I'll Follow You Home – A Zutara Story.
Summary : Sequel to 'Eventualities Are Inevitable'. After being captured by a group of Fire Nation radicals and uncovering a secret plot to destroy the Avatar Cycle, Zuko and Katara must work together to find a way to stop the Sila Vatra before Sozin's Comet arrives.
Spoilers : Puppet Master, Day Of Black Sun part 1 and 2, Western Air Temple, Fire Bending Masters and Boiling Rock part 1 and 2.
Author's Note : Hey guys. The sequel is now officially out! Told you you wouldn't have to wait very long. :P
I wanted to get a head start on it quickly. Whilst I was at my family reunion at the weekend, with all the singing, dancing and laughing, it just made me realize...I hate spending time with my family lol.
As opposed to EAI, this fic has been upped to an M rating. This fiction is going to be a little more...well, in-depth shall we say. Interpret that as you wish.
Anyway, without further adeu...on with the story!
Katara sighed happily as she stepped out of the fountain, her hair dripping down around her shoulders.
How long has it been since I felt this clean?
A day had passed since she and Zuko had both returned to The Western Air Temple after being captured by a group of Fire Nation radicals, The Sila Vatra.
And Katara had never been so happy in her entire life.
Their reunion had been a teary one, with lots of hugging, crying and laughing.
Sokka hadn't let her out of his sight since they had arrived back. He'd been rushing around, doing all of the chores for her, lifting things for her, making her bed and asking her every five minutes if she needed anything.
Oh, sure. Now he decides to help out with the chores!
Her father hadn't been much different.
Upon seeing her, Hakoda had rushed up with tears blinding his eyes and grabbed both her and her brother up in a huge bear-hug.
"Katara! My daughter! Thank the spirits you're back! I thought...I thought I'd lost you too."
As soon as he had pulled away and wiped at his eyes, he had shot Zuko a venomous look.
The Fire Bender was busy laughing, having been tackled to the floor by Toph who was hugging his waist and punching him softly.
"Don't you ever do that to me again, Sparky! Never ever! Who was I supposed to order around while you were gone? The payback's been doubled now!"
Katara had immediately placed a warning hand on her fathers arm and looked him directly in the eye, using her sternest glance.
"We'll tell you everything in a minute. But don't you dare say that this is Zuko's fault, dad. I owe him more than you can imagine. He's done more for me in these past few weeks than an entire lifetime and I won't sit back and watch you hurt him."
Hakoda had simply looked at her for a moment in silence, then smiled.
This was the last thing that Katara had been expecting. Sokka also tilted his head slightly at his fathers reaction, but they said no more on the subject.
Waving a gentle hand, Katara bent the water away from her undergarments so that she was dry again.
Flipping her hair forward, she squeezed the water out from it, dripping harmlessly onto the stone floor.
A gentle breeze whipped around her and Katara breathed it in, savouring every moment of her freedom.
Those few weeks that they had been separated from the gang had been the worst of her entire life! She'd been imprisoned, tortured, threatened, unable to use her bending, had to run for their lives and fight off a swarm of Sila Vatra on the back of an Ostrich-horse.
But the one thing that had kept her going throughout it all, the one thing that had kept her from giving up hope – was Zuko.
Everything that he had done had been to protect her.
He had risked his life constantly.
He had let her use his own blood to bend so that they could escape.
He had led them back to the temple.
And he had kissed her.
Katara's happy smile faded slightly.
And now I can't kiss him again. Not until...not until this is all over.
Katara and Zuko had agreed that they would keep their feelings secret from the rest of the group.
If Aang ever found out, Katara was afraid that it would destroy him from the inside out. The plucky Airbender had been deathly pale and serious when he had seen her return. All of the happiness seemed to have completely ebbed out of him. Even when Katara had rushed up to give him a hug, Aang's eyes had remained grave and sullen and he hadn't said a word.
She couldn't break his heart. Not now. Not when the entire world was depending on him.
But in the back of her mind, Katara wasn't sure she'd even be able to tell him after the war.
Would he ever be able to handle it?
After the initial reunion was over, the tears of happiness had been shed and the hugs exchanged, they had all sat around the campfire, eager to hear what had happened to her and Zuko.
Both Zuko and Katara each shared their sides of the story, whilst they dug in to a well-deserved meal.
Katara hadn't realized just how hungry she was.
After wolfing her way through three bowls of rice (which had been cooked by Sokka and therefore – was slightly burnt), she had drunk half of her body weight in water.
There hadn't exactly been an abundance of food for her or Zuko whilst in the Fire Nation prison or in the wild, as they made their escape. Katara had never been more appreciative to gulp down pints of water and chew on Sokka's crispy, burnt rice.
As Katara and Zuko told their group all about the horrors of their capture, torture, escape and the Sila Vatra, small exclamations and gasps of horror had come from around the circle. Katara noticed that Aang was deathly silent beside her, his eyes downcast.
What's he thinking?
Zuko looked over at her uncertainly. They had purposely sat apart from each other.
"There was something..." he stammered, uncertainly "...something that we found out. We found out from Chan, soon after we captured him. The Sila Vatra - they have a secret weapon."
All eye's around the campfire stared at them, even more intensely than they had before. Katara coughed and continued where Zuko had stopped.
"Chan told us that on the day of Sozin's Comet, The Warden was going to be at the Fire Sage's Temple to unleash the secret weapon. He told us it had something to do with the Spirit World and that..." Katara sighed, not wanting to look at Aang, who sat next to her "...it would break the Avatar reincarnation cycle."
A definite hush came over the group.
Katara could see every one of them slowly taking it in. Then, almost at once, there were a rush of questions and gasps.
"Break the Avatar cycle! But that's impossible"
"How could they do something like that?"
"The Spirit World? What's that got to do with anything?"
"On the day of the comet? Aw man!"
"Is that even possible?"
"Those evil, conniving, sick-"
A whistle cut through the noise, effectively silencing them all.
Zuko had risen from his seat, Toph clinging to him arm, unwilling to leave his side for even a moment since they had returned.
"Enough!" he boomed, though not angrily. It made Katara's insides wobble like jelly. "Katara and I have had a long day, and it's late. Before we get some sleep, we'll try to answer what we can. But please, don't overwhelm us with questions. We don't know much about it."
The group sat expectantly, in silence. Most of them looked at the floor, probably feeling a little ashamed. Zuko continued.
"Now, we don't know exactly what it is they're planning. We know it involves the Spirit World, but that's all. We know that The Warden plans to run the operation, probably alongside Li and Lo. I don't know if my sister is involved, though it's possible. We managed to find out where the Sila Vatra are based. It's in the Fire Nation capitol, right outside the palace. When morning comes, we'll need to begin planning and try to figure out exactly what to do. Hopefully, we'll be able to put a stop to this plan before the arrival of the comet and then Aang can concentrate on defeating Ozai."
He held up his palms and looked at Katara. She had tried incredibly hard not to flush.
He's so strong.
"Now, if you don't mind, we really need to get some sleep."
Standing up from their seat's, Zuko and Katara had walked back into the central building of the Air Temple, heading toward their rooms. Nobody around the campfire had spoken a word as they left, although she could feel their eye boring into their backs.
Katara sighed with relief as they entered the cooling embrace of the stone corridor's, now out of sight from the others, not even looking back to see if Aang was alright. He hadn't said anything throughout the entire discussion. He'd barely even raised his head at the mention of the Avatar Reincarnation Cycle.
What's wrong with him?
"Thank you, Zuko. I wasn't sure how much more of that I could take."
Zuko turned his head to smile at her as they walked. He looked as bad as she felt, with large dark circles under his eyes and dirt covering his face.
"It's okay. I'm pretty tired myself."
They reached their rooms, which were almost directly opposite each other. Katara turned to face Zuko, whose face was impassive.
Slowly, he reached out his hand and touched her own, grasping it tightly. Katara wanted to resist, in case somebody was watching them, but instead, she just squeezed his fingers tightly.
Just for a moment.
Zuko looked down into her eyes. His own exquisite golden eyes shimmered in the darkness, clearly for the world to see.
"I don't know if I can wait." he whispered. Katara had lowered her head.
"I know, Zuko. I know."
Quietly, she had pulled her hand away, turned and walked into her room. As she shut the door behind her, she could still see Zuko looking at her, his eyes eventually disappearing behind the frame of the door and into darkness.
Walking towards the tree closest to the fountain, Katara sighed.
She hadn't wanted to be so blunt with Zuko like that. But they just couldn't risk Aang finding out before the comet. After all, they still needed to form a plan to deal with the Sila Vatra...
If it weren't for all of this chaos, them maybe things might be different...
Reaching the base of the tree, Katara reached for her clothes.
She had begun wearing her Water Tribe clothes again, her Fire Nation disguise thoroughly coated in dirt, blood and bad memories. She never wanted to have to wear them again.
Katara tugged her robe around her shoulders and tightened up the sash at her waist. She didn't bother to put her trousers on, as the long robe covered her well enough. Plus, Katara found that she liked the breeze swirling around her legs.
Sitting down on one of the roots of the tree, Katara ran her fingers through her hair, trying to tease out the many knots. She was worried about Aang.
He's been so quiet. He just looks so small now, like something inside of him has just given up and died.
Her suspicions were correct.
She had seen Aang that morning, before coming to bathe. Katara had beamed brightly at him as they passed each other in the courtyard, pleased to see him. The young boy had smiled back, but only slightly. It wasn't the huge, cheery grin that Katara was used to and it worried her.
Is he angry with me for getting captured? For leaving him? Is he worried about the comet? The Sila Vatra?
Katara had been thinking about the situation with Aang for a long time.
She had known for quite some time that Aang always seemed to act peculiar around her. At first, she had thought that he was just a little uncomfortable around girls, but as time wore on, it had become more and more obvious.
She had never let on that she knew anything about his feelings. Not to anyone.
Katara was afraid that if she voiced the issue herself, then it would become real. If it became real, then she would have to face it and make a decision that she wasn't sure how to make.
Katara adored Aang. She thought the world of him. She respected him and wanted to protect him.
But she didn't love him.
Katara thought hard about the meaning of the word, the consequences, the feelings. Love was a very strong word.
Love made people happy. Love kept people from falling apart in the worst of times.
If you loved someone, you married them.
At least, that was what Katara had always thought. Why would you marry somebody that you didn't love or didn't love you back?
Is what I have with Zuko...love?
Katara shook her head, cautious that she was treading on ground she didn't want to have to address just yet. She wasn't even sure she had anything with Zuko.
It had just been a kiss, right? Did that make it love? Was what she was feeling for Zuko love?
She might have been able to answer this question if Katara knew what she was supposed to be looking for. She'd never been in love before and didn't know what to expect if she was.
Maybe it was something else and not love.
So what, you're in 'like' with him? Don't be so stupid, Katara.
There were certainly many things that she felt when she was around Zuko.
She felt protected and cared for. She knew that she could count on him. He always managed to make her feel excited, happier. There was always that intensity behind his eyes that made her feel like jelly. Whenever he touched her, her stomach did back flips and her heart seemed to fly up into her mouth.
He was unpredictable, short-tempered, difficult, infuriating and absolutely wonderful.
Katara sighed heavily.
I shouldn't even be thinking about this. It's not as if anything is going to happen anyway. Nothing can happen. We're just too different, aren't we?
We should just concentrate on the war and the comet. Maybe when this is all over, then Zuko and I...we can...we can...
But Katara found that she wasn't sure how to end the train of thought. She didn't know how to comprehend exactly what she was feeling and it scared her a little.
What is it about him that makes me feel like this? Is he thinking about the same things that I am?
Katara heard footsteps behind her.
She turned her head towards the source of the noise, still a little cautious from her past few weeks of unpredictable terror.
But she saw that it was only Toph, who strode over and sat down beside her on the tree root. She seemed a little...serious.
"Hey Toph." Katara greeted her, trying to sound as cheery as possible.
The normally plucky Earth Bender just looked down at the floor and pawed at the dirt with her big toe. Katara felt as if Toph was avoiding her gaze, until she realized that Toph couldn't see her anyway.
Her hair had dried out a little by now and Katara brushed it behind her shoulders, hastily moving the strands away from her eyes.
"Toph. Are you...are you okay?" she asked a little timidly.
Why is everyone so...quiet since we got back?
The young Earth Bender sighed a great, heavy sigh that seemed too big a burden for her small shoulders. She looked up from the floor and lay back into the embrace of the tree trunk.
"Yeah, I'm fine. It's just..."
Katara cocked her head. She had never seen Toph acting like this before. Her confidence seemed to have just evaporated and she twiddled her thumbs impatiently like a small child.
Although, I guess she kind of...is.
Though she was only twelve years old, Katara had always thought that Toph could have been far older. Although she was brazen, stroppy and at times a little silly, there was an incredibly wise, understanding side to Toph that many would envy.
"What is it, Toph?" Katara asked, hoping to give her a nudge in the right direction. "Is something wrong?"
"It's just...I've been thinking. About something." Toph turned to face her, though Katara knew she was just doing it to put Katara at ease. It didn't seem like anything too serious.
Has everything fallen apart while we we gone? What's going on?
"Katara, you're a girl, right?"
Katara couldn't help but chuckle at the unexpected question.
"Last time I checked." she joked "Why?"
Toph blinked furiously, as if she was trying to keep herself from bursting into tears. Katara could see her cheeks turning a little red. Whatever it was Toph wanted to ask, she wasn't at all happy about having to ask it.
"It's just...well, there's this...guy."
Katara raised an eyebrow, but remained silent to let her continue.
This should be interesting.
"Yeah, well, as I said; there's this guy. And he doesn't really seem to notice me. But I sorta like him and I just..."
Angrily, Toph stamped her foot, sending a small chunk of earth busting up from the ground. Her face was beetroot red.
Katara smiled and tried to keep any patronising tones from her voice.
Well, I don't exactly know much about this sort of thing. I only just had my first kiss a few days ago!
"Toph, really, it's okay. We're all girls here, right? There's nothing to worry about."
But the Earth Bender's face remained grumpy and uncooperative. She looked down at the floor and stuck her bottom lip out huffily.
"Thanks for being so nice Katara, but let's just forget it. It's not important."
"Are you sure, Toph?" Katara asked gently. She wanted to know more about this mystery man. "I mean, if this is something you need to talk about, I'm here to help."
Toph sighed and crossed her arms.
"Don't worry about it, Sugar Queen. I'll just have to figure this one out on my own."
Without giving Katara time to answer, Toph stood up and walked back across the courtyard and down the winding stairs towards the campfire. Katara frowned and let her mouth fall open a little.
This was certainly turning out to be an interesting reunion.
The only time Katara had really connected with Toph on any sort of girly level was in Ba Sing Se when they had gone to the Fancy Ladies Day Spa.
Katara knew that Toph was conscious about what she looked like, even though she would never let any of the others know – especially the boys. But was she that worried about what this guy thought of her? Was he really that...special?
Chewing on her bottom lip absentmindedly, Katara tried to wrack her brains to try to figure out the mystery man's identity.
It has to be someone in the group. Someone we know. Someone Toph is close to...
When the thought hit her, Katara tried not to laugh and bunch up her face. Now that she thought about it, it seemed a little obvious. Katara had the overwhelming urge to make a big fuss of the young Earth Bender and give her a hug in a motherly sort of fashion.
Toph must like Zuko. She's always around him and they get on really well. Awww, that's so cute! Toph has a crush on the Fire Prince!
A small voice at the back of her head piped up in a tone that sounded very much like her brothers.
Well so do you.
Katara tried to knock away the Sokka Mind Voice, when she heard padded footsteps coming up the stairs. For a moment, she though that it might be Toph again.
But it was Suki who emerged from the doorway, looking a little worn out from the hurried climb.
"Good, I found you. I wouldn't let the boys come up here in case you were still bathing."
Katara stood up and began putting her trousers on.
"Hey Suki, what's up? Everything okay?"
"Yeah, everything's fine. But everyone needs to gather by the fire pit. We're working out the plan for the day of the comet and how to stop the Sila Vatra."
Katara had difficulty trying to hold in a sigh.
Back to reality.
Tightening up the cord around her waist, she nodded to Suki and followed her down the dark flight of steps towards the fire pit.
Author's Note : I'm going to try and make the chappies for this fic a little longer than the ones in EAI, as there's a hell of a lot more to cover in this fic.
Plus, I have a driving lesson tomorrow and wanted to be able to begin the next chapter once I got back.
Aww, Toph has a crush on Zuko. Or is it Zuko? (spoilers warning) :P
What's the meaning of Hakoda's secret smile?
And what's up with Aang? Why's he so...angsty?
Guess you'll just have to wait and find out...