A/N: I thought this would be fun, and it was. It took me a long time to get it right, but I like it well enough. I hope you like it, too!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
The Fool and the Ice
The two large, engraved doors of the Fire Nation ship burst open and a young woman emerged, flanked on either side by a uniformed guard. Said guards half lead, half dragged the woman into a chamber whose air seemed to glow red from the lanterns mounted upon the walls.
A young man with a terrible scar on the left side of his face made a motion to the guards, and the guards flung the woman into the room and left. The man surveyed the woman with interest as she struggled to her feet, for her hands were bound tightly behind her back with a thick rope. At last she managed to stand, and stood before him with a cold expression on her pretty face. The man gestured to a chair on the opposite side of the table from where he sat.
"Please sit," he said, a cool calm in his voice.
The woman bitterly replied, "I'm going to escape. I hope you realize that."
The man just shrugged and helped himself to a cup of steaming tea. "Does it really matter if you escape or not?" He poured a second cup and placed it beside his own.
Puzzlement came upon the woman's face, and she sat down at the spot she'd been offered – a mat on the floor. "I don't understand," she confessed. "Your Fire Nation soldiers kidnapped me during the night." When the young man continued to watch her with a blank expression, she let out a small gasp and leaned back. Her eyes were full of fear then. "It's a trap."
The young man smiled, took a sip of tea, and studied her over the brim of his cup. "Yes," he whispered, eyes darkening. "As much as Azula tries to assure me that my honor will be restored when we return home, I'm still wary of returning to my father without the Avatar. I don't believe her. Would you?"
The woman shook her head, her hanging pieces of hair waving and hitting the sides of her face. "I don't trust you either, Zuko," she pointed out.
The man sighed and placed his cup of tea down on the table. "I wouldn't expect you to," he murmured. "I'm a traitor, after all. I don't even trust myself." He stood up and began pacing across the room while the woman watched him with interest. "And why should I? I don't even know what I want to do now."
"You can still do the right thing."
He stopped, turned his head to face her, and asked, "Your name is Katara, isn't it?"
After some consideration, the woman replied, "Yes."
The woman, now Katara, stared at Zuko with a curious, almost sad expression. He returned the stare, only with a fixed look of coldness. With a sigh, he sat down across from Katara and put his head in his hands. Though Katara looked very much as if she'd like to help, she still stood up and headed for the window.
"I can't stay. I'm leaving," she said, but not as coldly as she once had been. A sorrow seemed to have mixed into her voice.
"It's cold outside," Zuko replied. "Even if you Bend, you won't make it all the way to the nearest land before you freeze."
"So what am I going to do, then?" she snapped. "Wait for Aang and Sokka to come and rescue me so you can take Aang away again? I don't think so."
She moved her hands behind her back and the tea soared from Zuko's cup. He looked up from his hands but made no attempt to snatch the water out of the air. In a fluid motion with her body, she Bent the tea into a sharp piece of ice and used it to cut the bonds around her wrists. Then she crossed the room and threw open the door to the private deck. Out somewhere in the water, a splash resounded. A gust of air blew in, freezing cold, and wrapped around her like a blanket. She couldn't hide a shudder. Zuko didn't turn around to look at her, but he had evidently heard her take a trembling breath.
"I told you that it's cold outside." His voice wasn't taunting, just stating a fact.
Katara was already making the pulling motion to lift the water up next to the ship. "I'm from the Southern Water Tribe, Zuko; I live in the cold."
"Not without your coat. Without it, you'll die out there." He folded his hands on the table.
Incensed, Katara let the wave fall back into the sea and turned around to face the Prince. "Why do you care?" she asked. "Wouldn't it be easier if I died anyway?"
"Maybe," he replied, "and maybe not."
With a sigh, Katara let her arms fall to her sides and plopped down on the ground next to the Prince. He turned and looked at her, and she saw that a solemn fright had rested behind his eyes. She smiled warmly.
"We're very much alike, you and I," Katara observed, leaning her cheek on her palm and resting her elbow on the table. "Motherless, virtually homeless, and our missions are looking sort of hopeless."
Zuko turned his face away from her so that she could not see the left side of his face. "Your mission isn't hopeless," he spat. "It's never looked better, judging by the Avatar's new tricks."
"His mission isn't hopeless, but mine is."
He turned again and stared at her not quite blank expression. "What's your mission?" he breathed.
Smiling, Katara replied, "Getting out of here alive. Without a battle."
"I wasn't going to kill you," Zuko muttered. A particularly large gust of wind went by the window and stirred his hair and hers. She shot a brief glance towards the open door before turning back to Zuko.
Katara got up on her knees and scooted closer to where he sat on the ground, cross-legged. She reached up and gently touched the ugly scar on the side of his face. Alarmed, he flinched a bit, his body suddenly rigid.
"You know, it's not so bad," she whispered kindly. "I don't have my healing water anymore, but I don't think you need it. Once you get used to seeing it, it just becomes a part of you." She was, of course, referring to the scar.
Zuko closed his eyes and breathed, "Speak for yourself."
Swiftly, before he had the chance to open his eyes again, Katara rose up on her knees, softly planted a kiss on his lips, and pulled back. His eyes flew open and he stared at her in utter shock.
"I don't understand – why would you –?" He stammered, blushing against his will.
Katara smiled and took a long sip from the spare cup of tea that sat on the table. "Actions speak louder than words," she replied, and kissed him again.
Only this time, he was ready; he leaned in and kissed her back, and Katara reached up and brushed a stray tuft of hair away from his face. She managed to pull away for a brief second to take a harsh breath before returning her mouth to his, and then –
"Alright Zu – gah!"
It was Aang. A horrified, open-mouthed, unprepared Aang, whose staff clattered as it fell to the floor. Katara wrenched herself away from the Firebender and leapt to her feet with shocking agility.
"Come on, Aang, let's go," she said in a rush, and ran towards him.
Zuko watched her in surprise, evidently unable to say anything; his mouth was closed and his lips became a cold shade of blue. Aang seemed to be in a similar state; he just stared at her with a level of hurt in his eyes that Katara had never seen before. However, she knew that Zuko would come back to reality at any moment. She grabbed Aang's wrist and jerked him in the direction of the open deck door. He came-to and followed her after bending over and snatching his staff up off the ground.
"Where's Sokka?" she demanded, still pulling him along until they were outside.
Aang pointed, but doing so was unnecessary, as Appa came flying into view with Sokka at the reins and Toph beside him. The two escapees leapt onto the flying bison and took off, Katara trying to shoot one last glance over her shoulder and failing.
Once they were safely flying away from the solitary ship, Aang turned with disgusted vehemence to Katara.
"Why were you kissing him?" he shouted. It wasn't anger – it just shock, confusion, and his being clearly stung that raised his voice.
Sokka's jaw dropped, as did the reins from his hands as he spun around. "You kissed him? Zuko? Are you crazy?"
But far from reacting angrily, Katara brought her knees to her chest, hugged them, and put her chin on her knee. "I tricked him," she muttered. "I heard the Fire Nation Guard fall in the water before, and then I felt a rush of air a few minutes later and I knew that you guys were here, so I tricked him."
Toph looked too disgusted to make a comment, which came as somewhat of a surprise. Instead, she shook her head and turned away from the conversation.
"Yeah, okay, that's understandable," Sokka said sarcastically, picking up Appa's reins again and giving them a shake. "So you just gave him a goodbye kiss to remember you by until next time, did you? Do you see me kiss Momo every time I go somewhere?"
Momo cocked his head to the side and made a purring sound.
Katara glared at her brother. "I froze his mouth shut," she countered. "When Aang showed up in the doorway I froze his mouth shut so he would be too surprised to react. And it worked."
Sokka shook his head and turned back to the reins, muttering, "Couldn't you just have poked him in the eye or something?"
Aang watched Katara for a few more moments with a troubled expression on his face before he curled up in the fetal position and closed his eyes. Katara, however, turned her head and stared out into the darkness so that the others couldn't see the two tears escape from her eyes and slide down her face. She felt terrible – even worse than when she first sympathized with Zuko. It felt as if she'd abused her Waterbending skill.
She closed her eyes and breathed, in a voice so quiet that neither Aang nor Sokka could hear, "I wish I had poked him in the eye, Sokka. It would have been a lot easier to forget."
A/N: I know it kind of left you hanging a little, but I wanted you to think for yourselves. Sometimes people like to think what they want to think, regardless of what the author says.
What do you think about it? I'd love to hear your theories!