I don't own the Avatar: The Last Airbender and none of it's characters.
Listen to your heart
They stood on the moonlit balcony, hand in hand, their eyes locked together. Gold and blue.
„Zuko, we… we're leaving tomorrow." Her heart filled with pain as his eyes narrowed and his face turned to the stoic one he used for hiding his emotions.
He couldn't ask her to stay and she couldn't ask him to leave. He let go of her hand and turned away before she could reach out for him.
So this was it… the end of it all…
The sun was low on the horizon making the fire palace a wonderful sight. Torches were lit as people crossed its' giant hallways. Since the firelord was defeated by a strange union of young benders, non-benders and part of the royal family itself, it has been rebuilt and renovated into a more welcoming place than before. Life returned into it with every passing day.
Cheers and murmurs went through the huge building as most of the palace crew was decorating or arranging things all around. A very important day was coming – the birthday of the Prince and the crowning ceremony of the new fire lord.
No. Not lord. King. As it was decided by Crown Prince Zuko with the nations agreement. They didn't need another ruler who hungered for power. That chain came to an end.
„Something is bothering you." Iroh stated calmly as he looked at his nephew.
The young prince sat at a table facing his uncle. Tea was served between them and even though Zuko never drank it he also had a cup before him. He might have been there physically but his thoughts were somewhere else… far away. As he realized he was spoken to he lifted his head to look at the old man. „Hmm…?" he hesitated for a moment as he was looking through cloudy eyes. „I'm fine."
„It doesn't seem like that to me." The old man added and he sipped from his jasmine tea. As his nephew remained silent he went on. „You know, it's not the only way things could happen… a nation is hard to handle after a war. Especially after one that last for a hundred years…"
The yet 17-year-old teenager sighed and rubbed his forehead with both of his hands. „Someone has to do it… the nations' trust needs to be earned again." He looked up at the old man. „And we were not the best with it so far."
„We've already talked about that if I remember well, uncle." The prince said and caused another silent pause between them.
Iroh sighed heavily and drank the remaining of his tea. As he peeked at his nephew he almost showed the same sight as his teacup – empty. The feeling saddened the old man indeed. „Are you… thinking about her?" he asked on a low voice.
Zuko lowered his head and stared at the cup before him. Steam slowly rose from it and even this little movement reminded him of her. His waterbender… „There is no day when I wouldn't think about her…" he answered though his voice was not more than a whisper.
„Real feelings are hard to be found, prince Zuko. In fact in the royal family it's almost impossible." The old general stated sadly. He felt sorry for his nephew - as his banishment was a curse it also led him to find someone he could love - he could have loved. He sighed again „Please nephew… at least think about it. You could…"
„We made our own decisions. Both of us agreed it would be the best this way."
„Uncle, please…" the prince looked at the old man who frowned hardly and helped himself with another cup of tea.
„You're far too young and you're not reasonable…" Iroh murmured. „Like you'd have learned Nothing from me… I thought you'd get over this nonsense and realize what's the best for you!"
The teenager sighed heavily. „You agreed with me. I didn't make things this way if you hadn't."
„At the beginning! Because you seemed you'd want nothing more than this!" he waved his arms around. „But since they've left…" as his nephew's face saddened more he stopped and sighed before changing the topic.
„The avatar is arriving tonight." He stated and as Zuko peeked at him with hope in his eyes he added. „No. She's not with him… Lady Katara is needed at the South Pole. Just as she said."
The prince lowered his head. „I see."
The old general watched him sadly then changed to a happier voice. „It seems she has a new student as a master… One of the younger boys turned a big amount of falling ice into water not much later than they've left." He smiled. „He saved two other children and now he's like a little hero to the tribe…"
Zuko made a slight nod. „That's great…"
Iroh looked at him again. He already had a plan. He hesitated before but as he saw the sad expression on his nephew's face he knew he's going to make the best for him.
The teen showed melancholy for a while now. He was determined to do whatever it took to satisfy his people, the nations, his uncle… but he forgot about a very important person – himself.
He made a final sigh. „It's getting late. Why don't you drink your tea, Zuko?"
The prince grimaced at his uncle then looked at the teacup. „I think I just leave it out…"
„Come on… I made it for you! I'm sure you'll like it." He went on. „It'll help you relax. Tomorrow is a big day for you! Just think about all the nobles and guests you're going to…"
Zuko frowned hardly as he spoke then when he got to 'all the nobles' he quickly picked up the cup and drank it with almost one gulp. He made another grimace then changed his expressions for his uncle not to notice what he thought about this cup of tea too. „It was… good." He said and he tried to sound honest.
The Dragon of the West looked at him with a smile. 'He always lied poorly…' he thought then stood up. He picked a letter out of his sleeve and handed it to the prince who was already yawning.
„What's this?" he asked and blinked sometimes as he took it. His eyelids seemed heavier suddenly.
„A letter from me." Iroh said.
As the prince looked at him, his uncle's expressions seemed to be filled with guilt. „Why did you write a letter for me?" Zuko asked frowning. His eyes were narrowing and he shook his head to try to freshen up.
„Because I don't have enough time to tell you what I wrote down."
„What…" the teenager yawned again. 'What's going on? I wasn't tired just a moment before…' He blinked sometimes. „What are you talking about?"
„I'm sorry." The general said. „I put sleeping-draught in your tea."
„What?!" Zuko grunted then slammed on the table but it didn't made the noise it was supposed to. His hands were heavier now also. „Uncle!" he yelled but even the sudden anger couldn't hunt the tiredness out of his muscles as he tried to stood up unsuccesful. Though his mind was not clouded… he frowned as he looked up at the old man. „You went way too far with this 'a man needs his rest' thing! I need to be ready tomorrow…"
Now his uncle's voice showed guilt also. „Don't worry about tomorrow."
The young prince narrowed his eyes. „What…?"
Iroh sighed heavily as he started. „I know you'd do this nephew. You'd stand it all and you'd do it great. But I can't let you ruin your life in the name of the nation." He looked away from him. He really felt guilty even more as he looked at him but this was for the best. „I've already made some arrangements about the ceremony and…"
He watched his uncle and the anger raised within him more as he understood. His uncle decided against him. He of all people turned against him. „How dare you?!" he yelled furiously… fury mostly against himself and his tiredness. But his eyes slowly closed his head bowed. „How could you…?" The prince whispered as he tried to focus on staying awake.
„Life took away my love from me, nephew. I can't let it happen with you too." He heard his uncle's next few words though it sounded like he'd listen to him from underwater. „Sleep well Prince Zuko..." And these last words rang in his ears as the darkness fell around him.
His eyes opened round and he sat up at once just to feel a strong headache. His face winced then he tried to rub the tireness out of his eyes. While he was doing so all he could hear and feel was the wind and the cold. He let his eyes circle around him and saw he was in some kind of a tent. Though it was hardly bigger than himself.
As he moved his hands he felt something under one of them. When he looked down he found it was the letter his uncle gave him. He lifted it up and unrolled it. As his eyes went on some of the lines his face darkened. Then somewhere in the middle of it he gritted his teeth and let his anger burn it away. 'How could he do this?!'
To his surprise as he wanted to stand up the ground beneath him strangely sloped and he ended back on it. 'What the…?' Then he heard a chuckle from outside and snapped his head at that direction.
„It's not funny Twinkle toes! I could have fallen off!" Toph yelled and punched the boy's arm next to her who were laughing now.
„It was not me." The avatar said between two laughs. „It was Appa!" His laugh stopped suddenly as they heard an angered yell behind them.
„You?!" The prince came out of the tent and frowned at them sharply. As it turned out he stood at the back of the flying byson while the other two sat at it's neck.
„Morning'…" they said to him in unison.
Zuko narrowed his eyes. „Turn back! Now!"
Aang bit his lower lip and peeked at Toph who raised an eyebrow at him as she said. „You know you didn't change a bit. I told Aang you'd only be able to stay calm in your dream…"
„I said turn back!" the firebender spat out. „I can't miss my own crowning ceremony!"
„Zuko…" the avatar started.
The firebender swore and turned his attention at the back of the byson's head. „Appa haven't you heard me? I said turn back! Yip-yip!"
Appa let out a groan but didn't change his direction.
„You still don't listen to me you.. you…" the prince shouted angrily.
„It's quite late now for turning back…" Aang said and waved towards the horizon.
The prince looked up to see the sun was rising. „What are you talking about? It's slightly passed sunrise! If we turn back now we'll be back before…"
„Wrong morning." The blind bandit said on a low voice.
Zuko looked at her in disbelief then at the avatar who spoke. „You were asleep for more than a day…"
„I told your uncle that a full ampull would be too much for you…" the girl added. „You've slept like the good little prince you'd supposed to be." She smirked.
The avatar took a narrow eyed glance at Toph then turned back to the prince as he stated. „The ceremony was yesterday."
„No. Way." Zuko paused for a moment and waited when the others will start smiling or laughing at their so great joke… but as they just continued staring at him… He let a hand through his hair but still didn't sit down. 'Shoot…' It was over. The day was over. He slept it through. He gritted his teeth. „I can't belive this!" he yelled furiously and as he waved with his arms he threw flames around him.
„Hey! Would you calm down? We don't want to set up a camp up here!" Toph shouted at him and he finally sat down. 'Even though we do have a tent…' The girl's lips curled into a smile at the thought.
Zuko was fuming. This couldn't happen with him if he didn't agree to drink that stupid tea… He was not supposed to be here! In the last months he had to bury himself into political meetings, parleys… all for this stupid day… he got closer and closer then this happens! All because of his stupidity for talking too much to his uncle. 'Mental note: never Ever complain again.'
He gritted his teeth then with one deep breath his words came from the back of his mind like a monologue. „You've just committed kidnapping against a fire nation noble!" he grunted. „The prince himself!" he hissed and now that he already started it the words came easily to his mouth. „Slowed down and kept down the settling of the nations' home affairs and…"
„Settle down, angry boy and leave this political doublespeak already!" The blind girl put in and turned her head towards the avatar. They realized in the past that girls are better at arguing with the prince and as Aang was a monk he was not fond of yelling anyway. „Things're handled. Cool down."
Zuko sighed then put his arms around himself. „And why is it so cold?"
The avatar raised an eyebrow as he looked at him. „Did you read the letter?"
'How do they know about that?' The prince knitted his eyebrows then looked away. „A… part of it…" Suddenly he realized perhaps it was not a good idea to burn it that quickly.
The avatar smiled and pulled out another letter from his clothes. „Your uncle said you'd not so he gave us another one." The prince looked at it with raised eyebrows as he took it. „But this one we cannot replace…"
He unrolled this parchment too as he started reading it.
I know that at the moment you'd probably like to hit me if I were there but I assure you noone's going to rob you of anything. The throne won't be fulfilled until you come back. I'll handle the problems that might appear but after our avatar's fine speech I'm sure everyone will be satisfied. The nation has it's party… oh, now this reminds me: Happy Birthday Zuko!
Until you're elsewhere I'd take care of the things just like before… as I told you, you're far too young to stuck behind a desk at your age. I know you missed some parts of our journey even though you'd never admit it… but I know it was her you missed the most.
Believe me Zuko, the throne can wait but love can't. I've tested you with some questions and realized how deeply you feel for her. That's why I decided things should happen this way. I choose the other opportunity we thought about six months ago… leave the hard work to the old and have a little fun! You deserve it!
Before you'd burn this in anger wait just a little more. You didn't listen to one of the most important reason's of mine: as our still valid laws said 'a prince can marry or engage anyone regardless of the other's ancestry or nation. In contrast to this the still unmarried fire lord must marry within the nation to confirm it's power and internal affairs.'
You didn't know about this… I mentioned it but you were always buried in other papers and didn't really listen to me. You listened to me less and less nephew, I'm sorry I couldn't convince you before this.
Please try to concentrate on what is inside of you. That's what men should do more. Just listen to your heart.
I've packed some warm clothes for you. You'd need them. I wish you a good journey and once again I say: you're not tricked.
I'll send Captain Jee after you… and if you'd still wanted to come home when he reached you, then your throne awaits you. But I hope you'd not come home alone.
Greet her and her brother in my name too.
With a hug,
your uncle Iroh.
The firebender read it through and though his face was dark again in the begining his anger slowly vanished. As he reached the bottom lines his face cleared then looked at them. „So we're going to…"
„To the South Pole." Aang said. „Where did you think we'd take you otherwise?"
Toph snorted next to him. „Yeah, with your chilling personality…"
„You all right now?" the avatar asked.
Zuko straightened his back. „Why would I be all right? I've been just kidnapped!" He spat out again as he returned to his earlier state. He was angry at all this. Why wouldn't he? Though he couldn't deny a part of him felt like the pressure on his chest would have disappeared. Inside he felt something he couldn't even imagine for a long time… hope that he'd see her. His lips curled into a slight smile he couldn't hide.
The blind bandit smirked at him. „Don't act like you wouldn't care about who you're going to see… we remember your past." Then she made a shrug. „If you felt only half as bad as her then you'd be flattered."
„What?" asked the prince at once and peeked at the blind girl with a worried face. '…if you felt half as bad as her…'
„She missed you, stupid!" Toph yelled.
„Toph…" Aang murmured to her and tried to be low enough for only she would hear him. „Don't be rude. You've heard his uncle…"
The prince narrowed his eyes at them as he heard them. „Since when have you planned this?" his voice was half ordering.
The other two looked away from him and as Toph whistled, Aang answered him rubbing his neck. „Not for so long." As Zuko almost burned a hole in him he continued. „Your uncle made me promise I'd help him!" he said quickly and lifted his hands before him defensively. „It was he who made us to do him a favor… it was not my idea!" He bit his lip as he watched the prince's dark face and waited for an answer… or a hit.
„Uncle had no right to do this!" The firebender frowned at them again. „Neither did you! I'm not a puppet you can carry around on strings! I decide what happens with me! Nobody else!"
„And what if you decide wrong?" Toph asked in only a whisper but it was enough for him to remain silent.
As the silence became longer Aang turned his gaze from the once banished prince towards the horizon and he started smiling at once. „We're here!"
As Appa landed on fresh snow the children of the village yelled happily. The little village the prince once saw turned into at least it's double size. People ran around the bison and waved to it's riders.
He focused on the crowd his eyes searching the blue wave of people but couldn't find the one he wanted. 'Where's she…?' As they descended from the last flying bison his eyes still searching he surprised as someone poked him from the left.
„…you're coming with me." Stated a serious voice and as he looked at the person he found a pair of narrow blue eyes that made him recognize their bearer…
„Sokka?" The prince raised an eyebrow at him. Last time the water tribe warrior made him sure that he's not going to give 'his blessing' at the two of them and now after this time it seemed he didn't changed his mind.
„Shut up, just come on before 'someone' sees you…" he stated and turned on his heels as he waved to him to follow.
Zuko frowned. „I didn't come this far for nothing."
The brother turned back with a darker face. „This kind of behavior makes me regret what I'm about to do!"
The firebender looked at him surprised so the other made a grin and spoke again. „Now, would - your highness - follow me?" he waved ahead of him. „This was supposed to be a surprise, you know…" he crossed his arms and cocked an eyebrow up.
The prince made a nod and found himself smiling for the first time since a very long time…
Katara spent her all day watching the ocean before her. Not even lifting a hand to bend the salty water. This day meant so much to the world and yet it could have been so much more for her...
She stayed out sometimes like this just to watch the horizon. When she was younger – yes, younger and more naive and full of dreams – she thought that one day someone would come for her from a far away land who'd be brave and handsome and kind and… so those kind of things.
But that last day was the worst. She stood there again knowing very well who could make that dream real… - She touched the medal in her neck which seemed colder than ever. - And yet the dream was never going to come true.
She told him she's needed here and he's needed there. But these times she felt that she was wrong. That he's needed here… or she's the one who was not needed anywhere.
She didn't know how she'd feel as he took his throne. She stood at the very edge of an icecliff facing North. She watched the sea… she waited and tried to see something – anything – that would change the scene. She watched as the sun slowly died on the west and in that golden shine she only thought about one thing… about one man. Zuko…
As the light disappeared her hope did the same. And just as she wanted to cry out, to yell, to scream… someone was there with her. It was her brother.
She decided a while ago that she's going to be strong. That this is the best way. That she'd not cry…
Though she cried. She was loved and needed here but this was not the same what her heart wished for…
But this day was a new one, Sokka told her. A day of new hopes, a day of new dreams.
She didn't understand why her brother asked her to go and try to arrange nearly everything about their city. She didn't really cared. She thought it was a good idea to forget things and bury herself into work… and it worked. She was almost fine until she heard some yells. Then more yelling and shouts and happy welcomings…
As her ears understood that three syllables: A-va-tar, she smiled.
She ran as fast as her legs could bring her outside, then into the crowd in the direction of a very big and very furry white flying bison. „Appa!" she yelled as she stepped in the ring of people and saw the two travelers who came with that bison. They stood hand in hand both grinning as she ran there and hugged them both with her best strength. „Aang, Toph! I'm so happy you're here!"
„Same here…" the blind girl smirked.
„It's good to see you too Katara." Aang said as she stepped back to look at them better.
„I dare to say you've both grown since I last saw you!" Katara said and giggled happily as the other girl pouted at this. „I swear you did too, Toph."
There was a moment while they didn't speak and Katara's thoughts returned to that very someone who had turned into firelord… she bit her lower lip as she peeked away then finally spoke out. „Weren't you supposed to be somewhere else Aang?"
As her eyes filled with her sadness he almost yelled to her that they didn't come alone, that he didn't take his throne, that she's the one who he missed. But instead he just made a slight smile. „We knew that you're the one who needs friends more now."
Katara's eyes started to fill with tears as she hugged the world's savior again. „Thank you Aang. Thank you…"
„So… like the Spirit Oasis at the N…?"
„Yes!" Katara said quickly with a bright smile as she led the two teens towards an iceberg. „When Sokka said he'd found a hot spring in that cave I thought he was joking, but no!" She frowned lightly. „And since then he didn't let me go there because he wanted 'to finish it' before anyone would see it. But since you're here I must show you now!" She smirked. „And he can't even complain! I mean… at least he could have greeted you, but no… he had so much important things to do than that!"
The two younger teen had a peek at each other with knowing smiles as they entered the cave.
„It might be a bit dark here even if he's here but…" She said it while turning back to them but as she saw the light radiating from the cave she stopped in the middle of her sentence. „What the…?"
As they stepped in the inner cave they all stood with opened mouths except for Toph who couldn't actually see what the others did. The hall was full of lights – hundreds and hundreds of candles were lit around the walls and around the little pond of bubbling water.
„Hey!" Came a yell from their side. „Didn't I tell you not to come here?"
Katara smiled brightly at his brother. „Sokka this is wonderful! You… you've made all this?" she asked and stepped closer to one of the candles and as she watched its yellow light, she gasped as it turned blue.
To their surprise every candles' light changed its colour to blue slowly from their left to their right. She followed the change with her eyes and as she turned around behind them stood that very someone she wanted to see for a very long time.
Zuko stood there and he started smiling as he opened his eyes. The flames still had their blue colour as they grew and decreased with his breathing. „Blue is what suits you not gold…" he said softly and she felt as her eyes filled with tears again.
„Zuko!" she yelled then ran into him almost making him fall as she jumped up and wrapped her arms around his neck, tucking her face in his shirt.
The lights turned back to gold as he pulled her closer to him and rested his unscarred cheek on top of her head as he sighed. „I've missed you…"
Katara looked up at him with teary eyes which seemed shining in the candles lights. „What… what happened? How can you be here? What about the ceremony?"
At this time a part of him felt the urge to glare at the avatar but instead he watched those wonderful blue eyes of hers as he answered. „You worth more than a thousand thrones." Her parted lips trembled slightly as another tear fell from her eyes. „And I was stupid for not realizing it long ago…" She let out a sob and as he leaned forward she closed the distance between them to know this was real. He was here… her prince finally came for her.
Their lips met with the passion and longing they felt since the last time they had and suddenly the whole world seemed unimportant for them. They were here. Together. Kissing like this would be the first and the last time, never want to let the other go.
And in this moment they felt complete… because fire and water might be opposites, but only together they can exist.