Hey gaang, this fic is titled after Counting Crows' song: Accidentally in Love, but this story isn't as happy-peppy as the song...just to let you know. For those who don't know, Hakursa HAKODAxURSA. Yep yep.
It'll have about eight chapters, so I hope you enjoy it! (lots of Kazuko/BFF!Zutara later on, I promise!)
No...I don't own Avatar ;;
Ursa hurried towards the end of the dark corridor. She knew she was forbidden from saying her farewells to anyone, but she stubbornly made an exception for the one person whom she loved most in this world. She promised herself that she would not leave unless she had at least told him goodbye.
Opening the large door, she desperately fought back tears. Would this be the last time she ever saw him? Ursa shook the thoughts and tears away; she had to remain strong.
She shuffled silently over to his bed and lightly touched him on his shoulder. He had been sleeping peacefully; completely unaware at how much his life was about to change.
"Please Zuko, my love, listen to me," Ursa rushed on, for she knew she had little time left…
"Everything I've done, I've done to protect you," she hugged him tightly, as though she would never let him go. Her panic drove her on, however, so she reluctantly released him and held his shoulders gently. She looked at him squarely in the eyes; never wanting to forget the sweet innocence she had come to know so well on his young face.
"Remember this, Zuko. No matter how things may seem to change…never forget who you are."
A feeling of endless despair washed over her as she slowly released Zuko from her gentle grasp. His head drooped sleepily as she turned around and put up her cloak. With a sad, parting smile, she exited the room and shut the door softly behind her.
As Ursa hurried back through the abandoned hallways, she silently pleaded the spirits to allow her to exit the palace unnoticed. Only two living souls knew of what had occurred just a few short hours ago, and she had been harshly reminded to stay out of sight and leave without a trace.
Of course, she had already broken that command by saying goodbye to Zuko. But…he was just a child…he couldn't possibly be able to comprehend all of what Ursa had told him. And banished or not, Ursa refused to let her punishment get in the way of the deep love she felt for her first and only son. Azula hadn't even crossed her mind…
She quickly rounded a corner, and was nearly home free; she could easily make out the palace's large entrance just a few hundred feet away. Just when Ursa thought it was safe to sigh with relief, the dark figure of a person appeared out of the shadows and caught her by the wrists. She muffled a scream and shook terribly as the figure raised its head from under its cloak.
All of the possible consequences immediately began flashing through Ursa's mind. Was she going to be kidnapped? If it was just a servant or guard, would she be arrested for failing to leave the palace under cover? Would Ozai send her to die in the frozen wastelands where the Water Tribes were located for lingering at the palace for too long?
She held her breath steady as the figure raised its head and at once, their eyes met. Ursa's fleeting panic went to silent, seething rage. Both of their golden pairs of eyes were locked in a seemingly endless glare of pure hatred.
"I do not remember instructing you to say goodbye to the boy," Ozai hissed in a low tone.
Ursa bit her lip and resisted an angry retort. Ozai was due to be crowned Firelord today…one wrong word and he could order her execution immediately. Instead, she stood back and bowed respectfully.
"My apologies…" Ursa knew she should have stopped at that, but her fury was out of her control at this point, and there was no more use in hiding it. "If I may speak, I daresay banishment is quite a harsh punishment for your dearly beloved."
Ozai carefully calculated her words and after a few moments, he smirked. Inside, Ursa groaned, for she knew her husband well enough to know that the smirk was not something to be joyful about.
"Indeed. However…" Ozai's head tilted up; he was now glancing upon the crown he had given her in honor of their bondage of marriage. Ursa's eyes widened in shock and she felt herself protectively reaching for her crown
"You wouldn't…" Ursa breathed in horror.
But Ozai frowned deeply. "It must be done."
Ursa was wild with hatred by now, but she still forced herself to submit to the new Firelord's will. She shakily reached up and felt the crown. The gold was cold and smooth to the touch; supposedly a symbol of their marriage. Her hand still trembled as she quietly handed it back to Ozai.
Ozai didn't waste any time. The instant she gave him the crown, he spent merely a few seconds glancing it over, as though he was remembering the days back when he had given this to her…a time when they were actually…happy…
For a split second, Ursa thought he would give it back. But she shouldn't have raised her hopes; Ozai scowled angrily and threw it onto the palace floor with brutal force. There lay the symbol of their marriage: shattered into hundreds of tiny, golden pieces.
"It's over," Ozai stated so coldly that he didn't even sound human anymore. Ursa was slightly fearful now…not for her own safety, but her kids…leaving them with this man couldn't possibly be a good thing for them…right?
"Goodbye Ursa," Ozai dismissed her without any signs of regret or even the least bit of sadness. He pulled his cloak over his head and began walking in the opposite direction.
Ursa closed her eyes and bit her lip so hard that she was sure she had tasted an outburst of blood in her mouth. Any rebelling would be met with cruel retribution, she knew, but her hatred for Ozai was overwhelming her.
She turned to face him one last time, her icy glare pierced through the departing man's back.
Sokka marched on, his face painted and ready for battle. He was prepared this time; prepared to go with the men of his tribe to fight the ruthless Fire Nation.
He struggled with the sleeping bag, but he wouldn't show how heavy it was. After all, Sokka was a strong warrior now.
Quietly, he approached Hakoda. His father turned around from helping one of the other warriors with loading the ship and walked towards his son.
"I'm coming with you," Sokka stated plainly, as though he would not allow Hakoda to tell him no.
Still, as much as he was secretly hoping for a better response, Hakoda's words didn't surprise him.
"You're not old enough to go to war, Sokka, you know that,"
"I'm strong, I'm brave…" Sokka pleaded his father. "I can fight! Please Dad…"
"Being a man is knowing where you're needed the most, and for you right now that's here protecting your sister."
Hakoda's words stung and Sokka felt ashamed to see his own eyes watering.
"I don't understand," his voice quavered as he felt himself shake slightly.
"Someday you will," Hakoda opened his arms as Sokka dropped his sleeping bag and launched into a hug. Tears streamed down his face, but he didn't care at this point.
After Sokka released, he walked miserably up to a snowy enclosed area that overlooked the village and the ships in the ocean. Hakoda frowned sadly as Sokka plopped down into the snow and sulked by himself.
Shaking his head, Hakoda walked back to the village so he could say goodbye to Katara. He knew that she was still greatly upset about Kya's death a few years earlier, but Hakoda had no choice but to leave. He was the chief; he had to lead his men whether his only daughter liked it or not. Besides, Katara always had Sokka and Kana, right?
He entered the igloo-like structure and found Katara at the back, facing the wall.
She stubbornly refused to turn around. Hakoda couldn't see it, but tears were streaming down her face. Katara didn't speak, and she still remained sitting with her back to Hakoda.
"Goodbye Katara. You know that love you…and I'll miss you more than you'll ever know…"
His words couldn't persuade her to turn around. A stabbing sense of guilt rushed over both of them, but Katara held her position, and Hakoda didn't force her to speak directly to him.
"Goodbye," she whispered emotionlessly. When she heard the crunching of Hakoda's boots walking away through the snow, she threw herself onto her cot and cried into the furry blanket.
Hakoda sighed as he trudged along a wooden deck. He and his men had just wasted yet another day searching for fresh supplies in yet another seedy Earth Kingdom port. He half wondered what was wrong with the Earth Kingdom; it seemed as though they had given up on regulating trade between the pirates and other nations.
Then again, it was really his first time out of Southern Water Tribe waters…maybe he was just overreacting? Either case, he didn't appreciate having to deal with suspiciously friendly pirates all day just to get something edible for his men to feast on. They were supposed to be out fighting the Fire Nation, not untrustworthy merchants!
Finally, they spotted a semi-normal-looking man pushing a cart of green vegetables.
"Fresh cabbages! Finest cabbages in all the Earth Kingdom!" the man yelled out in a joyous tone. He wore a strange looking green hat, and even stranger looking gray beard. Hakoda shrugged, figuring cabbages were better than eating nothing at all. He trudged over to the cart and motioned for the merchant to sell him twelve cabbages.
Just as the greedy merchant was about to take Hakoda's money, the entire cart caught fire. The Water Tribe men all jumped around in shock, but none of them more shocked than the poor merchant himself.
"MY CABBAGES!" He yelled as he jumped around in panic and held his head tightly, almost as though it would fall off. Meanwhile, his once-fresh produce was now blackening and erupting into tiny balls of fire.
Down at the end of the dock, a young boy, perhaps no older than fourteen or so, was fighting a gang of pirates almost singlehandedly. They were all yelling and rioting in a circle around him, but on the outside, a group of Fire Nation soldiers were attempting to break in and assist the boy. He angrily shooed them away, and shot a blast of fire around at the rioters.
"A firebender…" Hakoda breathed with a mix of awe and hatred. He had never actually seen a real firebender before, but he knew all about them. Apparently the boy had misfired, which led to the destruction of the now-hysterical merchant's cabbage cart.
What appeared to be the leader of the pirates was in one to one combat with the young boy; he wielded dual swords against the young teenager's fiery attacks.
Hakoda wasn't sure whom he wanted to win the fight. He knew he was supposed to hate the Fire Nation, and that boy looked like a real jerk. But he also hated the pirates for directly trying to scam his men out of all of their money and supplies.
He shrugged it off, figuring that if they both killed each other, then he wouldn't need to worry about the survivor.
He turned and faced his men, who were, unsurprisingly, still watching the brawl. They, too, had never seen a firebender in action before, and this was proving to be quite a spectacle.
From the looks of it, the boy was winning; but just barely. And older man, also dressed in Fire Nation attire, was trying to break up the fight before someone was injured.
"Prince Zuko, really…"
None of the pirates would let the old man through, however. The jeered the irritated boy on, and he fought harder the more taunting he received.
"Who is that kid?" Hakoda asked nobody in particular. His eyes were trained on the way that the kid fought; he studied his movements so he would be prepared against other firebender attacks in the future. Hakoda observed that firebenders were very aggressive; every attack the boy made was a strike or a punch of fire. But never did he focus on defending himself, Hakoda noted with a hint of satisfaction. Three weeks out, and he had already discovered the enemy's weakness.
"That's Prince Zuko," a voice came out of nowhere. Hakoda darted his eyes to the sound of the voice, and found an old woman standing next to him, also watching the fight from a distance.
"Prince?" Hakoda snorted. He had heard of the Firelord of course, but they have other titles for the Royal Family as well?
Ridiculous, Hakoda thought silently; glad that his children weren't forced to have absurd titles like Fire Nation children did just to feel more superior to others.
"Son of the Firelord," the woman's voice lowered to a barely audible whisper. "I've heard some crazy rumors about that kid…"
Hakoda managed to take his eyes away from the growing scuffle and looked at her inquisitively.
"I know people living in the Fire Nation… they say the boy was banished by his own father."
Hakoda wasn't sure how he should reply to that. Honestly, he could care less about the boy's family issues and past as long as he didn't do anything to harm him and his men.
As he was fighting, suddenly that Zuko guy turned around, revealing a terrible burn scar over his left eye. Hakoda gasped; half in horror, half in disgust. He heard his men muttering and hissing to each other behind him.
"If rumors hold true…his father did that," the lady commented tonelessly, her eyes still trained on the fight between Prince Zuko and the lead pirate.
Hakoda felt a repulsive twinge of sorrow for the boy. He tried to fight back any feeling of sympathy he had for a Fire Nation boy, but he truly wondered what kind of dreadful father would do such a thing.
He would never even lay a finger on Sokka or Katara. Hakoda gulped nervously, knowing that if the Firelord was truly that evil, then the war wasn't going to come to an end anytime soon.
Kana used to tell him the stories of the great Avatar, master of all the elements…only he could defeat this evil man, but he'd been missing for almost one hundred years by now. Perhaps he had died and was never reincarnated…the airbenders had all been wiped out decades ago, supposedly during Firelord Sozin's reign. Maybe the Avatar had died along with them? Even if he hadn't died during the genocide of the Air Nomads, the chances of him returning were still very slim.
Hakoda immediately felt sickened by all this new information and signaled his men to ignore the fight and get back to the ships. They had a long journey ahead of them.
Hakoda walked up to the edge of the cliff and stared into the vast canyon below. Here he was, the Great Divide. It was known for being the biggest canyon in the Earth Kingdom.
To Hakoda, it was just a seemingly endless plain full of nothing but dirt and wild bugs. Sure, it was beautiful, but he wasn't going to enjoy this long trek away from his tribesmen.
The others had taken the long route, by water, to the next stop on their voyage. Hakoda, however, had volunteered to take the shortcut through this canyon, thus ensuring that he would be the first to arrive at the bay where they would make port with all of the Water Tribe ships. The reason they needed someone to scout ahead was to make sure that there were no Fire Nation ships waiting to ambush them on the other side. If there were, Hakoda would be able to warn his men in time and they would be able to escape before getting caught and arrested.
The canyon guide would arrive any moment now. One of the men in this group of around forty people had been through the Great Divide before. He said the journey took about two days on foot. It was at that point that Hakoda wished someone else had volunteered for this task. He much rather preferred the sea to trekking over land.
But he would not disappoint his men. He sighed wearily as the canyon guide appeared from behind a giant boulder.
"Remember everyone, no food is allowed within the canyon! It attracts canyon crawlers, and we don't want that!" he added with a chortle. "So eat up while you can!"
Great. Two days without food. Hakoda grunted as he watched a group of people clad in vibrant green clothing stuffing themselves with loaves of stale looking bread and rice. Off to the side, a woman in ugly brown clothing sat alone; halfheartedly munching at the rice a boy from the main Earth Kingdom group had offered her. Hakoda stifled a snort of laughter as she spit out the foul looking food and grimaced into the bowl. At least he wasn't the only one who didn't particularly care for Earth Kingdom food around here.
As the canyon guide hollered for everyone to gather around, Hakoda watched the woman get up and nonchalantly walk over as though she had crossed this canyon a million times. She was slightly tall for a woman, and her long black hair flowed freely behind her. She clearly wasn't Water Tribe, so Hakoda figured that he was the only non-Earth Kingdom member of the group. Not that he minded, he just felt awkward with all of these people who talked about nothing but Ba Sing Se and earthbending.
The guide was an earthbender himself, but not a master by any means. Even a nonbender such as Hakoda could see that. Still, if he kept the group safe, then it really didn't matter how skilled he was.
The journey was long and monotonous; Hakoda found himself wishing that just something would happen. Nothing bad, but he needed some action. He wasn't used to just walking like this, usually he was training or fighting with the other warriors in his tribe.
Suddenly, it looked as though Hakoda would get his wish. A gigantic spider-like creature exploded out of the rocky wall above the crowd of people. It didn't attack them, but it created a powerful landslide that was headed for the women at the back of the group. The creature went on its way, as though it didn't even sense the humans beneath it.
However, the people began screaming as they darted to the sides to safety. Hakoda ran over to help them, but he couldn't get past the wall of raining rocks without getting crushed to death. It looked like all of them had made it out safely anyways…
Hakoda suddenly noticed one of the women still trapped against the wall of the cliff. He groaned inwardly as boulders began falling all around them. Part of him wondered what in the world their "guide" was doing at the moment…
She's…not going to make it, Hakoda thought in horror. Without wasting any time, he ran blindly into the path of the landslide and tried to find the trapped woman. After a second or two, he spotted her.
"Watch out!" he launched himself at her and threw the two of them to safety. Rocks instantly poured down on where they were just standing seconds earlier; they definitely would have been crushed to death had Hakoda waited a second longer.
They rolled over in the air and he landed just next to her; his body shielding hers from any falling debris.
"What are you doing?" She asked in shock.
"Keeping rocks from crushing you," Hakoda replied seriously. Suddenly, he recognized her as the woman in the brown clothing who didn't like the rice back at camp. He tried to smile and was about to ask if she was alright, but she immediately interrupted him.
"Okay, I'm not crushed, you can get off me now," she looked terribly embarrassed, and she quickly jumped up and ran back to the group.
Hakoda sighed. "I'll take that as a thank you."
Hakoda sat listlessly inside of his ragged Water Tribe tent. The rest of the group was outside sitting around the campfire and sharing crazy stories about life in the Earth Kingdom, but he just didn't feel like joining them tonight. They wouldn't understand his fascinating Water Tribe stories anyways.
Suddenly, the flap of the tent opened and none other but the woman in brown entered. Her faced immediately flushed a deep red against her pale skin and she was speechless for a few moments.
Hakoda stared at her smugly, as though he thought that she had come here to apologize for being rude to him after he saved her life earlier.
"Oops. Wrong tent," still blushing, she tried to leave, but Hakoda made a grab for her wrist and held her back.
Her eyes flashed angrily as she tried to escape his grasp. "Let go of me."
Hakoda's cold blue eyes glared softly into hers, and for the first time, he realized that her eyes weren't green or brown like Earth Kingdom people usually had, but…golden.
"Wait," he released her wrist and looked at her curiously.
She held her arm close to her and pondered for a moment whether or not she should remain here. This man was obviously from one of the Water Tribes, she could easily tell from the shades of blue on his clothing and in his eyes.
She heard the commoners roaring with laughter outside; she would either join them or this guy in front of her.
Hakoda smiled uncertainly as she finally sat down.
"You're not from around here are you?" she asked inquisitively. She already knew the answer, but she'd rather him tell her himself.
"Ah," Hakoda caught himself for a moment, and then shrugged the oddly suspicious feeling off. She was just an ordinary Earth Kingdom woman; he didn't need to be paranoid or anything.
"I'm from the Southern Water Tribe. My name is Hakoda…ah, Chief Hakoda," he added, clearly pleased about his title.
The woman's hard expression softened as she smiled. "Nice to meet you Chief Hakoda. My name is…Ursa."
Hakoda noticed her look away; Ursa silently begged the spirits that he wouldn't recognize her name.
"Where are you from? That doesn't sound like a name I've heard before…"
"I'm from the Earth Kingdom," she replied almost too quickly, looking at him once more. I'm…sorry for being so…rude earlier, it's just that…"
Hakoda smiled. "That's okay. I just don't want anyone to get hurt. We have enough pain and suffering due to the war…"
He trailed off, trying to think of something to change the subject. "So…you're not an earthbender then?"
She laughed. "Oh Spirits, no…are you a waterbender?"
Hakoda shook his head and added quietly. "No…my daughter is, though."
Her eyes widened, as though she were surprised that he would reveal such information to a near-stranger. Of course, Hakoda didn't know about her true identity…not that she would turn in someone to the Fire Nation for being a waterbender…she had heard enough horror stories about their punishment in the past…
"Is your wife a waterbender then?"
Hakoda's eyes lowered. "No…she wasn't…"
"She was killed…in a Fire Nation raid…a few years ago."
Hakoda noticed the woman sigh sadly.
"That's terrible…I'm sorry for your loss."
"My daughter is the last waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe," Hakoda continued. "My son, Sokka, he's excellent with weapons, but he's not a bender either…" He trailed off, knowing that he had told Ursa enough now. It was her turn to talk about herself.
"So, do you have any kids?"
A small smile jerked at her lips. "I have a son and a daughter…both benders."
Hakoda was clearly impressed. "So your husband's the earthbender in the family?"
She looked at him quizzically for a moment, and then shook her confusion away. "Yes…he's a great master bender."
Immediately, Hakoda noted that her last statement sounded quite bitter, as though she was…ashamed of her husband? But why would she be…?
"So where is your family?" he asked kindly.
"Oh…well, I…" she continued stuttering, as though she couldn't find the right words. "I can't go back home. My husband…we were formally separated three years ago. I haven't seen him or my children in over three years now…because of the war…"
That's sort of the truth, Ursa thought miserably.
The next morning, after a nice evening of talking to the Water Tribe man, Ursa awoke with the sun, as usual. She was the first one up in the camp, and she collapsed her own tent before going to help the late-risers with their own tents.
She hadn't told Hakoda of her true identity; she knew she would be immediately attacked and maybe even arrested if people knew who she really was.
However, Ozai had kept her banishment very secretive; it was not as though many people outside of the Fire Nation would be wondering what had happened to the Firelord's wife. So she would remain as Ursa, the Earth Kingdom woman until she managed to get back into the Fire Nation.
She noticed Hakoda leave his tent, and smiled when he waved good morning to her.
"You sure wake up early," he commented as he walked over to help her tie up her belongings.
"I always wake when the sun rises…odd habit I guess," she added as she accidentally dropped a small frame onto the ground.
Hakoda brushed off the dirt and handed it to her. "What is that?"
Ursa fondly looked at the picture for what seemed like the millionth time since her banishment. It had faded slightly during her travels, but it was still perfectly distinguishable.
"It's my son," she said proudly. "He was eleven years old here…he must look so different now."
Ursa's delighted, motherly smile drooped into a small frown. Hakoda could see how much she loved the boy. Almost made him wonder why she didn't take him with her when she was forced to leave her home…
"ALL RIGHTY THEN!" The canyon guide roared over the campsite. "Time to go everyone!"
Before Hakoda could ask anymore questions, such as why the boy wore such unusual clothing and hairstyle, Ursa disappeared into the masses and he felt himself jostled along with the rest of the group up a narrow cliff.
The main group was chattering together, as usual; and Hakoda spotted Ursa up ahead, walking by herself.
He caught up with her and grinned. "Hey, I've only been at sea for a month, I can't smell that bad," he joked.
Ursa smiled at his witty, though somewhat annoying sense of humor. "Sorry…"
They were silent for a while, until Hakoda decided to get her talking again. "So…when do you think the war will be over?"
Ursa frowned. "I wasn't under the impression that any nation would be able to overcome the Fire Nation."
Hakoda looked at her. Was she serious?
"Are you saying that the war won't end?"
"I'm not sure…" Ursa trailed off. Knowing Ozai, the war was far from over. "I'm trying to be realistic. I mean, the Avatar's long gone, and the current Firelord is more evil than the ones before him. There's no way to defeat the Fire Nation without an excessive loss of life."
Hakoda felt her words sting. As much as he wanted to tell her that she was wrong, dead wrong; that they would defeat the Fire Nation eventually…she was right.
"Maybe the Avatar will return," Hakoda mused, glancing at Ursa out of the corner of his eye for her reaction.
She sighed wretchedly. "Firelord Sozin killed all of the Air Nomads. They never did anything to him, and he killed them. There are no more Air Nomads, so how can there be an Avatar?"
A look of passionate rage passed over Ursa's normally calm face.
"I'm not getting my hopes up for the Avatar coming back," Ursa finally said.
Finally, the two days of foodless travel had finally come to an end. Ursa had sincerely enjoyed Hakoda's company; she couldn't remember the last time she had an actual conversation with someone. Usually she just kept to herself during her years of banishment. But she was glad for someone to finally talk to.
Unfortunately, it was time for them to part ways. Hakoda was heading south for the ocean, but Ursa was heading north, for Ba Sing Se. She couldn't believe that she was going to miss him; her, a Fire Nation woman, feeling sad that she had to leave a Water Tribe man. It would have seemed ridiculous back when she was still living in the Fire Nation, but nowadays Ursa didn't find it so strange. She had met people from all of the nations by now, excluding the Air Nomads, of course.
As she gathered her belongings onto her back, she noticed Hakoda walking towards her. He, too, was packed up and obviously ready for departure, but he had taken the time to say goodbye to her.
"It was nice meeting you, Chief Hakoda," Ursa said, respecting his title as Chief.
Hakoda laughed. "You can just call me Hakoda. But yes, thank you for brightening my journey as well. You are a fascinating person."
Suddenly, Hakoda reached into his pocket and pulled out a small wooden carving. "I made this for you last night."
Ursa took it from him and smile curiously. "It's a bear."
Hakoda sighed humorously. "Actually, it's supposed to be a fish."
He rotated it around in her hand for her, and Ursa noticed that it was indeed a fish. She looked up at the Water Tribe man and smiled tranquilly.
"Thank you. Safe travels, Hakoda."
The two waved goodbye; sadly aware of the fact that their paths would probably never cross again.
How'd you guys like it? Why yes, I DID steal tons of dialogue from the actual show! ;)
I love reviews, so feel free to share your thoughts/comments/questions :D