above her beating heart in an excruciatingly slow motion.

For a moment, his hand remained over her chest. The steady rhythm of her heart was quick and strong, but matched his. Each gentle flutter mirrored his. Their bodies were in sync. Moving as one…their bodies were ready.

"Zuko?" Her voice was still breathless as she called out to him. "What's wrong?"

His eyes rose to meet hers. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes were wide and dilated. Her body was trembling against him and against her will as the scent of longing flooded his senses.

"Nothing," he replied reassuringly. His hand slid over the exposed mound directly over her heart. His body leaned against hers once more as his raspy voice whispered in her ear. "Absolutely nothing…"

Her mouth opened, welcoming his as she closed her eyes. Needy hands grasped his clothes, clawing at them in a flawed attempt to remove them. Everything seemed forgotten. It didn't matter that they were in a cave beneath one of the most populated cities the world. It didn't matter that directly above them, dozens of hunters were busy investigating. Even the threat of being stumbled upon and discovered didn't seem to sink in.

It was just them. That was all that mattered.

One of his hands ran along the outside of her naked thigh, raising it over his hip and wrapping it around his torso. He grasped the edge of her and tore a piece of it off as it brushed against it hand. She didn't question his actions. She gladly allowed him to do as he pleased against her, trusting him completely. His flesh was hot to the touch, sending thousands of sensations through her as her skin slid against his. Her nails dug into his back in an effort to keep herself from crying out.

Zuko looked at her face. Part of him wanted tell her to let herself go. To scream as loud as she wanted and that it didn't matter who heard. Instead, his mouth remained pasted over hers, blissfully savoring the taste that filled his mouth as his tongue fought against hers for dominance. He didn't expect anything else from someone as passionate as her.

A warm hand slid below her navel and he could feel her sharp intake of breath as an exploratory stroke sent a numbing heat over her body. Her eyes had flown open, staring at the cave ceiling above them as quivering breaths slipped from her open lips. He kept his gaze on her face, watching her reactions to his caresses with interest. She was unable to vocalize her pleasure coherently, but she was feeling it nonetheless. The sharp pants and gasps were encouragement enough to his hears.

Her brown face was almost completely rust-colored as blood rushed to her head. She could feel herself heating up more and more with each motion. She could feel of sweat of her body damping her hair and clothes, making them stick to her flesh. The build up was slow, but she could fee the tightening sensation knotting at her middle, eagerly anticipating whatever would happen next.

Her eyes shut tight. Her lips met into a tight line. It was coming. She could feel it…

Then the ministrations stopped.

He had slipped away. Her eyes flew open, a sudden wave of disappointment mixed with irritation flooded her as she looked at him. He could see the questions in her eyes. Why did he stop? It wasn't over, was it?

His lips grazed hers. He understood her frustration, but they were dangerously close to something that would change their lives forever. There was a possibility of change, as well as a possibility of hesitation. He didn't want to risk anything simply because he couldn't control himself. His damp forehead rested against hers as his chest rose and fell with uneven breaths. He wanted to continue. In fact, he wanted to go further, much further.

"This is dangerous…" Zuko gasped out carefully. "You know that…"

The thought was in her mind, yes, she admitted it, but she didn't want him to stop. She didn't know when they would have a chance like this again. Katara's hands slid over his shoulders and over the front of his shirt. She could feel his rapidly beating heart beneath her fingers. She could feel his intensity, his want, and it was hurting him to have stopped. Despite his frustration, she couldn't sense any regret. He did it for her willingly and her heart swelled at the knowledge.

"I know…" she gasped out, her breath equally lost as one hand caressed the side of his neck. She lowered her eyes and stared at his lips. They were so soft and inviting. Her jaw clenched. "And I don't care."

She brought her mouth against his once more, demanding that he respond. His eyes widened at the onslaught and she could sense his reluctance. He wanted to return her actions, but restrained himself, as painful as it was. Was she sure about this? "Katara…" he gasped as she broke their kiss for air.

"I don't know when I'll see you again," she whispered against his lips as blue eyes remained closed, desperately hoping that no tears would escape. "It could be years before I see you again…before I touch you like this again…" she rambled quietly. He felt her hands slip beneath his half-opened robe and slide over the well-toned muscle of his chest. "Before I can be with you again, Zuko…I…. Anything can happen once the sun rises…I just…I want…"

Her voice broke and she couldn't complete her sentence. In the end, she didn't have to. His lips closed over hers once more, giving her his answer without a sound. How could he deny her? Especially when he wanted the same thing? Now was not the time for regrets. Now was a moment solely for them and neither could deny that from the other.

Her body was lifted roughly against the hard crystal behind her. Jagged pieces that jutted from all sides scraped her skin at the harsh movements, sending faint welts of blood to the surface. The cold mineral she was pinned against was uncomfortable, but it didn't matter. She was with him and that was all that mattered.

His hand slid down her other leg that had once been keeping her standing, and heaved it over his narrow hips. Instinctively, she curled it around him, bracing herself against him as she hung over the floor. Her fingers roamed his upper body, sliding his top off his shoulders while exposing his bare chest and stomach to her. She could feel one of his hands between them, deserpately tampering with the hem of his pants. After a quick tug, the cloth material was removed and his heated flesh collided with hers.

Devastating kisses ran down the side of her face as his hands positioned her against him. Every sense drowned in her. She could feel him rubbing against her and she tightened her hold around his waist in return. She suddenly felt desperate to hold on to him, afraid he would suddenly vanish. His hand slipped between then, carefully moving himself against her.

In a fluid motion, he slid into her, relishing the enveloping heat wrapping around him as he tilted his head back. His body and mind were consumed with much-needed rapture. To her, it was a foreign feeling. The sensation was new, but not unwelcomed. She grit her teeth as she sank herself lower against him, baring the oncoming pain for the future pleasure willingly. Her body was stretching. She was going to break.

His hands held her steady as brought his head back against her shoulder. He closed his eyes and silently apologized. Without warning, his hips buckled upwards and his hands brought her down. Her eyes shot open as a sharp pain tore through her. Her lips parted in a silent scream as Zuko pressed his face against her neck, earnestly sucking against an erogenous zone in an effort to distract her from the pain. He could feel her entire body tense around him as her fingernails dug into his skin, breaking the surface. He could smell the faint scent of his blood in the air, mingling with hers as his movements continued.

Slowly at first, in steady, even strides as he tried to relax her. Incoherent words left his mouth as his body moved against hers, urging her to match his pace. Her eyes remained closed as her body loosened against him. Her hands rose over his back, abandoning the scratches she had made as her body was awkwardly drawn into the motions.

The pain subsided and pleasure resumed. He could feel her lose herself in ecstasy as his hands kept her tightly against him. His movements began to quicken, becoming less even and more irregular with each heated stroke. He could hear her vague murmurs as she leaned back against the cold crystal, reveling in the feeling of his body against hers. Heated skin rubbed against each other furiously as his hands dug into her flesh and ground her hips against his.

Her hands grasped his head and tilted it up towards her face, causing him to stumble back. Before his lips crashed on to hers, they fell back against the crystal, knocking tiny pieces of glowing material on to the ground without remorse.

Sharp edges dug into their skin, only worsened by their radical movements brushing against the walls of the cave in their fervor. They felt no pain as all their senses were receiving nothing but pleasure as the ragged motions continued. This moment was nothing like the shelter several nights earlier. If they had continued then, their motions would've been smooth and sensual, comfortable and private.

Their movement now was rough and laced with pain that only heightened their senses, both physical and emotional. Her head was not cradled by a makeshift pillow and he was not hovering above her as if afraid to break her. She was pinned against a solid block of glowing crystal, her body slamming against it over and over as he dove into her shamelessly. They weren't protected on all sides by thick stone walls; reserving their deed for their eyes only. At any moment, someone could enter and see them completely lost in each other, ignorant of the world around them.

But none of that mattered. He only wanted to feel her. To ravage her for one night before they parted ways, not knowing when they would see each other again. She wanted to remember this night forever. She wanted something to look back on when she was alone. She wanted one thing, just one, to remind her that for one night, he existed only for her.

He could smell the tears sliding down her face and hear the desperately suppressed cry making its way out. Panic swept through him. Was she regretting it? Did she not want to do this?

Her arms wrapped around his neck as she buried her face against his shoulder. Suddenly, she didn't want to leave. She didn't want that moment to end. She could feel the pressure building inside of her, rising further with each ardent swell of pressure coursing through her. She was crying because she would miss him, because she didn't want to leave him, because she would hurt him. She was crying because she knew something was coming to an end.

Her body began to tense all around him. His own body began to shake. A silent plea, no…not yet…

Something inside of her exploded. All around her, it was as if the crystals had all shattered at once, filling the room with twinkling emerald lights. Her body flooded with wave after wave of delirious heat as a scream died in her throat. Her head fell back against the crystal, her body shaking all over as her senses flooded with things she had never been aware of before.

The smell of the earth all around them, the sound of water rushing beyond the cave walls, the beating of another heart that mirrored hers perfectly. It was as if the world had opened itself to her for the first time.

His eyes had darkened as the feeling drowned out everything else. Suddenly, there was silence where there had been heavy breathing and rubbing flesh. There was darkness where there was once eerie light. Where the scent of dirt and blood had once been, there was nothing but her.

He could feel her heart now, unnaturally steady, as if it had been waiting patiently for him that entire time. He leaned forward, unable to resist the calls each beat made any longer. The world suddenly smelled of Katara, and Zuko gladly succumbed to it.

Soft, tender flesh…just a thin layer of skin…and then the sweet taste of her blood flooded his mouth.

For the first time since they began, an intoxicated moan escaped her lips as her eyes glazed over. Sharp fangs pierced her flesh, allowing blood to spill forth. Nothing could describe the sensation of unadulterated pleasure that filled her at that moment. Everything was suddenly becoming so much clearer; her senses were strengthened, she could feel them doing so. The dim light was brighter, the noises were like echoes, and the feeling of him around her, within her, was amplified ten-fold.

Then she could smell him. Sweet and heavy…wrapping around her, calling to her. Deliriously, she followed the scent of a life giving liquid pulsing beneath flawless flesh. His blood was calling out to her and she couldn't ignore not. She needed to taste it, just once, she needed to.

Her teeth sank into his skin, breaking the layer and welcoming the gushing, deliciously sweet liquid into her mouth. His eyes rolled back at the feeling. Greedily she drank, unable to stop herself from taking her fill of him. She had never tasted anything so delicious in her life.

Her mind whirled against the actions of her body, frantically trying to understand what was going on and whether or not it should be stopped. Despite what her mind was saying, she knew it was too late. It had been too late the moment they met.

Her head spun, caught unprepared for the unseen flood of memories that slammed into her already chaotic mind pitilessly.

She was in the arms of an unfamiliar woman with pale skin, black hair, and kind eyes. Her mother? No, her mother was different. She could feel fire in her rushing through her veins and swords in her hands. She felt trust and loyalty, devotion to a sister she never had and a brother she wasn't bound to by blood. She saw a foreboding-looking man, draped in the finest of red silks, presiding over a throne of fire. A man that she knew was her father, but at the same time, knew wasn't.

These weren't her memories.

Her heart came to a crashing halt as the she finally understood what was happening.

"This is dangerous…" His voice haunted her. "You know that…"

But she wanted him…needed him, if only for that night. "I know…and I don't care." There was no going back now. It was far too late to stop. Too late to leave…

Zuko had turned Katara.

The morning was chilly, even more so out over the water. The sprawling iron ship stood out amongst modest fishing vessels along the river as, in the distance, the sun began to rise. The female vampiress stood on deck, clad in loose red pants, and an even looser green shirt that reeked of her bedmate, underneath her deep red robe. Dark hair billowed around her face as she kept her sharp eyes on the shore, waiting.

"Azula," a voice said behind her. "It's dawn. The captain would like to know when we can leave."

"We'll leave when I give him the order," Azula replied coolly as she remained standing with her arms crossed. The vampiress behind her followed her gaze questioningly. "Tell me, Mai, did Aang bring aboard my brother's things?"

"Yes, Azula," the darkly dressed vampire replied. "They've been brought to his room."

"And the waterbender's?" Azula's lips curled into a small smile.

Mai hesitated for a moment, but nodded. "They've also been brought to his room, as you instructed."

"Good." Azula smiled, pleased. She lifted her chin with satisfaction.

"Jet said that she was staying behind. Was he mistaken?" Mai asked calmly. Azula smirked.

"When has Jet ever been correct?" Azula asked dismissingly. Mai kept quiet. A cool breeze swept over the deck and Azula inhaled the fresh air. Her eyes sparked with anticipation as she peered over the water's edge. "Mai, lower the plank!"

The other vampire didn't ask questions. She gave a small bow of her head and rushed off to give the order. Azula approached the edge of the ship and couldn't help but smirk. For a moment, she almost didn't recognize her brother's scent. Just like her own, it must've changed a bit the night before.

"Young Master Zuko is arriving!" she heard someone shouting behind her. Azula let out a small snort. She already knew that.

From the thick forest at the shore's edge, a lumbering lizard slowly melted out of the shadows. Seated stiffly on its back was her brother. His hair was unkempt. His lips were drawn in a tight line. One hand gripped the reins firmly as the other rested over the stomach of the covered bundle seated in front of him. As the beast swayed from side to side with each step, the silk robe over the other person's body slid to her shoulders.

Vibrant blue eyes that had once been so full of passion stared blankly ahead of them. Katara had been turned, but not without hesitation.

"You made a mistake," Azula said as she stood at the edge of the ship, watching her brother carry the newly turned female carefully in his arms.

"No, Azula," Zuko replied coolly as he passed her, his silent, stunned mate cradled in his arms. "I didn't."


A.N. – (Full blurb on profile.) THANK YOU FOR READING!!! I can't thank you all enough for staying with me through this whole story. I'm sorry it took so long to complete. From beginning, the plan was to end it extremely openly. Let your imaginations take it from here; write your own fic based on this if you wish – you have my full permission. I'd like to thank LotF and Rena for all their help on EVERYTHING. They taught me a lot. To LadyMondragon, this story is for you. Your constant encouragement always made me want to write. Thank you. Much love, everyone. Take care!