I don't own Avatar the Last Airbender or any of the characters.
Chapter One- The End
Zuko hated flying on Appa, and if it didn't result on him eventually becoming the Firelord, he would have stayed on the ground. But there he was, thousands of feet above the endless ocean, praying their voyage would be coming to an end and yet anxious all the same.
It was all the open air, he told himself, the ringing from the wind that caused him to speak up, breaking the silence between Katara and himself.
"So… you and the Avatar, what's that all about?" he asked Katara, raising his voice above the wind.
"What?" She partly yelled, then blushed from embarrassment. "Oh, umm… I'm not quite sure."
Zuko moved his hair from his face and gave her a speculative gaze, "Because I saw him kiss you the other night, at the play."
Katara's blush doubled to scarlet. "Yeah."
"I just didn't know you two were that close."
"I didn't either," Katara met his golden gaze. "Aang has certain expectations, when the war is over."
Zuko was thoughtful a moment, it made Katara nervous.
"And I love him, but…" she started then stopped. As if remembering where she was. "But I don't know if I'm ready for that," she added with a shrug.
"I understand," he said finally. "And why did you agree to come with me?"
"Because you need me and you trust me," she said with a wink. "And because you asked. I know what needs to be done and I know you need me more than anyone else right now."
It was Zuko's turn to blush. He nodded turning his attention back to the islands coming slowly into view. Appa groaned at the aspect of landing. Zuko jumped at the feeling of Katara's hand on his shoulder, he looked up into her kind eyes.
She leaned closer into his ear so she wouldn't have to yell.
"What are we going to do when we land?" her breath tickled his scarred ear and he shuddered unintentionally.
"I don't really know, I can only say keep your eyes open, Azula is famed for her surprise attacks," he gave her a smile then, hoping to calm the questioning fear in blue eyes. "Don't worry; I won't let anything happen to you."
The Agni Kai seemed endless. Zuko knew the palace around them was burning to the ground, but every time his red flames met Azula's blue ones, they seemed to dissipate like ocean waves on the shore. If only he could shoot lightning at her, and end the entire thing.
"No lightning today?" He growled at his sister. "What's the matter, afraid I'll redirect it?"
Azula was crazed, there was no question of that, and he just needed her to make that one mistake.
"I'll show you lightning," she screamed.
Zuko calmed himself in that moment, ready for her worst, except he wasn't. Her eyes shifted and in a split second he realized her new target, Katara.
The blue lightning shot from her fingers, and he ran, thinking of nothing other than that he had to save her from being harmed. He had promised.
It was a pain unlike anything else, having so much electricity coursing through his veins, much worse than the wound that resulted in his scar.
"Zuko, no!" Katara cried, running in his direction, only to be blocked by a wall of blue fire.
"I'd really rather our family physician look after Zuzu, if you don't mind," she laughed again, a sick sort of sound that caused Katara's heart to ache. She stole a glance behind her and saw Zuko writhing on the ground, attempting to crawl in their direction. She met his gaze and noticed the fear in his eye. Fear for her safety, she realized.
Skating on a wall of ice, Katara led Azula in circles, until the flames broke her step and stumbled upon the drain. Next she saw the chain upon the door, and she formed her plan.
Azula let out another incoherent scream, chilling Katara's bones, the girl was pure evil.
Katara jumped from behind the column and gave her a challenging stare. With chain in hand she whipped water and pulled the girl forward. Azula rose to strike, but Katara was faster. The ice surrounded them and Katara watched the crazy in the girls eye turn to confusion and then to fear. Working quickly, she secured the chain over her wrists and tied it at her feet. The remaining water fell about them, and Azula sobbed angrily in her captivity.
Katara didn't stop to breathe however, rushing to Zuko's side. He managed a glance in his sister's direction and had a slight smile upon his lips at the sight of Katara, safe and whole. Katara bent water over her hands and laid them over his heart, where his wound had landed.
Zuko was amazed that some of the pain disappeared so quickly. He raised a hand to Katara's soft face and wiped the tear that had fallen down her cheek.
"I really did need you," he said, leaning up on his elbows, till their faces were only inches apart.
Not quite sure what prompted the desire and afraid there she would never have another moment like it; Katara leaned forward, gently brushing her lips to his.
It was sweeter than anything she could have ever imagined, in that moment, knowing he cared so much for her, enough to risk his life. Zuko added the slightest amount of pressure then, curling his hand around her head and grasping her hair gently. He pulled away, a shocked look in his eye. Katara felt her face going red once more, but she shrugged it off and hugged his neck.
When she finally released him, Zuko gave her a smile, "Thank you Katara."
"I think I'm the one who should be thanking you," she said, wiping the remaining tears on her sleeve. Trying to ignore the way her heart was racing.
"Ahhhhhh," came the screaming from their left. Azula struggled in her chains and Katara and Zuko could only stare. The madness on her face made Zuko grimace fiercely.
Katara helped him to his feet as they watched the fallen princess, her hand gently rubbing his back, as if she could heal the pain of his broken family. Sadly, she could not.
Katara had her hands full the following days.
Zuko promptly collapsed after the defeat of his sister, and Katara managed to drag him inside the burning palace, settling him in the great hall. Three fire sages approached her from behind and she prepared to attack.
"No, Master Waterbender," they bowed in front of her. "We serve Prince Zuko, and the Avatar. Please tell us how to help."
Katara was to weary to doubt them, surely they had just witnessed the madness of Azula and realized Zuko was a much preferable alternative.
"Take Zuko to his quarters, he needs rest," she told them and two of the men rushed to pick up the prince and headed off to a far corridor. She eyed the remaining man. "We have to put out the fires before this whole place goes up in smoke. Can you make the flames die down inside? I'll take care of the ones outside."
The man nodded, turning immediately to the fires in the room they stood. Katara watched as he inhaled deeply, bringing his hands to his shoulders, and then pushing down as he exhaled. She was astounded when the flames went out, and gave the man a smile.
"Amazing," she murmured and the man turned a light shade of pink. "What is your name sir?"
"Sarzin, and yours master?" he addressed her formally. Katara grinned broadly at the older man; he had to be around forty years.
"I suggest we make haste, Master Katara."
"Yes," she said, her smile leaving. She nodded and head back out the front entrance.
Azula was still sobbing in her chains as Katara approached the drain; removing all of its contents she raised the water high above her head. She pushed the water into the sky, spreading it flat so that it covered nearly the entire palace, and then let it fall over the burning buildings.
There was the smallest amount of smoke, but Katara watched it vanish a moment later. She entered the palace, inspecting to see if all traces of burning had ceased. Satisfied, she ran down the corridor they had led Zuko and searched for an open door. She found none, but heard voices behind one, so she knocked.
The voices stopped and Katara took a step back, slightly weary of what that meant. The door slid open, just barely and two wrinkled noses emerged.
"You," they said in unison, taking a step back. They obviously knew who she was, but Katara was drawing a blank on their account.
Katara decided she didn't have time to waste. "Your mistress is chained to the drain in the courtyard; I suggest you tell me where to find the Prince unless you want to join her."
"That is not necessary, Waterbender," one of the twins spoke up.
"The Prince is down once more door," the other finished.
Katara dropped her hands; it had been a pure bluff, as she had no water on hand and no moon to lend aid in bloodbending. She stepped swiftly to the side and entered the door they motioned to, not bothering to knock.
Katara had to laugh at the sight she came in on. The two sages were trying to force Zuko back down in his bed, and Zuko, clearly awake and alert, was trying to escape their grasp.
"Let go of me you fools, I have to go help Katara. The palace will be in ashes."
"Master Katara has seen to that, she instructed that you should rest."
"I order you to—"
"Honestly Zuko, Firelord for ten minutes and your already throwing your weight around," Katara smiled in his direction. "Don't worry; I put out all the fires."
Zuko tried to stand at her approach but she shook her head in annoyance. He lay back against the cushions, grimacing at the pain of his chest.
"You can go," Katara told the two men once she reached Zuko's side on his bed. They nodded and gave slight bows in her direction, leaving the door open behind them.
"Why do they listen to you and not me?" Zuko asked her, she couldn't tell if it was shock or annoyance in his voice.
"Because I wasn't in hysterics," She pulled water from a nearby basin and wrapped it about her fingers. Ever so gently she moved the charred fabric from his skin. Zuko hissed, but did not ask her to stop. The familiar glow comforted her, and she had a sudden flashback to healing Aang of the very same wound.
"The comet has passed, I can feel it," he nearly growled and then he sighed, the pain obviously gone for the moment.
Katara withdrew her hand and placed it in her lap, blushing slightly at the intimacy they had shared.
"What did it feel like?" she asked him slowly.
"It was amazing, I felt like I could fly, like I could've beaten Azula, like I was just as talented and powerful as her."
Zuko angered at her comment. "For what?"
"If I hadn't been there, I don't know, you would have beaten her."
"No, if I hadn't resorted to taunting her, you wouldn't have been put in harm's way," he reached for her hand. "You were amazing."
Katara blushed prettily as his pale skin touched hers, and Zuko was reminded of their brief kiss in the courtyard, he was pretty sure he hadn't imagined it.
"I don't know, I think we make a pretty good team, whether we're tracking down murderers—"
"Or taking down my sister," he finished for her; he couldn't seem to pull his gaze away from her eyes. Katara wasn't sure why he had such a strong effect on her, and felt herself drawn down towards his face again.
"Ahem," sounded an interruption from the doorway. It was the two older women Katara had threatened earlier.
"Lo. Lee," Zuko ground out, trying to sit up once more. Katara pushed his shoulder back and he surrendered. She motioned for them to enter. One of them carried a messenger hawk. But not just any bird.
"Hawky," she said and the bird flew obediently to her arm. Taking the message, she nearly ripped it trying to read it too quickly.
"He did it, Aang did it," she jumped in the air, and spun in place. A feeling of relief, stronger then she had ever known, washed over her in a cool wave.
Zuko looked relieved. "And my father?"
"He's still alive. Sokka says Aang took his bending away, he talks about a giant Lion turtle or something. It's hard to understand, he was obviously really excited when he wrote the letter."
Zuko nodded then, knowing better than to question the techniques of the Avatar, obviously Aang had found his own way after all.
"Lo, Lee," he called the old women to him. "Seeing that I am the last remaining, sane heir, I am to be Firelord. Do I have your allegiance?"
"Yes Prince Zuko," they answered in unison.
"Call the servants back to the palace. Send letters to all prisons, releasing all prisoners of war. Send proclamations to the people of the Firenation that this war is over."
"Yes Prince Zuko," they turned to leave, but stopped. "What about princess Azula?"
"Take her to the tower this afternoon. Tomorrow she'll be shipped out to the boiling rock."
The two women nodded in response.
"Very good, Firelord," Katara nodded her approval as well. Zuko gave her a heartbreaking smile, and then fainted once more into his pillows.
Aang arrived on his glider the next day. He had flown nonstop and collapsed in Katara's arms, once he saw she was safe. Katara had him moved to the room next to Zuko's and wondered how many more patients she would be taking care of.
Several hours later, she was watching Aang sleep when the tap came to her shoulder.
Zuko smiled down to her eyes, and she motioned for him to sit next to her.
"I still can't believe someone so young can be the savior of us all," Zuko whispered as he took a seat, wincing slightly.
Katara felt tears sting her eyes, wishing suddenly that she could have been there at the defeat. She wondered why he had disappeared before hand and not even given her the choice to help him.
She absentmindedly healed some burns on his wrist and Aang moaned quietly.
"I'm so proud of him," she managed to choke out.
Zuko offered his embrace and Katara leaned in. He held her for a few moments, letting the tears from her cheek stain his silken robes.
She leaned back and tried to smile. She knew she would have to distance herself from this young firebender; too many complications were already in place.
"Thank you," she said, almost coldly. Zuko frowned in response, but he instantly understood, giving a glance towards Aang.
Zuko stood slowly. Giving Katara a slight nod, he turned to go.
"We'll finish this someday," he said softly, stopping short of the door. He knew his voice was clear and he waited for her reply. When it did not come he bowed his head and exited a moment later.
Her reply didn't come till he was back in his room and she stared at Aang once more.
"I promise," she said as a tear left her eye.
She caught it in her hand before it could strike the fabric of Aang's clothes, it just didn't belong to him.