Well there has been much talk at DH about what happened between the epic pwnage of Ozai and the epic makeout of Kataang. So I made something up. Yay.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar
Zuko sighed heavily. He was sitting on the stairs leading up to the Fire Nation palace, bandages wrapped around his torso and his torn shirt lying beside him. His elbow was on his knee, chin resting on the heel of his hand as his eyes followed the agitated waterbender pacing in front of him.
He sighed again. Katara paused and glanced at him.
"Are you okay?" she asked, sounding genuinely concerned if a little distracted. She took a step toward him. "Maybe I should check your bandages again…"
Zuko held up a hand to stop her.
"Katara, you checked my bandages six minutes ago," he said dully. She looked rather disappointed. "We both know you're just trying to distract yourself."
Katara glanced toward the night sky, wringing her hands. She opened her mouth to speak but couldn't quite get any words put together.
Zuko sighed again. "Come sit down," he said firmly, gesturing to the stairs beside him. Katara let out a sigh of her own and took a seat next to him. The two of them sat in silence for a few moments, looking out over the courtyard where one of the greatest battles of their time had just taken place between a brother and sister.
It had been nearly four hours since Zuko and Katara had won. Azula was asleep on the grate Katara had chained her to. Perhaps asleep wasn't the proper term. She had screamed herself hoarse and fallen unconscious three hours ago. Zuko and Katara didn't know what to do with her, so Katara had simply thrown a blanket over her and let her be.
Shortly following their victory, the sky had turned a glowing red for several long moments. Katara knew it had something to do with Aang and had paused in the act of bandaging Zuko's chest. The sight of the red sky was accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of dread, but then a single beam of blue-white light had shot up into the air very far away. She had seen a light like it before, a long time ago at the Southern Air Temple when Aang had gone into the Avatar State.
"Aang, that's Aang!" she called, pointing to the sky. Zuko sat up with a grunt and looked.
"I've seen that light before," he said quietly, eyes wide. "It's what drew me to the South Pole in the first place."
"That must have been when we released him from the iceberg," Katara whispered. She turned to Zuko, flushing in nervous excitement. "You think that means he's okay? That he's… he's back and he's…"
Zuko waited for her to finish, but she just took a shallow breath and glanced back at the sky. The light had faded.
"Alive?" he suggested. Her eyes met his and he immediately regretted saying it. She was terrified for him, and just the thought that he could be dead was making her hysterical.
Katara just shook her head and resumed wrapping him up without a word.
That was four hours ago. Katara took a deep breath beside him, shaking him from his thoughts. Zuko frowned and reached for her shoulder. Moving his arm that way took a significant amount of effort, but he managed to place a heavy hand on her shoulder. She jumped in surprise.
"Zuko, don't move your arm like that, you'll…" she began fussily, trying to brush his hand away and reaching for his chest. He gave her a stern look and she stopped moving.
"Katara, what exactly is your relationship with Aang?" he asked evenly. This question surprised her.
"What do you mean? He's my…" she glanced away. "He's my best friend."
"But," Zuko prompted, wincing from the effort of keeping a steady hand on her shoulder.
"But…" Katara sighed, glancing skyward again and succeeding in brushing his hand off her shoulder. He gave a sigh of relief that made her smile a little, albeit rather miserably. "But he wanted more, and I…"
"Didn't?" he suggested doubtfully.
"No no, I did, I do," she stammered. "I just… I was confused and I… I think I may have ruined everything."
"What are you confused about?" Zuko asked, a little incredulous. "To be honest, up until I joined your group I was under the impression that the two of you were already a couple."
"Really?" she asked quietly. She sighed. "I guess that doesn't surprise me. Not much would have to change, would it?"
He shook his head. "Every time I came across you guys, the two of you would go to any lengths to protect each other," he said. "I've never seen anyone risk so much for someone they were just friends with."
Katara was silent for a long time. She finally glanced at Zuko. "I love him," she said. It was such a simple thing to say, delivered so casually and with a slight shrug of her shoulders. Zuko smiled a little. Katara looked at her feet. A moment later, she was sobbing into her knees.
"He kissed me," she cried, voice barely discernible through her sobs and her knees. Zuko was startled. He didn't know how to deal with crying people, least of all Katara. "On the day of the eclipse. And then at Ember Island, after that awful play…"
Katara brokenly recounted what had happened on Ember Island. Zuko didn't interrupt. He figured it was best to just lend a sympathetic ear at this point. Plus, listening took much less energy, and he was exhausted.
"I just wanted to focus, I just wanted to get through this stupid war," she sobbed. "I was so sure he would beat the Fire Lord… it didn't even occur to me that I could… that he could…"
Zuko reached over again and patted her back rather awkwardly. Appa seemed more capable of dealing with this, as he made his way over and sat heavily beside her. He groaned sympathetically. Katara smiled and sat up, leaning on the bison's furry leg. Zuko ceased patting her back with another relieved sigh.
Katara glanced at him. "We're not even together and I'm already a lousy girlfriend," she sighed.
Zuko smiled. "Well you're talking to someone with experience being a lousy boyfriend," he admitted. "Don't worry, Katara. He'll be okay." Appa added a grunt of consent.
"Yeah…" Katara murmured. "He will. He has to."
Another two hours passed and Katara and Zuko were to be found fast asleep, slumped against each other on the stairs while Appa snored beside them. They were all rather rudely awakened by a battered airship coming in for a clumsy landing just outside the palace gates.
"Katara, look," Zuko began excitedly, but she was already on her feet and racing toward the gates.
"We're here," Sokka called proudly as he burst through the double doors, leaning heavily on Suki. Toph came shortly after, Momo swaying on her shoulder. Sokka held out his arms. "Oh thanks little sister, I'm glad to see you… too…" he trailed off as Katara ran right past him, nearly knocking him over. She had eyes only for the boy walking down the gangplank in nothing but a tattered pair of pants. He smiled at the sight of her, but he only saw her for a second before her arms were around his neck. She had so much momentum she sent both of them tumbling over backwards. They landed in a heap of limbs, Katara sobbing into his shoulder.
"I knew you'd come back," she cried. "I knew you would."
Aang laughed and wrapped his arms around her waist, turning and kissing the top of her head.
"I'm glad you're okay too," he said quietly.
Zuko had finally reached them, clutching his side and resting one hand on Appa's side for support. He laughed a little as Sokka, Suki and Toph came to greet him.
"So do you suppose they're finally getting beyond the just friends phase?" Suki asked with a smirk.
"What are you talking about?" Sokka asked blankly. Toph shook her head.
Zuko laughed a little, shrugging. "Not much had to change."