Hi!! I do sort of have an excuse for being SOOOO late, but, it only accounts for like, half the time. I live in Texas, if you do, 'nough said. If you don't, then I should fill you in on a little natural disaster called Hurricane Ike. Yeah, I live down south, near Galveston? Yeah, the place that's like, completely gone now? Yep, there. (Sigh) So, considering everything, I've been pretty blessed. My house is still here, a tree landed on it, but, it's still here, right? We didn't have power for about two weeks, and our fence is gone, and I don't mean blown down, I mean, GONE. I really don't know where it went and I don't care. Can you say, "INSURANCE!!"? Lol, anyway, everything's getting better, though, so I really don't have a proper excuse as to why this chapter isn't out yet. So, in conclusion (literally XD) here's the final chapter of Dangerous Shades of Blue! Enjoy! ;)
Disclaimer: I owned it once, but I sold it to some guys for three dollars and some chips. (Sighs and shakes bag of rotten chips) I HATE sour cream and onion! :P
Six Months Later
He really didn't like to swim. He really didn't.
The forest was alive with the wonders and beauties of nature. The birds sang, the squirrels scurried, the leaves rustled, and the occasional deer would lower its head to feed, as if bowing to earth itself and thanking it for its luscious bounty. It was a wondrous day, a perfect day for swimming.
But, he refused to step into the water.
The young man adjusted his pressed collar and soothed down the wrinkles of his jet black Armani suit. His fingers traced idly over the designs underneath, but quickly ceased when he realized the oddity of his actions. He needed to stop fidgeting.
More than that, he needed to step away from the lake.
With practiced care, he took a few cautious steps back, making sure that he didn't scuff his new shoes which were already beginning to sink into the mud as it was. He sighed and caught himself before he shook his foot. No reason to get mud on himself. His uncle would kill him if he found out that he got his new suit dirty.
Satisfied with his distance from the lake, he tucked his hands into his pockets and played with the coins and items that resided there. For a few moments, he let his mind wander and replay all the events that had lead up to this moment. Things that went back farther than six months. More like, years….
A twig snapped and the young man whirled around, then paused. He shook his head, another sigh tearing from his throat. No, it couldn't be.
He turned his gaze back to the lake and tried to at least enjoy the façade, if not the apparent solace within. It was a gorgeous sight. The water was not stagnant; it flowed out and toward the adjoining bodies of water. Toward the east, the man noticed. The beginnings of a new day.
"Well, don't you look smashing."
He wanted to spin around, to grab the visitor into a viselike embrace and never let go until sweet and certain Inevitable came to pry them apart. But, he resisted, and contented himself with a knowing smile. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, exhaled, and shrugged.
"I, do my best, I suppose."
He heard his unannounced guest slowly come closer, their approach apparent by the soft crunching of leaves underneath the feet.
"I hope so, considering the large sum of money you just came in to."
The man gave a mock frown. "Now, is that all you care about? The size of a man's wallet?"
Soft lilting laughter filled his senses as the person circled around his left shoulder.
"Trust me, if size mattered to me, do you think I would be with you?"
The man winced and hissed. "Ouch. You sure do know how to hurt a guy."
The laughter once more. "Yeah, well, I was getting a little jealous."
The young man had to stop himself from opening his eyes. Instead, he opted for an arched brow, which he knew his companion could see. "Really now?"
He could literally feel the shrug that preceded the statement. "How could I not? You were staring at that lake so hard I was sure you were going to ask it if it had any previous attachments."
His smile broadened and he pulled his hands from his pockets and crossed his arms. "Already did. She has a…a previous engagement. With the sea. Big guy, you wouldn't want to mess with him."
His companion giggled. Oh, how he missed that sound.
"And two tributaries, I heard. Can't get involved when there are tributaries, anyway."
It was then that he felt a cool hand rest upon his jaw and scratch the pocket underneath. He opened his eyes to the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, and at one point, thought he would never see again. Two deep blue eyes gazed back at him, surrounded by chocolate brown skin, and a smile that made the heavens sing, or at least, make the young man before her tremble in happiness. Her eyes twinkled as she pulled him down for a brief but passionate kiss.
She licked her lips as their eyes locked once more. "Lucky me."
Zuko pressed his forehead against hers and sighed. "I missed you."
She matched him, sigh for sigh. "I missed you, too."
He pulled her into a tight embrace that seemed to last forever, yet, not long enough when she abruptly pulled away. Zuko felt a twinge of hurt, then realized his error. "Oh, shit, I'm sorry! Are you okay?" He gently touched her sling which harbored her left arm.
She seemed, oddly enough, surprised by his inquiry. She blinked, confused, then made an unladylike raspberry. "This old thing?" She gestured by swinging it slightly back and forth. "See? I'm fine, Zuko, really."
Still not thoroughly consoled by her almost violent action, he muttered, "Then why did you jump away like that?"
Her face scrunched up and she grabbed her nose. "It's that nasty crap you're wearing. What the hell is that stuff, anyway!?"
Zuko, not hurt in the slightest, merely smiled. "Oh, this stuff?" He began to flap the opening of his suit. "It's called, Eau de Bete. It's Uncle's. You like?"
She began to cough and stepped away from him, her free hand swatting away some invisible mosquitoes. "Stop it! It smells like rotting opossum!"
He moved closer to her and flapped even harder. "Well, then you should be fine with it, considering how long you were out in those woods." He felt a jolt of pain as he remembered that night, but quickly squashed it, trying to hold on to the joys of the now, rather than the aches of then.
His companion was still waving her hand madly as if to ward off the evils of Zuko's cologne. "What? I was only out here for about a week and half! And I tried to avoid dead opossums at all times!"
An unbidden anger seemed to rise within him and he abruptly stopped fanning. "You might not have had to be out there if you had just TOLD me about the plan, KATARA!!"
Katara stopped her mock fanning and her eyes widened in surprise, then drifted closed in realization. Her hand dropped and she lowered her head. "Zuko, you know I couldn't tell you because…,"
"Because what, Katara?" His lips were pinched together so tight with anger that were almost white. "There is no "what", you know why? Because I would have helped you. Because everything would have still happened the same way, except I would have known, and…!"
"And you would have tried to stop me," she finished quietly, her eyes averted.
Zuko, flustered, backed away and tried to regain his bearings. "So what? So what if I did try to stop you? Then we could have…,"
"What? Run away?" She jumped in, eyes alight with frustration. "Live a happy fulfilling life? Have six freakin' kids out in the freakin' woods and live in a freakin' cottage and live like some mountain version of the Brady Bunch!?" She slapped the side of her leg as if she had an epiphany. "Oh wait! Or perhaps more like the Beverly Hillbillies? We could go eat ourselves some crow gizzards and then go swimmin' in the cement pond! Oh, but don't go 'fore thirty minutes! 'Cause then you'll get an achin' and you'll have to take some rheumatis medicine!!"
Katara had practically yelled the last words as she ended it with a stomp and whirl of leaves. The forest could feel the tension now.
Zuko huffed. "At least we would have been together."
There was an awkward silence, then a dry laugh from Katara as she turned away from him. "That was kind of gay…,"
"But, then, why so dramatic?" Zuko continued, ignoring her statement. "Why get shot?"
Katara turned back. "I told you over the phone, Zuko. I couldn't just disappear, I needed to die. If Ozai knew I was still alive, he wouldn't rest until he put me in my grave…," she paused. "Or go to his." She looked his straight in the eyes. "I wanted a life…I wanted a life where I didn't need to hide anymore, to continuously be on the run, to fear for my life." A tear stained perfection. "Or the life of the people I love."
Zuko felt his breathe catch in his throat, and stepped over to her side and wiped away the tear. She sniffed, shook her head and muttered, "And I said you were gay…" She suddenly pulled back, but gave his hurtful look a wan smile. "Besides, I don't think the police would have just let me go with a slap on the wrist and 'bad girl'. They needed to think I am no longer a threat." Katara gently grabbed his hand and held it in her own. "And now, they're right."
The past tension erased, Zuko grinned down at her as he swung their hands between them. "But, how did you live? You know, before you rented out a room at that hotel," he pointed to himself indignantly with his free hand. "With MY money, might I add!"
Katara nodded. "You may add, though I don't give a damn." She looked up at him. "Not very easily, I have to say. I've never taken a bullet to the chest before." She winced as if remembering. "I had to move a little to the right so it wouldn't hit anything vital. Still hurt like a son of a, though."
The company moved towards the lake in a slow saunter, enjoying their time together. Zuko nodded, breathing in the smells of nature. "I can imagine." He turned back to her. "So, you stayed out in the woods…?" "Until the trail went cold for my body." Katara's voice was clipped, though her hand betrayed no tension. "After about a week, I knew they thought my body had somehow floated down somewhere." She frowned. "Or gotten eaten."
Zuko furrowed his brow. "Nasty."
"You're telling me."
There was an extended period of silence, then, "What about the other half?" He was surprised to see his companion blushing.
"I got lost."
Zuko chuckled deep in his throat, but she still heard him and released their hands to give him a well deserved punch. "Hey! That's not funny!"
Zuko rubbed his arm but continued to laugh. "I thought you were the Magellan of the forest?" Katara looked out across the lake and tried to cross her arms, then remembered her circumstance and placed it uncomfortably at her side. "Magellan got lost, then eaten by cannibals." Zuko playfully touched his chin and looked up at the sky. "Well, the police did seem to think that…"
"Shut up, Zuko!"
He continued laughing, but Katara soon joined him and linked her good arm with his. "I would so kick your ass, if I didn't love you!" Awhile ago, this statement would have made him pause and possibly choke on the spit lodged in his throat. But they had already made their declarations to each other, albeit over the phone, but her presence, though much more pleasing, was no difference. It wasn't the issue of loving each other, but what they intended to do afterwards with their lives that was still a blur.
"So, how did the trial go?"
Taken aback by her seemingly random question, Zuko hesitated a moment too long and she got the wrong impression. Her lips pursed and her eyes shot to his. "But…but I heard on the news that…"
Zuko laughed, leaned down, and carelessly brushed her bangs from her eyes. "No, love, it went fine." Katara let out a whoosh of relief and nodded her head. "I thought so. How many years did he get? They didn't say on the tele." Zuko chuckled at her shorthand version of television but answered, "Ozai got twenty five to life. I got lost on how many charges there were, but, trust me, there's no chance of parole. They said so themselves."
"The jury?" Katara questioned. Zuko nodded, and she continued "Yeah, I guessed as much. With you and Uncle Iroh's testimony…" "Especially Uncle Iroh's testimony," Zuko cut in. "Yes, especially his, I knew Ozai was going away for a long time." She paused for a second, then nudged Zuko. "Did you know that your uncle kept that cloth from when he took you away all those years ago?" Zuko shook his head. "Nope. Nevertheless that it had mine, Ozai's, and…," he hesitated "And your mother's DNA on it. I thought that stuff disappeared over time." Katara shrugged, seemingly unfazed by the mention of her mother.
Zuko knew better.
"I suppose they have some pretty good forensic experts here. Your uncle did say that he preserved it. He was just waiting for…," "The right time." They said in unison. Neither was surprised.
Katara shifted from one foot to the other before asking, "What about Azula?"
Zuko's eyes and lips grew tense. "She…she'll probably get off a little bit lighter. Maybe 25 years." His eyes tightened. "If she doesn't go insane before then." Katara arched a brow. "Insane?" Zuko let the tension release before looking at her. "Yeah. Azula, as long as I knew her, didn't take very kindly to authority. She'll probably raise hell in that place, or in some holding cell. They'll ship her off to the nut house, of that I'm pretty sure." Katara squeezed his arm. "I'm sorry." His lip twitched. "I'm not sure why you are, but don't be. It's where people like her belong."
They stayed by the lake for some time, mesmerized by its beauty, savoring each other and life.
Before Katara broke it. "What do you want to do now?"
Zuko let the smile shine through as he clutched her hand through the crook of his arm. "We're going to get married someday, right?" Katara gave a slight inclination of her head, her own lips breaking out into a smile. "Of course."
"Uncle's still sorting through the mess that Ozai left behind and turning the company into a respectable contracting business…"
Katara tilted her head. "Yeah, I know."
"I've still got some time before I go run the company...," "Which I don't understand," Katara inadvertently interrupted "Because Uncle Iroh is older and a little more sagacious in these matters and…," Zuko coughed in his throat and Katara turned to him, appropriately blushing a deep crimson. "Well! That's not to say that you wouldn't do a good job, or anything!" Zuko smiled down at her, understanding. "Riiight." She bowed her head, properly ashamed. He chuckled and shucked her chin. "Uncle said he'd rather not deal with the business issues anymore." Zuko sighed. "He's said he's had enough for a lifetime." Katara nodded. "I know how he feels."
Zuko had to shake his head to bring himself back to the topic previous. "So, I have some time off." Katara grinned once more. "Sure." He leaned down. "So, why don't we go visit that brother of yours?"
Katara turned to him, shock evident on her face. "What!? Really?" Zuko smiled, his own eyes twinkling. "Why not? You've met my family," he paused for a second, wondering if he should rephrase the statement, then decided to leave it be. "So why not meet yours? I'm going to be apart of it soon." Katara shrugged and looked away, though she couldn't allay her rising elation. "I don't know. Technically, I haven't even met them yet."
Zuko's smile broadened. "Why not now?"
Katara looked back up at him. "Yeah, why not?"
Zuko chuckled and pulled her in closer and kissed her forehead. "You're a trip." He nuzzled her nose with his own. "But I love you." Katara hummed and nuzzled him back. "I love you, too."
Her eyes turned out towards the lake and she sighed. "Do you mind if we stay here for a little while longer?"
Zuko blinked. "For what?"
Katara sighed again and motioned towards the lake with her chin. "I want to look at it, study it. Truth be told, I think I love the water."
At that moment, so did Zuko.
"Yeah?" He said, almost more to the lake than to her. "Why don't you become an oceanographer or something?" He felt more than saw her smile. "I just might. Thank you, Zuko." He nudged her with his side. "No problem, Katara." She nudged him back before gently laying her head on his shoulder.
"I can't wait to start again."
Zuko did not need to ask her what she meant, for he well knew. It was a time to start over again. Though they would never forget, they would forgive, and live on with each other.
And as they gazed out at the lake before them, as it turned shades of shimmering and glistening blue, to Zuko, it no longer looked dangerous. Rather, it was just a journey to a new beginning.
THE END!! Damn, endings are hard to write XD. I just wanted to say Thank You to all the people who have stuck with my stupid and pretty much "post when I want to" butt through the entire thing. Especially the reviewers. I love readers, too, but reviewers get cookies!! I haven't received flames, which is a major surprise to me, considering how much I deviated from my actual plot. In the other plot, Jet was going to play a major role in it. Yeah, they were gonna break into the Ozai estate and everything, but, I realized in order to save time and my sanity, I needed to cut it short. So, again, thank you SO much! I also just wanted to give a little shout out to Luis4200, I think his/her name is, and tell them, "See? I would never let Katara die! It was all a plot so that her and Zuko could be together!" Well, since I can't think of anything else to say, I'll just let it go from there! I am definitely not writing another story again. I don't have the patience for it, and I'm leaving for the Air Force in January so I wouldn't have time, anyway! So, Rock On and Rock Out, everybody! God bless you and Thanks for everything!! ;)
P.S. If you get a Hurricane warning, drop everything and LEAVE!! :P