The door opened and a petite woman walked slowly into the room. She treaded slowly to the desk where a man sat, hard at work on a great deal of paper work.
"Marriage." They stared one another down, each reeling in Katara's voice. That one word.
"Yes." Zuko's confirmation did nothing to settle the flurry of pain that seized her heart.
"Don't think about it, Katara. It will only make matters worse."
But how could she not think about it? How could she not picture the very moment her heart would be torn to irreplacable pieces? The images, a blurry painting of a distant nightmare, had wreaked havoc in her mind from the moment she had received the invitation.
He would stand at the peak of the aisle, the alter shining in the moonlight. His regal robes would be pressed and still have the ability to wave relaxingly in the splendid breeze of the evening air. A carefully melded hairpiece of gold and ruby would sit firmly in a portion of his long raven hair, allowing the remainder of it to freely fall to his shoulders. The smile plastered on his face could provide innumerable words to describe his utter joy at the single moment.
One single moment.
And a second figure, a willowy figurine of immeasurable composure and beauty, would stand before him, her humble eyes lowered in emotion but the grand flutter of a smile would signify her true love. Her equally ebony colored locks would be tied in significantly complex designs, certainly dotted with cherry blossoms and other spectacular ornaments. And her robes would match her groom's in spectacle.
And their eyes would lock.
And their lips would meet with the signal of the priest.
And papers would be signed before the large public, destroying the doubts of their love.
And that one moment would destroy Katara's dreams.
"Well," the Fire Lord stood from his desk, breaking the shaken woman's reverie with a word. "We will still have our memories."
And Katara stepped away from him. "We cannot! You must devote your memories and future to your bride."
Zuko stared at her. "Do not forget that it was you who felt it was most appropriate to abandon our newfound feelings after the war."
"I did not ask Aang to love me."
"But you certainly did not discourage it."
"What was I supposed to do? Break his heart after he saved the world from your destructive father?" She couldn't, she wouldn't repay her friend by running away with his mentor…
"I would never ask you to hurt him," his golden eyes were sympathetic. "He healed us all of our demons."
"You wouldn't ask me to hurt him because you couldn't bear to deal with the Avatar's wrath."
Zuko walked around his work area and faced the younger woman with a look of desperation. "How dare you underestimate the bond I share with Aang? I was right there with you at the end of the war... fighting for his trust and wellbeing."
His eyes softened as they bore into her own teary blue orbs. "I wouldn't let harm come to him because I love him, too." He leaned forward and she felt the space nearly close between them as her tears drenched her cheeks and made a trail from her eyes to her chest, falling into the darkness underneath her robes.
Still, their lips never touched and Zuko backed away, his eyes lowered in shame.
"It would please me to no end if you would come to my wedding, Katara." His expression and tone said otherwise, however.
"You're a terrible liar, Zuko."
That night was the first of a lifetime of sleepless nights for the Fire Lord.
A/N: Hurrah for Zutara angst! God, I'm being rather productive as of yesterday.
SEMI SOZIN'S COMET SPOILER ALERT:
Now don't take this the wrong way, for I don't believe a WORD of what that phony book says. I'm willing to only believe the canon television show. Still, I can't help but think Kataang will indeed happen, and therefore I have a feeling we Zutarians will be thriving on Ten-Years Later-esqe fics in which time has gone by and our little love birds begin to realize their love after years of unfulfilling marriages to Aang and Mai. And I like Aang and Mai, just not with Katara and Zuko respectively.