"I can heal you."
"Do not mock me." Zuko's words bit into her as sharply as a knife, each word accented with venom. He wished she wouldn't speak. The only reason he was in the same vicinity as her was because of his sister and her recently obtained Dai Li in Ba Sing Se. He was now imprisoned in a crystal cave cell. His firebending couldn't get him out of this one. It was like an earthbender in a metal cell.
Katara cringed, "I'm not. I can heal your scar. I really can." He rolled his eyes at her voice.
"Nonsense. Foolish talk. Maybe you should actually make yourself useful for once and try to find away out." He turned a shoulder, not just in anger, but to hide his pain. Hell take him if he ever showed her, of all people, his pain.
He turned slowly, not his scared side, and gave her a sideways glance. She was kneeling in the dirt, hands clasped. Pleading. Begging. At any other time he would have given her a smirk and a snide comment- if she had been begging for anything else but to help him.
"Let me heal you. I can do it. Really I can. Let me heal your pain."
"It doesn't hurt. Not anymore." Which was half a lie. At times, when he really thought about it, it would throb. When he dreamt of his banishment, of his father, his sister, his mother, he woke with it burning.
"But your heart hurts."
"More foolish talk." He scoffed.
"Don't lie." The hard tone made him turn fully to face her. Portrait instead of profile.
"What makes you think-"
"I can see it. When people stare at you. At your scar. When they whisper. When you're recognized as the banished prince because of it. You hurt. Your heart hurts. Please," she was crawling to him, dragging herself through the dirt to him and latched onto his leg, "let me heal you. Your scar, your heart, your soul, your mind. I must. I must do it. Please."
He just stared at her and the tears that began to fall from her true blue eyes, "Why?" he whispered.
"Because it hurts me."
His eyes blazed and he shook her off, "Yes, I'm sure my scar hurts a lot of people to look at."
"Shut up!" he was surprised by her sudden change. He noticed that about her because he was the same way. "You know that's not what I meant! You take any chance to lash out at anyone for your face."
He gave a snort, which steamed, "I saw you the first time. I always see it. People don't notice me. They notice this…..abomination on my face. It discusts them." His hand caressed the air above his ruined flesh. He didn't touch it. Never.
"I was curious, not discusted." She confessed, rising to her feet and reaching out to his scar.
He caught her wrist effortlessly and growled. If he didn't touch his own face, he sure as hell wasn't going to let anyone else touch it. He saw her reach with her other hand and caught that one as well. He was getting more annoyed with her by the second and the only thing he could do was sulk in the corner of their cave prison.
He never realized how resourceful she could be until he felt a sting on his hand and had to pull away from her. She was crying –forcing herself to cry- and using the little water she had to attack him. Desperate, but it worked and he was surprised.
She tackled him then, only succeeding because of the pelts of water. A distraction. What a resourceful little girl, indeed. And she was still trying to touch his face. For what? To forcefully heal him? He would have none of her pity. He flipped her, pinning her hands to the side of her body. And even then she struggled, upper body twisting and bucking. He stopped that resistance by pinning her with his own chest. He opened his mouth to berate her for being stupid.
And she kissed him.
Not really him, his scar. She kissed his scar, lips lingering on his ugly mark. And when he didn't pull away – not because he wanted to be that close to her but because he was in shock- she kissed him again. And again and again and again.
"Please –kiss- let me heal you –kiss- I want to –kiss- I need to –kiss- You need it." Whispers and kisses across his face.
He was suddenly struck by the intimacy of it. Their chests pressed together, their faces close enough to kiss. For her to kiss. And she was.
Then hell took him. Opened its gates to the fire prince because he let go of her wrists and leaned his head onto her shoulder. "No one….would touch me. I couldn't even stand…..to….."
Katara wrapped her arms around him, held him to her, ran her fingers through his messy hair. "Can I heal you? All of you?"
He pulled away from her, sat on his knees and pulled her put into a sitting position. Her hands in his, he kissed her palms and nodded.
Katara slid her hands out of his, a bit reluctant to spoil the soft moment between them, and pulled the vial of spirit water out. The cork came off and the water balled itself in her palm. He had seen her heal before- using her hands and gently healing whatever wound was before her. But this time she brought the water to her lips and turned them a sparkling blue.
"I thought you used your hands."
"I usually do." She took his face in her hands, caressing his cheeks as if reassuring him that this would work.
"An excuse to kiss you again." She whispered close to his face and then her lips gently laid against his scar.
The feeling that coursed through his body was like jumping into a cool spring on a hot summer day. The light that followed was too bright for him and he shut his eyes. He was scared that it wouldn't work. That she had gotten his hopes up for nothing and if that was the case, he wouldn't ever be able to forgive her.
"Zuko…open your eyes."
He did so, becoming oddly submissive. Out of character for him and his demanding demeanor. Katara was smiling at him, tears slipping down her cheeks. He brought his hands up, but stopped just short of touching his face and made fists. He couldn't do it. Even with her encouraging smile, he couldn't bring himself to touch it.
Katara's palms slid over the backs of his fists, "It's ok." She twined her fingers in with his now relaxed hands and made him touch his face. Nothing had changed. His fingers felt bumps and ridges of a scar and he was angry.
"Don't think. Feel." Katara instructed him.
Zuko let out a sigh and let the thought of his scar leave his mind. His skin wasn't a mass of ugly scar. It was smooth and cool and tingly. It was good. "Katara….." her smiled dropped and her lips slackened and parted, "What? Is something wrong?" he squeezed her hands.
"No, no. It's just….I think that's the first time you've ever called me by my name."
Zuko's face broke out in a smile. Genuine and pleasant and kissed her lips, "Katara. Beautiful, wonderful Katara."
"Where have you been hiding?" She crawled into his lap and nuzzled his neck.
"This side of you. This Zuko. Where have you been hiding?" Her fingers threaded through his hair and he sighed.
He knew where-trapped behind his hideous disfiguration, unable to escape. Trapped in a dark cell with no way to get out and no hope. Then she came along. This waterbender girl that he thought was a nuisance. How wrong he had been.
He wrapped his arms around her back, "My wonderful waterbender."
The tone in her voice struck him and he pulled back to look at her worried face.
"You're not….not acting like this just because I healed you are you?"
He blinked slowly, relishing in the feeling of both his eyes working, "Yes, Katara I am." This seemed to hurt her and she started to pull away, but he held her strong, "How can I not? You saved me. You saved me when no one else could. You are my angel. My little snow angel. You showed me affection when all I showed you was hate. I am so indebted to you there's no way I could pay you back. Not in my entire life."
"I don't want you to be indebted to me." Her brow furrowed. "I just want you to be happy."
"I'm happy like this." He touched her cheek, "With you."
"You'll stop hunting Aang?"
He nodded, "I will. However, my pride is still hurt from being beaten by a twelve-year-old, so don't even suggest we be friends."
"Yet." She smiled.
Zuko only shook his head and kissed her again, "Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you." He nuzzled her cheek, "Thank you for freeing me."
"And that's all I need to hear."