The following morning came before either the prince or princess could get up. Both were tired from the antics of the night before, and each had a headache from the fire whisky they had tried. When the firebender first woke, it took him a moment to realize where he was. The memories came flooding back, and he looked to his right to see Katara stirring from a deep sleep.
He sighed in contentment, and slowly pulled himself from his bed. Getting up was inevitable. He had to go through his daily firebending training. Skin not even out of the bed yet, Katara mumbled, "Where are you going?"
"Training." Zuko said quietly, opening the top drawer of the dresser. Pulling out his clothes to change, he yawned.
"Do you think your dad would mind if I came?" she asked, sitting up.
"I don't see why you can't." he replied. "You haven't waterbended since you've been here, have you?"
"Not much." she said in turn, punctuated with a yawn. She too climbed from the lavish bed to dress. Silently, she thought it rather funny that neither had hidden within the bathroom to change.
In a matter of moments, the pair was ready to go, and they promptly journeyed into the endless maze of hallways that made up the Fire Nation Palace. Zuko knew the way like he knew the back of his hand while Katara was still confused with all the small hallways; she had never used them before. Occasionally she and her young servant, Haki, would take walks through the palace, and the main halls were the only ones she knew. Somehow she felt ashamed at her cluelessness.
There was no time for that now, she thought as they entered the training room through a set of twin doors. The rest of the royal family was already there, including Ursa. After much persuasion and an array of colorful insults on the Fire Lady's part, the Fire Lord had reluctantly agreed to let her come to the training room. Katara, however, was another matter. Ozai did not seem thrilled to see his future daughter-in-law, not in the least. Ursa was the one that came to the rescue.
"Good morning, you two." she said pleasantly, as if she had not fought with Katara only one day prior. Still, Katara could sense just a hint of venom in the older woman's voice. She ignored it.
"Good morning." she said with a smile. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Azula roll her eyes.
"Let's just get started." the Fire Nation Princess said, headed to one of the three arenas to train by herself. Katara couldn't blame her. Her family was pretty dysfunctional.
It was then that the group split up. The Fire Lord and Lady each trained by themselves like Azula, yet Zuko turned to Katara expectantly. When she looked at him oddly, he said simply, "I want another rematch." The waterbender almost laughed. She had fought with Zuko before, and she had one the last time they fought. Apparently this was still on his mind.
"Alright, Zuko, but don't be angry when I win." she warned. He smirked, taking a fighting stance. She followed suit.
Katara struck out with a water whip from her canteen. Zuko leapt above it, and Katara's movements followed his, the water chasing him. He was too fast. Falling, he tucked into a forward roll, unleashing his own rope of fire. It sent steam into the air, and Katara was out of water already. She mentally cursed her stupidity. The prince didn't seem phased, but offered her a small mercy by using no further bending. The rest of the fight would be hand to hand.
He struck out with a punch when he got close enough, missing his fiancé by mere inches. She sweep kicked toward him, he leapt above it. Zuko was right where Katara wanted him. With all the power she could muster, she kicked upward, and he just barely escaped her reach. His footwork was amazing as they exchanged a fury of punches, most of which missed their mark. Finally, though, Zuko landed a punch to the waterbender's stomach, and she fell, winded. The fight, short-lived as it was, was over.
Zuko helped Katara up. She was wrapped up in her thoughts already; she was ashamed yet again today for what she had done. Again, she failed. Her lack of water had cost her dearly, and now all she had to show for it was a blossoming bruise.
"That's enough for now. Why don't you go wait for me in the gardens?" So he was continuing on with his training? It was a good idea, Katara thought, because now she wouldn't be around to slow him down.
Katara sat in the gardens waiting for Zuko. She was still feeling down on herself, yet she planned to fix that. She would get better at hand to hand fighting, she decided. That way, if ever her water failed her again, she would be able to defend herself. Never again would she be humiliated on the battle grounds.
Soon enough, Zuko came out to meet her, armor long gone. Apparently he had stopped by their room to change clothes. Now he wore a simple pair of baggy pants and a long black sleeveless shirt.
When he reached her, he said, "What's wrong?" He frowned slightly.
"Do you think you could train me in hand to hand combat?" she asked, fiddling with a small yellow flower at her feet. She plucked it up from the earth and smelled it.
"Yes, but I don't see why you need it." was his swift reply. He didn't want her to feel down on herself, she figured.
"I do, Zuko. I can't fight without my waterbending."
"What does it matter? You don't need to fight anymore."
"Neither do you, but you train anyway." she pointed out. "I don't care if I don't fight, but I won't stop learning; it gives me something to work for. It gives me a goal."
Zuko stared at her for several minutes before saying, "I won't stop you."
A/N: Sorry for the long wait and short chapter, but life happens every now and then. :)