Image (Zutara Comfort) for story used with permission from Tempest-in-Blue.
I do not own Avatar or any of its characters
In That Brief Moment
Katara knelt down by the side of the prince who she hated so much. He had been her enemy since the first moment they saw each other. He had invaded her home and scared her people in his attempt to find the Avatar. His mind was set on that mission alone and nothing they ever did could sway him from his course. He had chased them around the world in his quest to restore his honor. On more then one occasion he had come dangerously close to succeeding. Now he lay before her close to death and his life hung on her ability to put aside all her loathing for him and use her healing abilities to make him whole again.
She honestly didn't know if she could do it. Maybe before Ba Sing Se but now… now she just didn't know. Ba Sing Se had changed everything. Her life would never be the same again. Everything she had believed had been tested and just when she began to believe that he deserved a chance he had betrayed her.
She looked at his face as he lay before her clinging desperately to life. That face; that scar. The mark of the banished prince, he had told her. The mark that had started him on his insane journey that had encompassed all their lives in its passage. She thought back to that moment in the cave deep under the city. He had seemed so vulnerable then and she had felt sorry for him. She had decided to try to help him by healing his scar. He had seemed grateful and in total submission had approached her. Closing his eyes he had surrendered himself to her care.
In that brief moment after he had closed his eyes she had entertained many thoughts. She had noticed many things. Looking at his face this close she had realized one thing that she hadn't noticed before; he was extremely good looking. From the jet black hair that was in such sharp contrast to his pale skin, to the perfect lines of his jaw and the stubborn set of his mouth. He had the kind of face that could take a girl's breath away. She had spent a moment gazing at his lips and she wondered briefly what it would feel like to press her lips upon his. To feel him respond to her with passion and love. That thought sent a tingling sensation down her spine that surprised her with its intensity.
Suddenly she desired more than anything to know what it would be like to be his. To have him hold her tightly in his arms and whisper words of love and affection. She imagined a simple life in which he cherished her and loved her as a husband loves a wife. This need was so powerful that it took her breath away and she let out a tiny gasp.
Moving her hand to his face she gently touched his scar, her thumb laying feather like against his lips. She shuddered at the sensations she felt at that moment when she made contact with his skin and she wondered if he was possibly feeling the same thing as well. In that brief moment she realized that she could love him. That if the time were right and the situation were different she could fall for him completely. She felt awed by this insight.
But then everything had changed. Aang had appeared and in her relief to see her friend she had lost the magic that had been there with Zuko. She had gone with Aang to help the Earth King and Iroh had promised that he and Zuko would catch up to them after he had explained things to his nephew. Zuko had appeared angry. His hatred for Aang was clearly visible.
As she left that cave she remembered turning back one last time to look at him. He returned her gaze and she saw a longing there that she had not seen before and in her heart she had felt the stirrings of hope. Maybe, just maybe all that she longed for in that brief moment before, would come true.
She had followed Aang out of the cave. Her heart felt light and the world seemed to hold new promise. They would win this war. With Zuko and Iroh on their side they would defeat Azula and save the city from the girl and her evil ways. And then as if on cue she had appeared and they hard started to battle. She and Aang had the princess at a disadvantage when Zuko had shown up. She felt relief at the sight of him but then he had done something that she hadn't thought possible, he betrayed her. Firing on Aang he had effectively crushed all that they had had in the cave moments before.
Her heart beat painfully in her chest as she fought his sister and when she had Azula close to defeat he had interfered. The fight had shifted and now it was she and he engaged in a battle.
"I thought you had changed." she said.
"I have." He simply replied and for a moment she wasn't sure what he had meant but she knew in her heart that all her dreams earlier had just been shattered.
All those musings earlier had been just the foolish desires of a young girl caught up in her image of a daring prince. But this prince had not come to her rescue. Instead he had betrayed her. He had nearly cost Aang his life and now his own hung in the balance.
He had been injured in a blast that had destroyed his ship as it headed for home. He was on his way to deliver his uncle to the Fire Nation when her tribes' tangle mines had blown and effectively shut down his vessel. In the ensuing battle his ship had shot a fire ball towards her father's boat. Aang had leapt forward and shot the blast back towards Zuko's ship. The ball of fire hit the ship near its boiler and the explosion that followed nearly cut the vessel in two. Zuko had managed to free his uncle from the prison hold and was on deck when the blast hit. He was sent into the water, the force causing him severe injuries.
Her father had pulled him from the water, along with other survivors. They would be held as prisoners of the Water Tribe. Of course Hakoda hadn't known who he was and it wasn't until he was laid on the beach that Sokka had made the discovery. He had wanted to kill him then but his father had stopped him.
In the end they had rescued Iroh from the water and the old man had pleaded with her to save Zuko's life. He knelt by the boy. Tears streamed down his face. "Please heal him." He had begged Katara. "Please save my nephew."
"I don't know if I can." She had replied.
"You have to at least try."
She looked at him and then sadly said, "No I don't think you understand. Let me rephrase it. I don't know if I want to heal him."
He gasped at the coldness in her voice but she blamed Zuko for that. He had taken something from her that day in Ba Sing Se and she didn't know if she would ever get it back. Watching her friend die in her arms only to be revived with the water from the Spirit Oasis, had hardened her heart. She honestly didn't know if she could look past that pain to even try to heal him.
As she gazed at his face she thought of how she hated him. He had been her enemy before and but for that brief moment in Ba Sing Se he was her enemy again. She closed her eyes and felt the sting of tears that she refused to shed. Slowly she opened her eyes and stood. She couldn't do it. She hated him.
She started to walk away when she felt the need to look back one more time and she realized that though she hated him a part of her couldn't help but love him. She walked back to him and kneeling down beside him she opened her water skin.
"It's ok Zuko. I'm going to heal you."