-A/N- I don't own it sadly. This is just a dream I was lucky enough to have. Please forgive any plot holes as it relates to the show. I dreamt it so it doesn't necessary make complete sense. For Kataang fans, I'm sorry. I'm Zutara, and the Zutara hints are rampant. (I'm so Zutara that I dream it lol .) Hope you enjoy. Comments are always nice.
SPOILER WARNING: When it flash forwards, it takes place after part 2 of the day of black sun. Guess I couldn't wait for the next episode. ( --This indicates a jump in viewpoints or a change of scene.) Enjoy my first Avatar fic.
If Only in Dreams (Since that's really where it came from.)
"But why must you bring him with you?" cried the distraught young woman. Her clothes were all made of shades of crimson, her hair pulled back into a traditional Fire Nation hairstyle.
The man, clothed in a very similar manner as his wife, smiled in a small, wicked way. "I'll make a man out of this child yet. As it stands, his sister is more qualified to take the throne."
"But Ozai, the Southern Water Tribe? That's quite a journey for a nine year old to make. Besides, the fighting there will soon be quite fierce right? Are you sure he can handle being exposed to that sort of violence?"
"If he can't handle it, he's not suited to be a king," the man replied tersely. He turned on his heel and strode in all his pomp to the large double doors. He stopped for a moment and shouted, "Zuko! We're leaving."
A small boy darted from behind a tapestry in armor that didn't quite fit him and with an expression that conveyed his uneasiness about his voyage. He ran to his mother and hugged her. When he was sure his father wasn't looking he kissed his mother on the cheek. Then he raised his chin and adopted as regal a walk as a child his age could manage. Zuko told himself that he was finally going to make is father proud.
"What's taking the traders so long?" the small girl asked in the high-pitched whine that small girls tend to adopt when they're upset. She pulled her blue coat closer to herself and stuck out her bottom lip.
The woman smiled at the girl. "Katara, be patient. It's hard for the traders to get here and avoid the Fire Nation ships that are everywhere. Don't worry; they'll get here."
Katara looked up at the woman who had become her unofficial aunt and took her hands and squeezed them in an effort to convey the urgency. "But Ako, Mommy is sick. She needs the medicine that the traders are bringing."
A chuckle came from behind Ako. They both turned to see a pretty Water Tribe woman wrapping herself in a blue blanket. She sat down beside Ako, her oldest friend in the tribe.
"Tana, you should be in bed," Ako said disapprovingly. Tana just laughed.
She pulled her daughter into her lap and held her close. "See, my dear child, I'm not as sick as everyone thinks I am."
A small boy appeared in the door of the hut that Katara's family called home. He rushed over to the small group of close friends and wrapped his arms around his mother's neck.
"My little Sokka," she said in a happy voice, and she lifted up to kiss his cheek.
Ako and Tana exchanged weary looks. They both knew that the ice and weather wouldn't hold of the Fire Nation much longer. A sigh escaped from both their lips. They knew this peace wouldn't last.
Katara and Sokka were playing together when the attack started. Large fireballs began raining from the sky, and the men who weren't already stationed at the outer wall of the village sprang into action.
"Back to your mother, little ones," cried Hakoda as he passed his terrified children. Sokka nodded at his father and took his sister's hand. Together the two children ran towards the other side of the village. When they came into sight of their hut, they saw their mother standing at the entrance of their home. Katara released Sokka's hand and quickly outstripped him. He wasn't nearly as fast as his sister when she set her mind to something.
Tana's worried look vanished, and she opened her arms wide, inviting them home. The scene was almost picturesque until—
"TANA! WATCH OUT!"
Katara froze midstep and whipped her head towards the shout. Tana had time enough only to meet Ako's horrified eyes before a fireball crashed through the doorway of the hut, engulfing the young female owner in its flames as well.
Ako fell to her knees, her eyes wide in shock and disbelief. Sokka turned his face from the flames, afraid that he would cry. Men, he told himself, didn't cry.
Tears immediately came to Katara's eyes, however. "Mommy!" the girl screamed. "Mommy! Mommy!" She continued to scream as she watched a few of the other young women of the tribe try to pull the fallen woman from the hut. With no benders left in the village, putting out the flames would be very difficult.
Katara finally overcame the numbness in her legs that had her rooted to the spot. In burst of speed, she ran toward the hut with Sokka right behind her.
"Katara," he cried. "Stop!"
She was screaming at her mother, trying to get a response. The flames were growing stronger, and she was much too close to them. She put her hands up to guard her face, and she was surprised when the snow followed her hands. With a flash of intuition, she pushed her arms forward, snow still following obediently. The fire in the doorway subsided enough that those surrounding the hut could see Tana's lifeless form pinned beneath the large fireball.
"The impact must have…" said a voice, trailing off uncertainly as the fire blazed up again.
"At least she won't be burned to death, poor creature." So they watched as the burning hut became a funeral pyre.
Sokka pulled his younger sister away from the burning hut. Fireballs had finally stopped raining from the sky, but this was only because the Fire Nation foot soldiers had broken through the ice wall and were preparing to swarm the village. The boy turned his eyes back to his sister. Although he had resolved not to cry, his sister had not. He puffed up his tiny chest and took a step closer to his sister. Even if men don't cry, he thought to himself, they ought to know when to comfort their family's tears. He took his sister into his arms and allowed her to cry into his shoulder.
That was the first time Katara was able to waterbend, but it would be some time before she ever did so again.
Zuko had not actually watched the fighting. He and his father had been in the flagship, a considerable distance away from the fighting. His father didn't want to risk entering the village until it was properly secured. Apparently, today his father was finally satisfied enough with the conditions in the village to enter it himself.
Although Zuko had not seen the attack, he could imagine it when he laid eyes on the tattered village: collapsing huts, ashes of buildings that were still smoking slightly, the set jaws and troubled eyes of the inhabitants. One image stuck in his mind the most, however.
It was the vision of a young Water Tribe woman, her hair tangled and knotted around her face. She was sitting in the snow with her head tilted sideways as if she were pondering something deep and meaningful. A light blue coat that was tattered and charred hung around her limp shoulders and arms. A girl, not much smaller than Zuko himself, had her head in the woman's lap and appeared to be crying, the woman's hand petting the girl's hair in a methodic, slow manner.
The most upsetting aspect of this vision was not the crying child or the disarray of their clothes and hair. It was the woman's eyes. They were wide open, almost unblinking, and they were completely void of all emotion. He had never seen a pair of eyes so flat and numb; the woman looked more a phantom than a human. It frightened him.
Apparently, the woman startled the soldiers too. A captain appeared at his father's side and said with a nod in the woman's direction, "Do stay away from that one, Your Majesty. Went a bit mad, I'm afraid. Most of the soldiers are scared to go near here."
Zuko's father smiled. "Leave her. She's of next to no importance anyway. Have you found anything interesting in the village?"
The captain seemed to understand his meaning. "Not a whisper of anything that would be interesting to you."
Ozai's smile faded. "I shall be camped outside the wall. We will occupy this village for another two weeks or so. If nothing reveals itself, we'll leave this icy hell-hole for good. It wasn't even worth the effort it took to conquer."
Hakoda could do nothing to rid his village of the Fire Nation. He had schemed, planned, and worked his hardest but could not find a plan that he believed would release his people. Fellow villagers had helped him to build a small hut to house his family, but his children were not handling the death of her mother very well. Honestly, he wasn't either.
He glanced out over the snow to the edge of the village. The phantom Ako had taken up residence at the same area every day. She was handling the death harder than anyone. The Fire Nation had been in the village just two days short of two weeks, and Ako had sat in the same spot every morning. She stayed there until sunset.
Katara would visit her and plead with her, just as she was at that very moment, but never came away with any results. For the past three days, Ako had taken up muttering to herself. Hakoda turned away; he could not watch his wife's dearest friend torment herself.
Katara, however, was resolved to help, and she had always been as stubborn as her Gran Gran.
"Ako," she pleaded. "Ako, please come out of the cold. The snow has soaked through your clothes. You're going to get sick. Please, Ako."
Suddenly, Ako responded to the child for the first time since Tana was killed. She gazed with her dead eyes at the child. "You look… just like… your mother," she said slowly and brokenly, as if conversing with other humans was already very foreign to her. "Don't you… little child?"
Katara's wide blue eyes stared back at the woman, full of confusion. Then she smiled and said proudly, "Yes, I do."
A frightening smile took hold of the woman's features. "Yes, I think… that as well. You are… as pretty… as lovely… as a doll." Her cold smile grew larger. "Run on home… my little doll… I shall not… stay here long."
Katara was startled and frightened by the smile on her beloved Ako's face. She merely nodded and ran back to her newly built hut in the center of town.
Ako watched every move the child made, wicked grin still in place.
Zuko had taken to escaping from his father and wandering the village. He would often hide behind a snow drift and watch as the young girl would try to persuade the woman he now knew was called Ako to leave her self-appointed haunt. He had almost turned from the scene that he knew would be repeated, the same as every day, but he froze as the phantom Ako began to speak in the first intelligible tones since he had arrived there. He listened to the short, almost cryptic conversation between the girl and Ako. When the girl ran back to her home, he almost turned and left, but once the girl had disappeared into her hut, Ako began to speak again.
"Tana… you must be so lonely…so very lonely. Your little daughter… she would have… died with you if I hadn't shouted. You wouldn't have to… be in the after-life… all alone." Her smile grew wide. "I'll give her back… back to you. I will… I promise. I will come with her… I will make sure she gets to you. Just be patient… just a little bit longer."
She lapsed back into unintelligible muttering. Zuko was frightened; he had understood Ako very well, and he felt that it was his duty to protect the little girl. He was the only one who knew about Ako's intention, and he also knew how much the girl and her family already suffered.
Ako rose from her place for the first time before sunset and walked on unsteady legs. Her mechanical walk frightened him, and he knew what she was going to prepare. He ran back to his camp, but he would return to the village at nightfall.
Katara was deep asleep when Ako entered her hut that night. She lifted the girl into her arms. Katara stirred in her sleep, and she opened her eyes slightly. "Ako?" she asked in a voice that wavered sleepily.
"Shhhh, my sweet little one. Aunt Ako will take care of you."
Sleep clouded Katara's mind far too much to be frightened. She settled into the warm arms that held her and allowed herself to be carried into the night.
Zuko followed Ako and the girl out of the village. Ako had set up torches in a ring in a small cave. Apparently privacy was important. He watched as the woman laid the child on a sleeping bag in the center of the ring of torches. It looked like some sort of strange ritual, but Zuko crept closer. He did not want to reveal himself to the woman before he knew what sort of weapons she had. He knew she wasn't a bender, though, because all the benders had been taken from the Southern Water Tribe a long time ago.
The girl had finally started to rouse fully from her slumber. She shivered against the drafts blowing through the cave.
"Ako," she said in the small, sweet voice with which Zuko was very familiar as he had listened to it plead with Ako repeatedly. "Where are we?"
Ako laughed. The sound was deranged, and it echoed through the cavern. She lifted a wicked looking dagger. Zuko took note of it.
Ako kept her back turned to Katara. "Little one… you'd like to see your… mother again… right?"
Katara looked upset. "Of course, but you know that that's impossible, Ako." Tears sprang to her eyes. "I want my Daddy, Ako. Where's my Daddy?"
"That's not important right now!" Ako shouted. She turned, dagger glinting in the fire light. "You want to see… your mother… right? I will take you to her."
Zuko prepared to put his plan in motion.
Katara screamed and leapt to her feet. She didn't know what to do. She couldn't outrun Ako, and she knew it. She also couldn't stay here and let Ako kill her as she so obviously intended. Sokka and Daddy needed her!
Suddenly, the fire on the torches blazed brighter and leapt up to lick the ceiling. The three torches closest to the entrance fell over, hitting the floor with a loud whooshing sort of sound. Then the three separate flames migrated together to become one large flame that almost blocked the entrance. Smoke began to fill the cave, and Katara began to cough. Through the flames, Katara saw the face of a boy. She could not discern much through the flames, but she could tell that he was the one manipulating the fire.
Ako had a different response to the flames. She began to wail at the top of her lungs. "Tana! Demons, give her BACK!" Ako began to slash through the flames with her dagger, seemingly unaware of the pain of the fire licking her arm. There was an decidedly boyish exclamation of pain frorm the other side of the flame, and Katara saw a boy run away from the flames. Katara's smoke filled vision began to blur. It was getting increasingly hard to breath. As she lost consciousness, Katara could swear she heard her mother's voice telling her everything would be okay.
As soon as he was well-hidden, Zuko did his best to calm the flames at the cave entrance. His hand stung; he tied some cloth around the thin cut along his palm. Things hadn't gone at all according to plan. He just wanted to make a cool entrance and caused the torches to fall. After that point, he tried to make it up as he went. Never would the boy have expected that the woman would react that way.
Ako ran from the cave entrance still screeching. "Demon, where are you?!" Zuko wondered if the villagers could hear this, but he saw no torch lights being lit in the distance so he doubted it. The woman spun and careened through the snow, slashing at anything and everything. Finally, she fell into the snow. She glanced back at the cave. "Tana… I must kill the demons first. I must get revenge… please wait. Please. I will bring her to you. I will… I must kill them…I need to find… the waterbenders."
Zuko watched her disappear into the darkness and sighed in relief. Making his way back to the cave, he had to make a decision. As he put out the torches that had fallen, he contemplated his options: leave the girl in the cave for her family to find, or carry her back to her family and risk one of the soldiers seeing him save a lowly Water Tribe peasant. When he looked at the girl, unconscious on the stone, his mind was made up for him. What if one of the other torches fell and the fire spreads? What if she freezes to death? What if…?
He lifted the girl as best he could. She was smaller than him, but for his young arms, she was heavy. He half-carried, half-dragged her back to the village. She would stir occasionally but never woke. She smiled softly in her sleep, a sweet, lopsided smile on cheeks that had not yet lost their baby fat, and seeing this, Zuko decided that he didn't regret saving her.
"Katara?" Sokka asked the darkness. She was gone, he had realized, but he didn't want to get her in trouble with Dad. He would tell her off himself, but he needed to find her quickly. He exited the hut, calling out Katara's name in a frantic whisper. Then at the edge of his field of vision, he saw a pair of children approaching. He began to run toward them and soon realized that one child was not walking on her own but her legs were being carefully dragged.
Katara, Sokka thought frantically, what has happened to her?
He finally came even with Katara and the one carrying her. He realized with dismay that the other child was that Fire Nation brat that had been running around the village.
"What have you done to my sister, you Fire Nation dog?" Sokka demanded in a fierce whisper, taking Katara from the other boy.
The other boy's face contorted in smug anger. "I didn't do anything, you Water Tribe peasant," the boy whispered back angrily. The boy mirrored the sneer that Sokka knew he wore on his own face. "As a matter of fact, I saved your sister from your own crazy village woman. You may want to keep a close eye on that Ako wench."
Sokka's face fell. "Ako… but why would she do that?" Sokka, realizing he didn't sound tough anymore added a 'manly' "Why HUH?!" to the end of it.
The other boy held up a hand that was bleeding through the cloth wrapped around it. "How should I know?" he replied in a sulky tone. "She was blathering about returning the child to her mother or some such nonsense. Besides, if I really wanted to hurt your sister, why would I bring her back?!"
Sokka pondered that and readjusted Katara in his arms. He stuck out his hand. "Thank you. For bringing her back, that is." His voice didn't sound like he really wanted to say it, but Sokka couldn't help the disdain in his voice. After all, this boy was part of the fleet that had tried to obliterate his village.
The boy stared at his hand for a moment before he reached out and shook it. As soon as Sokka released his hand, the boy ran disappeared into the Fire Nation camp. Sokka looked at his hand and saw a smear of the other boy's blood on his hand. He wished for a moment that he had asked the boy's name, but instead of dwelling on this matter, he turned and brought his sister back to her bed. The next day, Katara awoke full of questions about who had brought her back, and Sokka told her. She went out into the village with the intention of finding the boy, but the Fire Nation troops were already boarding their ships. Sokka got in the way of her progress, because he seemed determined to give a very stern lecture about being careful.
The following morning, Zuko stayed at the edge of the large hole that the Fire Nation had made in the ice wall that surrounded the village. He waited as long as he could. His father hadn't found whatever it was that he was looking for, and they were leaving. He wanted to know that the girl was okay. Her brother was awake, but he didn't want the soldiers to see him talking with the locals. That was the first rule that his father had given him when they entered the Southern Water Tribe.
Finally the girl appeared and ran to her brother. She talked to him for a moment, but Zuko didn't wait around to see much else. The girl was fine, and he was already late for boarding his ship. His father would be furious.
--Flash forward (To just after the episode Day of Black Sun)--
Katara watched as the group huddled around the fire. They had failed to kill the Fire Lord on the day of the black sun, so they were now trying to make more plans for what to do next. They had just arrived, but she was hatching her own plan.
"Aang," she said suddenly. "Could I borrow Appa for a few days?"
Aang's large eyes blinked a few times. "Why? Where are you gonna go?"
"I thought that I could go back to the North Pole. I was going to ask the Ocean and Moon Spirits if I could take more of that water from the spring. It's saved us once, and since our hardest battles are still ahead, I thought it would be useful to have some more."
"Yeah, but it took us forever to get there last time."
"Yeah, but this time Appa will only be carrying me, and I don't get distracted as easily as you do."
Aang made a face, and Katara laughed at him. "Please, Aang, it won't take long. I'll go straight there and come straight back. We won't be leaving here anytime soon anyway, right?"
Sokka, who had heard much of her plan, chimed him. "Don't worry about, Aang. Katara can handle herself. I say let her go for it."
Aang sighed. "Fine, as long as Appa's okay with it."
Appa made a loud growling sort of noise. "See?" Katara said. "He's fine with it." She'd already packed her enough food to get there so she pulled herself up on Appa and flew off.
Aang had a foreboding feeling that he couldn't quite explain.
Zuko had not yet landed near the temple. He was circling trying to decide how to approach the Avatar. Then he saw Appa take off again. What is the Avatar doing? Zuko asked himself. He pointed the dirigible towards Appa and continued to follow him.
Yuka raised her hand against the sun. She loved the North Pole, but she wished that she didn't have to learn to fight in secret. All that her grandmother taught her was to use her bending to heal. Her brother on the other hand was willing to teach a girl how to fight. She smiled. She thought of the girl who travelled with the Avatar. She hoped that because of what Katara had done that they would soon start teaching the other females to use their bending to fight. The elders had been considering it.
"Bring this to Ako, please," her grandmother said.
Yuka hated bringing Ako food. Ako, quite frankly, was insane and frightening. She'd shown up in the North Pole a few years earlier. Grandmother had decided that she had gone crazy after the Fire Nation attacked her home. Pity made Grandmother take her in, but Yuka and her brother had stipulated that Ako stay inside her own little house away from theirs so that she wouldn't kill them in their sleep. Yuka always slept with her door locked, though, just to be on the safe side.
Yuka saw her brother turn the corner.
"Hey!" he shouted. "Katara came back."
"Katara's back?!" Yuka responded excited. She had wanted to meet her the first time she came but didn't have the chance. "I'll be right there!"
She opened the door to Ako's home and laid the tin of food in front of her. Ako was staring dazedly out the window like she normally did. "Here, Ako. If you need anything, just call for my grandmother, okay?"
Yuka turned and left quickly, anxious to catch up to her brother.
If she had waited a few moments, she may have seen the smile that lit Ako's face. "Katara… is here?" said a weak voice, raspy with misuse, but filled with pleasure.
Katara turned to smile at one of the boys she had trained with when she was in the North Pole. He had a girl with him. She was shorter than him, dressed in blue as a typical Water Tribe girl. The girl's face was flushed in pleasure. She pulled back a hood that was trimmed in white fur, revealing short hair that curled slightly, bangs pulled back out of her face into a short ponytail at the crown of her head. Large happy brown eyes met Katara's blue ones.
"This is my sister, Yuka. She wanted to meet you."
"Standing up to the Master the way you did… it was inspiring." Yuka smiled and said something her brother hadn't expected. "If I come with you, will you teach me? I'd like to help the Avatar."
Katara considered. "I don't know. It's dangerous travelling with the Avatar."
Yuka smiled back. "My brother has been teaching me, but there is only so much he can do. I've also mastered all the healing techniques that they teach us here. Just consider it, please?" She turned to her brother. "Before you get any big ideas, you have to stay here and protect Grandmother."
His shoulders slumped a little, and he sighed in defeat.
Katara laughed. It reminded her of how she and Sokka interacted. The sky, she noticed, was already darkening.
Katara cleared her throat. "I'm in a bit of a hurry so…"
Yuka smiled. "I'll come with you."
Ako watched as they entered a lonely place. She laughed. "I can finally keep my promise, Tana."
"Thank you, Ocean and Moon Spirits. This should come in handy." Katara tucked the bottle away in her bag and stood. The pool was just as beautiful as she remembered, but as she turned, she noticed a woman lingering just behind Yuka. Her brows knit together, "Who's that, Yuka?"
"Who—" Yuka turned, only to have a dagger buried in her stomach. "Ako?" she said incredulously before she fell to her knees. Red stained Yuka's blue coat, and she fell into the grass. Almost immediately upon Yuka crumpling into the grass Katara could see the blue light that indicated that the young waterbender was already trying to heal herself.
Katara's eyes met wide, expressionless ones. She recognized those eyes. Could it be the same Ako? "Ako, is that you?"
"I couldn't get revenge. But I can... I can... still bring you to Tana." She smiled her crazy smile.
"Ako, stop this." Katara began to cry. It had been so long. "Mom wouldn't want you to do this. She would want you to live. She would want us both to live. She would want—"
Ako was dangerously close now. Her dagger sliced through the air. Katara raised her hands to bend, but a wall of fire sprang up between her and Ako. Katara raised her eyes to the entrance but all she could see was the outline of a boy through the inferno. Katara gasped. This scene was becoming increasingly familiar.
"Ahhhh," Ako said. "The demon returns." She shrieked with laughter and turned her blade towards the newcomer.
Katara doused the flames before her and watched the scene unfold.
Zuko didn't notice Katara putting out the fire he had started or her eyes on him, but he found it was ironic that she was the girl that he'd saved so many years ago. Never had he expected to relive the night a crazy woman attempted to kill a friend's child. He focused on the woman coming towards him. Just as Katara had, he immediately recognized those eyes. They had been seared into his memories. He scoffed at her. "I remember you. I thought you were from the Southern Water Tribe."
Ako laughed. "SO you are the demon I seek. I will KILL YOU."
Zuko raised his hands. One shot of fire, he thought, and it would all be over. He started the movement that would end it, but he was interrupted by a shout.
"Don't hurt her. She's not herself."
No matter what, Katara thought, she's still Ako.
Zuko huffed in anger but listened. He dodged to the side and toppled over in the effort of dodging the dagger. Ako moved lightning fast in her madness and forced the dagger through his hand. He howled in rage and pain.
Ako laughed her deranged laugh. She raised the dagger high into the air, ready to end Zuko's life, but a wave of water hit her and froze around her. Katara stood there, breathing heavily, more from emotion than exertion. She wiped tears from her eyes. Zuko stood up, and he locked eyes with Katara. They were both silent. Katara opened her mouth to speak, but then Yuka ran towards them, her right hand hovering over a red stain on her coat. She looked as if she were still in slight pain.
"Quick patch job," she said, beckoning to her stomach. "I'll let someone else finish it up. I'll take Ako back to Grandmother. She'll know what to do."
Zuko waited until Yuka had turned the corner with Ako before he spoke. "Why didn't you just let me end it? She tried to kill you once before anyway."
"You were the one who saved me." It was a statement not a question.
Zuko nodded. Katara took his hand in one of hers, and her right hand bended water from her waterskin. This water wrapped itself around her hand and began to glow. She healed his wound but kept his hand held tight in hers.
"Thank you," she said in a quiet voice and tilted her face up to offer him a tentative smile.
Zuko looked at her small, almost lopsided smile, and he offered his own gentle smile in return. "You're welcome." And he meant it.
Finally all the walls were gone. They were no longer a firebender and a waterbender, no longer a prince and a commoner, no longer a good guy and a bad guy. Just a boy and a girl sharing a quiet happy moment together.
-A/N- Thanks for reading. I don't plan on continuing this really. I guess I was just wanting to see the next bit of the series so much that I dreamt about it. I rated it T for the fiery death and stabbity bits. How did Ako get to the North Pole? I really don't know. Bit of a plot hole I guess...Forgive the foolishness; it was, afterall, just a crazy dream.
The entire thought of the word 'wench' coming from Zuko's mouth makes me laugh uncontrollably. I'm not sure why. I think I love those small smiles of Zuko's the best. Very quiet and gentle smiles are rare for him but very beautiful I think.
I hope you liked it!