A/N : This one is VERY graphic. And not in a sexy way. This is graphic in a bloody blood and mutilation kind of way.

Just warning you.

Ok, so this came to me as this random scene, so I suppose I should set it up for you. Apparently there is fighting in the North Pole-ish sort of region, and Zuko becomes involved in a fight with Azula. So they're all like rawr, and then Azula pulls her ace out of the hole, as you'll soon see.

This is your final warning: the following story is rated M for a reason. It contains graphic depictions of violent and savage mutilation. I don't want to hear anyone spazzing out at me because they don't like what they read. You have been warned. Twice.

"Look then," Azula sneered with a cruel laugh. "Look upon what you, in your carelessness, has allowed to happen."

As she spoke the doors of the ice palace were flung open allowing the full force of the Arctic winds to invade the hall, extinguishing the torches, the only light now available the light of the full moon.

This was more than sufficient, however, to see the grizzly scene not twenty yards from the where they now stood.

For a moment, or possibly a thousand years, Zuko simply stared, refusing, or perhaps unable to believe the testimony of his own senses. And then he was running. Running toward his worst fear, his most hellish vision, the murder that he could not- would not believe, that he had to try and reverse.

He stopped, gazing up at the monstrosity, his head filled with screaming as his knees hit the frozen tundra that surrounded them.

She was nude. Her wrists and ankles purple and bruised by the cords that bound her to the massive metal cross, cutting into her flesh. Her body was covered in sharp bruises and savage burns. She looked like she had been dragged through a sea of burning, broken glass. Blood, which had been pouring from the numerous barbaric slashes on her body, had frozen in great dark streams and rivers on flesh that had lost the majority of its rich mocha color. His vision seemed to have sharpened, allowing him to see every horrible detail; that deep cut, the shard of bone that had ruptured the skin there, the frost that crept up her legs from her blue-black feet and toes, the missing tip of the little finger and the blood-sickle that dripped from it, the cracked blue lips, the frost spidered, yet still brilliantly blue, eyes, the frozen tears coursing down her cheeks, and still the screaming went on and on.

Who, he wondered in some remote, detached part of his mind, could possibly be screaming in such torment? Who else in this barren wasteland was witnessing this brutal murder? Who else was having his own heart ripped to shreds in front of his very eyes? Who else had lost all meaning to life? Who else was praying for death to take them away, for surely hell could be no worse?

The screaming had gone on for hours, (or was it seconds), before he realized that the screaming came from his own mouth.

Azula was laughing like a maniac.

Zuko was screaming.

The wind was howling.

But none of that mattered.

Because Katara was-


Zuko sat bolt upright in bed, covered in a cold sweat and breathing heavily. The night around him was hot and full of crickets. A dream. It was all just a dream. Just a …

He cradled his face in his hands, panting and trying to master himself.

Just a dream.

Just a nightmare.

He looked to his right and saw his wife of three years sleeping peacefully; whole and unharmed. Her chocolate hair tousled by sleep, her eyes gently closed, a slight smile on her face, her chest rising and falling gently.

Just a dream…

Just a dream…

Just a dream…

With a stifled sob Zuko reached over and pulled Katara into his arms, feeling the warmth of her flesh, the reassuring beating of her heart, the gentle flutter of her breath, as he hugged her to him fiercely.

She stirred softly.

"Zuko…?" she asked more asleep than awake, her brilliant eyes half closed. "What are you doing?"

He gazed into her face for what seemed like an age.

"Nothing." He said and kissed her tenderly.

"Oh," she said, bemused. "Ok."


"Goodnight… Zuko."

She fell asleep again almost at once. Still in his arms, cradled like a child to his chest. He sat like that for hours, feeling the comforting rhythm of her breathing, trying to still the pounding of his own heart.

Just a dream…

Just a dream…

Just a dream…

Just a –

Yep. See? I told you.

I guess my explanation for it having such a weird beginning is that well, dreams don't have normal time progression, do they?

Basically the dream represents Zuko's fear of loosing what he loves and underlines his over-protectiveness.

I really like this fic, and I hope you do too.


if ANYONE can tell me where that caps-locked part came from, i will love them forever.