Chapter Five: How can I not regret?
The atmosphere around her seemed so quiet, so calm and peaceful, yet so restless at the same time. Zuko was now holding her hand, placing a soft kiss just above her wrist, whilst looking her deeply in the eyes. "I don't want you." She barely managed to choke out the words. "You have no idea about what I truly want." Her free hand traced the wall behind her while she spoke. "Then tell me." He said, his voice sounding rather mischievous. "No, I won't. You could never give me what I want." Finally she found what she had been looking for. Turning the knob she pulled her hand free from Zuko's grip and slipped into the bathroom, shutting and locking the door behind her. "Katara, you know you can't run away from this." She didn't answer; instead she closed her eyes and slid to the floor.
'I want to choose who I marry.'
"Katara let me in."
'I want to plan my own wedding.'
"Do you want me to break down this door?!"
'I want to live freely without restrictions.'
"Katara, I won't say it again."
'I want to fulfil my childhood dreams about love.'
"Ok, that's it; you are wearing down my patience."
'I want you to love me.'
Suddenly there was a loud crack as Zuko's fist burst through the wood just above her head. Katara let out a scream and moved away from the door, watching as his hand snaked towards the lock. There was a loud click and the door flew open, in front of her stood an enraged Zuko, his eyes blazing like the fire he controlled. "Now listen, and listen good Katara. I have gone out of my way to make you as happy as possible, I tried to make you feel at home, but all you keep doing is denying me. Why won't you let me near you?" Katara let out a deep sigh. "Because I don't love you." She whispered, not loud enough for him to hear. "What did you say?" Katara stood, stretching to her full height; tears filled her eyes as she looked at Zuko. "I won't let you near me, because I don't love you." She hissed, tears now streaming down her cheeks.
Zuko looked stunned, he surely hadn't expected this, and he didn't like it either. He could feel a sting where his heart was and decided it was time for him to give it a rest. He slumped out of the bathroom, staring at the floor while making his way out onto the balcony. She watched him go, wiping the last tears from her eyes. 'It was only the truth, wasn't it?' She questioned herself while making her way out of the bathroom. Slipping out of her clothes and into something suitable for the night she turned off all the lights and went to bed. Zuko didn't join her; he stayed out on the balcony all night.
The next morning Zuko was gone, and Katara couldn't help but feel a tinge of regret about what she had said and how she had acted. 'What will he do now?' Just then the door opened and in walked Zuko, fully dressed in travelling clothes. "You should get ready; we will be heading out soon." He said simply, not looking her in the eyes. "I have a surprise for you." This shocked her. 'How can he have a surprise for me after what happened last night?' Immediately she got up, walking into the bathroom she noticed that the door now had a thick beautifully made rug with rich gold and red colours covering the hole Zuko had smashed through it. After taking a quick bath she dressed in black silk pants that went below her knees and a tight red shirt, which was tied at midback. After putting on her black boots and quickly braiding her hair she went to join Zuko, who was waiting for her on their bed. "Zuko…" She began, but he held up his hand. "I don't need to hear it Katara." She sighed and followed him to the entrance hall and outside the palace.
Katara enjoyed the soft cool breeze as it floated over her silky skin. They were currently making their way along a narrow path leading through a thick forest, but she still had no idea as to where they were actually heading. All she knew now was that Zuko was avoiding her, which made her rather nervous about this entire trip.
Once she stepped onto the palace's front steps earlier that day she saw two horses waiting for them. He had told Katara that they would be travelling alone, and that it would take a few days for them to arrive at their destination. Still confused about his behaviour she didn't protest or ask questions.
Suddenly they pulled to a stop. "There is a field up ahead; we will set up camp there for the night." She just nodded and followed him as he led the way. Her thoughts drifted off, she barely comprehended anything that was happening around her, wondering about Zuko, if she had hurt his feelings last night, or was there another reason behind his distant behaviour. It took only a little while until they reached the place he had been talking about, and immediately Katara's breath caught in her throat once her attention turned back to her surroundings. In front of her spread a field of beauty, one she had only imagined in her dreams. The field itself held a wide variety of different coloured flowers, all of them beautifully glittering in the moonlight, but what really caught her attention was the large waterfall at the far end of the field. It mouthed out of a small hill, the water rushing softly into a decent sized pond, just the sound made her forget about everything that had happened throughout the last weeks.
Finally she got off her horse, almost falling in the process due the sudden light-headed feeling that washed over her, but it was Zuko who had caught her just in time. "Do you like it?" He asked, pulling her up and placing an arm around her waist for support. "What is this place? How on earth did you find it?" Her head was filling with so many questions as she looked at Zuko's grin. "This was the stroll I was out on the other day." She looked at him with an incredulous expression. "This is where our wedding will take place." His grin grew wider. "How on earth did you know? I never told anyone about where I wanted to have my wedding." Now Zuko had to laugh. "I care about what you want, that is all I will say." He pulled back and spread his arms. "So do you like it?" Now it was Katara's turn to smile. "Its perfect, I love it." Zuko looked rather satisfied and he suggested they set up the tent for the night.
Katara was sitting on a rock at the side of the pond, letting her bare feet dangle in the water while she looked up at the sky. Zuko was out gathering wood for a fire, in order for them to make something to eat. 'I can't believe he did this for me, no wonder he was gone for such a long time. I wonder how he found this place.' She heard footsteps approaching from behind and turned to see Zuko coming her way, as she peered behind him she could see the hungry flames liking at the nightly air. "What's for dinner tonight?" She asked, smiling because his feet were bare. "I had a few dishes prepared from the cooks before we left, they are specially made so we just have to heat them up over the fire, they should be done in a few moments." He sat down on the rock beside her and slid his feet in the water with a wince. "Is the water too cold for a hot blooded prince?" Katara laughed. "I do prefer it to be warmer." Suddenly Katara could feel the temperature of the water rising. "That's better." He leaned back a little, and let out a deep sigh.
"Zuko, may I ask you something?" He looked at her for a long moment then nodded. "Of course, ask away." She took a deep breath before speaking. "Did I hurt you last night?" Now his expression became confused. "I should be asking you that question; I was the one who knocked my fist through a wooden door almost hitting you in the process." Katara shook her head. "That's not what I meant. I mean, did I hurt you with what I said … about not loving you." He visibly stiffened at her question and averted his gaze to the water below. "Please Zuko; just tell me what you're thinking." Her tone sounded rather desperate and Zuko looked back up, straight into her eyes. "It seems like you are regretting what you said." Katara was trying to look for the right words. "How can I not regret? Like you said before, you have really gone out of my way for all this." She motioned to her surroundings with a weak smile. "But what can I ever give you in return?" Zuko sat upright now, lifting her chin upwards with his fingers. "I just want you to at least try and fall in love with me."
Then their lips met, it was like nothing Katara had felt before, nothing like the kisses they had shared up until now. Immediately she began to react, but this time it was Zuko who pulled back. His expression shocked her, sadness, loneliness and need filled his eyes, and she knew then that she would do anything to drive those feelings out of him. Before she could react or say something he stood, motioning for her to follow. "Lets eat; we have a wedding to plan tomorrow." She stood and followed him over to the fire, where they sat in silence, both eating away at their food and mulling over today's events in their mind. 'I see him in a completely different light now.'