AN: Hi there, Zuko here. Hope you've been well. So, some unlikely influences for this late (and unnecessary) addition to the storyline. The terribly awesome Lovewrecked made me consider an alternate storyline to Rough Seas. Also, Wicked Game made me think Chris Isaak was a closet Zutarian. I'm not sure how far I will take this, but I had to try it out.
I do not own the characters.
This will take place roughly after Chapter 7.
Thus, we will call it…
"The world was on fire
No one could save me but you.
Strange what desire will make foolish people do.
I never dreamed that I'd meet somebody like you,
And I never dreamed that I'd lose somebody like you.
No, I don't want to fall in love…
- Wicked Game, Chris Isaak
As the rogue corsair walked away, Katara tried to sort through her growing and difficult feelings for the Captain in front of her. There were so many questions she had for him…the banished Prince, thought dead all these years. Where had he been? How had he become Tatsu? He wasn't anything that she thought he was and, although she would never admit it, she was mildly uncomfortable to be alone with him.
"You don't trust me."
"Really? What gave it away?" She looked up, meeting his golden gaze and saw the wind had picked up, the crimson sails above them had started to stretch and pull.
"I saved your life."
"I saved yours – plus, you held me captive!"
Zuko was quiet a moment before answering, "Well, anyway, I would think you would be happy with the way things were working out."
Smirking, Zuko asked, "What? Jet didn't tell you?"
"We didn't get to that…"
Katara stomped her foot as she heard Zuko's rude response – a barely constrained laugh. When he regained composure he stated, "We're heading to the Fire Nation."
The waterbender was quiet a long moment before answering, "But Aang isn't ready…there's no way he will be…"
"Do you really have such little confidence in him?"
Katara tried explain what was holding her back, "It's not that. The other elements…he still needs training. I would never forgive myself if…"
"He's got an earthbender."
"And a firebender?"
Feeling slightly claustrophobic by his presence, she backed away, and leaned on the wooden rail, looking out at the choppy waves, she questioned, "You expect me to believe you? That I would trust you of all people to train the Avatar?"
"No, but what choice do you have?"
She had no answer, no solution, and he continued, "Furthermore, is it your decision to make? He is the earth's last hope, and a young man in his own right. You can't make the choice for him."
Katara continued watching the swell of the ocean, and not wanting to admit Zuko was right. She was so used to being in control and with that ability abruptly taken from her, she was more lost than she would like to admit.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend…
Her father had taught her that, once upon a time, but how true was it? She wanted to trust Zuko – but in his veins flowed that of the cruelest man alive. What good could come of forming any sort of alliance with him? Of trusting the hope of the entire world with his training?
She struggled to admit, "I know."
Zuko watched her inner struggle from behind the wheel. He knew instinctively Katara couldn't be forced, led, or coerced into trusting him, and while he realized it wasn't necessary to have her acceptance to train Aang, it would probably make things a hell of a lot easier. Above the rising wind, he asked gently, "Could you trust me?"
Before she could answer, a loud crash of thunder crashed in the distance, causing the pair both to shift focus – Katara looked to the west at the same time Zuko did. During their conversation, heavy clouds had rolled in and obscured the once bright moon. Knowing their discussion would have to wait, Katara rubbed her arms at the cool breeze, and whispered, "It doesn't feel right."
Although he had years of experience at sea, Zuko recognized the young woman's talents, and asked, "It's a storm, isn't it?"
Katara closed her eyes, stilled her senses, and drew in a deep breath. She finally answered, "A big one. We're going to need everyone's help if we're going to see dawn tomorrow."
Zuko's training instantly took over, and he snapped into action, "I'll keep an eye on the deck – you go rouse and the crew."
Watching her slight figure hurry away, he desperately hoped this storm wasn't what he thought it was going to be. He didn't want his life to end just when things were starting to get interesting again. Living as a pirate held its own brand of the unknown, but the unexpected introduction of Katara into his life had forced him to ask questions he hadn't ever considered. Grabbing hold of the wheel, he pulled hard, and steered to the east – hoping to outrun whatever was heading in their direction.
# # #
Katara scrambled below decks to begin waking everyone up. Her mind was racing – she had heard of large storms at sea, passed down in the Water Tribes from those sailors who spent their lives on the ocean. If half of what they said was true, then all of them – even with the help of the Avatar – were in trouble. With her heart hammering wildly, she quickly caught up with Jet.
"Yes, cher? You get lonely for me up there?" He gently pressed her into her against the narrow hallway.
She restrained a more aggressive reaction, and said crisply, "There's a storm – it's going to be bad. We need everyone."
"Another time then," he promised, leaving the waterbender to wonder what kind of special skills it took to flirt in the fact of lifethreatening danger.
# # #
In record time, Katara had roused the group. As each person in the motely crew was used to being instantly ready, they quickly shook off the remnants of sleep. Against an increasingly shifting deck, they fought their way up from the relative dry safety of the cabins into a heavy, chilling rain - each instantly soaked to the skin. Without hesitating, Zuko barked out directions accordingly, and everyone hurried to their new stations.
Toph was left alone on the deck, frustrated by her handicap.
Zuko looked around quickly, and shouted, "Bei Fong – you need to immediately find a rope and secure yourself to it."
"Go below deck – I'll be damned if the Spirit isn't going to see this storm through and I want to make sure it survives as completely is possible. Do your best to secure what you can – but be mindful – it's going to be a bumpy ride. Understood?"
"Yes, sir." If it was a dismissal, Toph knew this wasn't the time for sarcastic responses. The increased up and down motion of the boat was already destroying her inner sense of balance and gravity.
With everyone sorted, Zuko sprinted through the lashing rain to the wheel of the ship. Taking over from Jet, he yelled above the torrential waterfall, "You think we can make it?"
Jet shrugged slightly and continued chewing his sodden piece of grass. He had been through some difficult storms in the past, but this was something completely unexpected and fast approaching overwhelming. Unlike Tui, La, or Agni, he had no god to pray to – no special person to look out for him. All he had was the burning desire to finish the revenge on the Fire Nation for destroying his family and his childhood. If today was his last, he would not regret much…
To his friend, Jet clapped him on the back and shouted, "I'll go check the main sail."
Through the gloom, Katara, still exhausted from her exertions earlier in the day, worked with Aang to try and keep the gusts of wind and rain from damaging the Spirit. It was a monumental task and for any amount of progress they reached, it seemed they were pushed two steps back. Flying against stronger winds than he had ever faced, the Avatar attempted to literally push the Spirit out of danger. Katara was doing the same on the deck, summoning all of her skills to try and use currents in the water to steer them to safety.
They were finally making progress – the waterbender could sense they were close to moving to a place where the storm was abating…when…
It was the last thing she remembered.
Katara came to at once, tasting gritty bitter sand and gulping for air. Spitting forcefully, she awoke into full consciousness and instantly wished she hadn't. Every bone, muscle and fiber of her body ached, throbbed and pulsed with pain. Taking a deep breath, she rolled over and looked up at the blue and cloudless sky above. Waves lapped gently at her feet.
Had she join Tui and La in the great lake in the sky?
Realizing she was probably in too much pain to actually be dead, she wondered if anyone had survived.
Closing her eyes, she recalled the main mast of the Spirit heading directly towards her. Aang had been too busy trying to protect the rest of the crew, and the lightning that had split the sky had caused the almost instantaneous breaking of the giant timber. A rescue, knocking what little breath she had out of her, had come from an unlikely person – Zuko.
She remembered opening her mouth to say 'thank you' when a giant wall of water had washed over the deck and knocked them both overboard. In the raging ocean, they had been pushed around like tiny toys in a giant bathtub. Through force of will or bitter determination, somehow they had clung together. As time wore on and Aang hadn't appeared to pluck them from the wild seas, Katara had wanted to give up, to slip silently into the depths of the cold water, but Zuko had slapped her across the face and yelled above the rain, "You can save us!"
What had she done?
Was Zuko still alive?
What about the others?
She didn't yet have the energy to move, so she could only hope that the rest of the crew had survived the vicious storm. As educated as she was in most things Fire Nation, where did that put her current location? Was she on friendly shores? Although her throat was parched, she laughed bitterly, was it her Fate to struggle to live, only to end up a captive again?
Suddenly, she heard a groaning sound nearby, and summoned what little strength she had left to roll over and reopen her eyes. Squinting through salt encrusted eyelashes, she recognized Zuko. Or, at least, she thought it was him. Like her, she realized instantly, his clothes were practically shredded. Fortunately, her waterlogged mind reasoned, if he was groaning, then he was alive. Having functional clothes was the least of their worries.
She flopped over to the other direction, but did not see anyone. She blinked rapidly to clear her vision and realized, while she didn't see any person, she was looking at a rather large and completely destroyed section of the Blue Spirit…
AN: A few options: keep going with the alternative plot line? You've seen enough? Or, you'd like to potentially see what other Chris Isaak songs could be worked into a chapter...